There is nothing simple or easy about pet food regulations. On the AAFCO meeting call yesterday we learned another ‘trick’ of the trade – detailed definitions give industry opportunity to push the envelope.
We (Dr. Jean Hofve and I) learned a valuable lesson yesterday in the battle of pet food regulations. We learned that detailed definitions can actually do damage to enforcement of those definitions/regulations. Something that we had never been told…educated about.
Consumers want (and deserve) detailed definitions. We want to understand exactly what is allowed and what is not allowed in a pet food (or pet food ingredient). But…on the flip side, some in industry are willing and able to push the details to the limit (and often beyond) in search of a few more profits.
So for regulatory authorities, the dilemma is to define an ingredient (or write a regulation) just specific enough while intentionally trying to leave things a bit grey. The grey is intentional because if a legal push comes to shove, the goal (for regulators) is to put the burden of proof on the back of industry.
As example, the word “safe”. Consumer advocates didn’t like the word ‘safe’ in the definition of feed grade. We (Dr. Hofve did all the work) provided ample scientific evidence that many feed grade ingredients are not ‘safe’. But from what we learned yesterday, if ‘safe’ was removed from the legal definition of feed grade, the definition itself would give an unscrupulous pet food manufacturer (or animal feed manufacturer) the legal opportunity to produce ‘un-safe’ food or feed.
Let’s say a pet food made a cat or dog sick, veterinary examination of the pet seems to point at the pet food. FDA or a State Department of Agriculture investigates and tests the pet food, and they find something that is not ‘safe’ in the product. They have legal ground to stand on because ‘safe’ is required by the legal definition.
But if ‘safe’ is removed from the definition of feed grade, and as we originally wanted (for the clear understanding of consumers) the mention of diseased animal carcasses, or 4D meats would be included in the definition of feed grade…a sharp lawyer representing a pet food manufacturer would argue ‘The definition doesn’t require it to be safe, and it says right there that diseased meat is allowed’. And in an instant, an unscrupulous manufacturer (thanks to their lawyers) gets away with killing or sickening a pet.
AAFCO or FDA had never explained this aspect of regulations to us, no one did…until yesterday. Had we been informed, we could have taken a different perspective on definitions still trying to give consumers information but not ‘giving away the farm’ at the same time. But again, no one ever bothered to share this with us. That was until yesterday. Our hero of the day (yesterday) was Dr. Dave Dzanis. (Thank you Dr. Dzanis for your openness).
Dr. Dzanis is retired from FDA and now works as a consultant for industry. He explained the regulatory trick openly to our group…and it made perfect sense. He was right. If a legal definition mentions diseased animal carcasses – it gives industry the perfect legal opportunity to use them. If a legal definition excludes the word safe – it gives industry the perfect legal opportunity to produce un-safe pet food. And ‘safe’ is just one word in it…consider every single word in a definition…consider that an unscrupulous manufacturer with a good lawyer could use one word, all the words of a definition to their benefit (detriment of pets).
So…thus far our definition of feed grade has progressed to this (still not final, still in discussion)…
“Feed Grade: Material that is safe, functional, handled, and labeled appropriately for its intended use in animal food and conforms with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act or FDA Compliance Policy Guides or directly authorized by FDA or state.”
The word ‘nutritional’ was removed and replaced with ‘functional’. Not all ingredients purpose is to be nutritional (such as processing aids) and nutrition is a ‘function’ of food.
My thoughts on the definition…with our new lesson learned, I think this is a fair definition. I like that it includes specific mention of federal law (the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act) and I like that it mentions the FDA Compliance Policies. On the flip side, my concern is that it has a ‘feel’ of approving FDA Compliance Policies – which are not law. A definition of feed grade that will ultimately become state law…that seems to endorse or approve FDA Compliance Policies (specifically the ones that allow diseased animal carcasses and chemical contaminants into pet food/animal feed) seems problematic. FDA Compliance Policies are not legal/law, they allow pet food/animal feed to violate federal law…and I wouldn’t want a state law to endorse or approve their use. But at the same time, we would like for the definition of feed grade to be descriptive enough for consumers to know that feed grade could include these illegal ingredients.
What are your thoughts on this definition? We have another meeting next week (Tuesday), so comments are needed before Tuesday morning. Any legal minds out there want to weigh in?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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