Never doubt that a small group of volunteers working for a heartfelt cause can make a difference. This holds true in national politics as well as in pet food politics.
For the past couple of years, a small group of volunteers has been working to give a voice to pet parents within the pet food industry.
It appears they may be on the verge of victory with committee support of two new definitions which could make a significant difference in food labeling.
Late last month, that small group of volunteers attended yet another Association of American Feed Control Officers (AAFCO) meeting to continue working towards improving transparency in pet food labeling. Up for discussion was a clarification of the term “feed grade” as well as a proposed definition for a new pet food term, “human grade.”
The definition of “human grade” is obvious, but there currently is no approved definition for its use in pet food
As a result, some companies use it with impunity in marketing, while others have been sued, forced to pay fines and change the wording on their products.
At the most recent meeting of the AAFCO Ingredient Definition Committee, the proposed definition of “Human Grade” was accepted. If approved, any pet food claiming to be “Human Grade” will have to comply with the new definition. The proposed definition will set a high standard to avoid misinterpretation by defining “Human Grade” as:
“Every ingredient and the resulting product are stored, handled, processed, and transported in a manner that is consistent and compliant with regulations for good manufacturing practices (GMPs) for human edible foods as specified in 21 CFR 117.”
Note: 21 CFR 117 refers to the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety governing food and beverage products. FSMA establishes, for the first time, science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
The discussion surrounding the term “feed grade” was not as easily settled
Representatives from the pet food industry prefer to use the terms “animal food” and “animal feed” interchangeably. Consumer representatives have been advocating for a new definition for “animal food” to draw a distinction and set a higher standard.
As it currently exists, animal feed can legally allow the use of some less than desirable elements. With a distinction legally defined between “feed” and “food,” it will be easier to gauge product quality.
The FDA holds that ‘feed grade’ is the “threshold for safety”
This means that anything approved as feed grade will meet minimum standards for safety. Unfortunately, the current definition of feed grade simply reads as “suitable for animal consumption.” Individual states are allowed to approve exceptions for feed grade products which can include include 4-D meats (dead, dying, diseased & disabled), by-products, supplements or other inclusions.
Consumer representatives have proposed a new definition for feed grade which reads “Material that has been determined to be safe, functional and suitable for its intended use in animal food, is handled and labeled appropriately, and conforms to The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act unless otherwise expressly permitted by the appropriate state or federal agency.”
Although representatives from the pet food industry objected to this more meaningful definition, AAFCO endorsed the new wording as an improvement due to its specificity and citing of the new FSMA regulations.
Both of these new definitions are small victories for pet parents
The new definitions have one final hurdle to overcome at another committee meeting before being officially adopted. This will come at the next AAFCO meeting, scheduled for August of 2016.
The volunteers are to be commended for this significant progress in getting pet parents’ voices to be heard at the regulatory table. Susan Thixton and Dr. Jean Hovde have been working for years to gain representation at these meetings, even before founding The Association for Truth in Pet Food.