AAFCO approves new pet food label rules at annual meeting admin August 11, 2023

AAFCO approves new pet food label rules at annual meeting

By David Fairfield, Senior Vice President, Feed

Nearly 450 industry representatives and regulatory officials participated on July 31 – Aug. 2 in the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Annual Meeting to discuss a variety of animal food regulatory issues. The meeting was conducted in Baltimore, Md.

In a significant action, AAFCO membership during the meeting voted to approve new Model Regulations for Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food. The vote concluded a process initiated in 2015 to update packaging and labels of pet food and specialty pet food products, including treats and supplements, to modernize the design and provide information to ensure consistency and transparency so consumers can make informed buying decisions for their pets. The new model regulations represent the first major update to pet food and specialty pet food label requirements in more than 40 years and include guidelines for: 1) pet nutrition facts boxes; 2) nutritional adequacy graphics; 3) ingredient statements; and 4) optional safe handling directions. AAFCO will hold a half-day workshop available to industry on the new model regulations in conjunction with its 2024 Midyear Meeting. AAFCO membership also voted to recommend that state feed regulatory programs utilize an enforcement discretion period in the review of pet food labels for a period of six years, based on the date of the availability of the printed version of the 2024 AAFCO Official Publication. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Director Tracey Forfa, J.D. provided the keynote address during the meeting. Forfa, who was appointed director of CVM in February 2023, discussed a variety of topics, including:

One Health: The One Health initiative is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach that recognizes the need to consider the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment to achieve optimal health outcomes. Forfa said recognition of One Health concepts will increasingly influence policy decisions and referenced per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as an example of a One Health issue. PFAS are a diverse group of human-made chemicals used in a wide range of consumer and industrial products that have the ability to remain intact and cause increasing levels of contamination in groundwater and soil. Exposure to some types of PFAS have been associated with serious health effects, and FDA has issued sampling assignments to obtain more information about the presence of PFAS in human and animal food.

Integrated Animal Food Safety System: Forfa highlighted recent cooperative agreements between FDA and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and AAFCO that will facilitate long-term improvements to the national animal food safety system by strengthening interagency collaboration, improving states’ regulatory and surveillance protection programs, and promoting the implementation of the Animal Feed Regulatory Program Standards (AFRPS). Currently, 25 states have entered into AFRPS agreements that provide FDA funding for state feed regulatory programs to develop and implement the standards; develop and maintain best practices; enhance animal food safety; and better direct their regulatory activities at reducing foodborne illness attributed to animal food.

Animal Food Claims: Forfa expressed strong support for the Innovative Feed Enhancement and Economic Development (IFEED) Act of 2023 (S. 1842) currently being considered within the U.S. Congress. The IFEED Act would provide clear legal authority to FDA to approve substantiated production, health, and environmental claims for animal food substances. NGFA has endorsed the IFEED Act and is working to secure its passage in Congress.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA): FSMA implementation remains ongoing, with additional rulemakings anticipated related to FDA’s definition for “farm” and enforcement discretion policies. Forfa noted the primary impetus for the rulemakings is the desire to promote consistency in the application of animal food safety requirements based upon food safety risk, and not on where food is located or food-related activity is performed. 

AAFCO/FDA Feed Ingredient Definition Process: FDA on Feb. 9 hosted a virtual public meeting to solicit stakeholder feedback on the agency’s role in the AAFCO feed ingredient definition process. Forfa said FDA is still evaluating comments received related to the topic and will announce outcomes soon.

Among the other significant issues addressed during the AAFCO meeting were:

Definition of Labeling: The Model Bills and Regulations Committee previously approved the revisions to AAFCO’s existing definition for labeling: “The term ‘labeling’ means all labels and other written, or graphic materials in print or electronic form that are published or disseminated by a guarantor or distributor (1) upon a commercial feed or any of its containers or wrappers, or (2) accompanying or promoting such commercial feed.” The revisions were intended to provide state regulators clearer authority to take enforcement action against inaccurate or misleading information communicated on websites or through other electronic means concerning a commercial feed. In response to concerns expressed by NGFA and the American Feed Industry Association about the revisions, the AAFCO Board of Directors established workgroups within the Feed Labeling Committee and Pet Food Committee to consider the revised language and make recommendations prior to further action being taken on the proposed definition. 

Lot Identifiers: The Feed Labeling Committee approved recommendations on proposed model regulations that would establish requirements to include a lot identifier on the labels, invoices or other documents accompanying commercial feeds in distribution to facilitate recalls and accurate tracing of the manufacturing and distribution history of the product. The recommendations will move to the Model Bills and Regulations Committee for further consideration. 

Feed Contaminants/Hazards: A Feed and Feed Ingredient Manufacturing Committee workgroup previously established to evaluate how to assist industry and regulators in identifying animal food nutrients that if present in complete animal food in excess of normal use levels could be considered a hazard or adulterant was disbanded.  

Poultry Feed Label Requirements: The Model Bills and Regulations Committee during its meeting did not address proposed revisions to AAFCO’s model regulations for poultry feed labels to expand the number of animal classes and provide corresponding definitions. The revisions will be considered during a future committee meeting.  

Inspection Guidance: The Inspection and Sampling Committee discussed creating guidance on conducting inspections for compliance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rule for Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals. The committee has established a workgroup to evaluate tools and resources that could provide useful information related to such inspections. 

Pet Food: The Pet Food Committee established a workgroup to consider whether it would be appropriate to establish a model pet food regulation to address voluntary “low” copper claims on dog food labels. The workgroup is to present its recommendation on the matter no later than the AAFCO 2024 Midyear Meeting.

Feed Ingredients: Among the actions taken related to feed ingredients were:

1. Name Changes: AAFCO membership approved previous recommendations made by the Ingredient Definition Committee to sunset 48.14 Corn Gluten Meal and 48.13 Corn Gluten Feed from its Collective Terms in 2025 and add T.48.145 Corn Protein Meal and T.48.135 Corn Protein Feed for 2023. This action is consistent with AAFCO’s previous actions to revise the names of these products to reflect that the ingredients do not contain gluten. 

2. Common Foods: The Ingredient Definition Committee voted to accept the inaugural list of common foods. As defined by AAFCO, common foods are those foods commercially available and suitable for use in animal food but are not defined by AAFCO, including but not limited to certain whole seeds, vegetables or fruits. The listing of common foods will be posted on the AAFCO website, however manufacturers remain responsible for determining whether a common food is safe and has utility for its intended use.

3. “Finished Feed”: AAFCO membership voted to approve a new feed term for “finished feed.” The new term states “Finished feed is a product which has undergone all the feed manufacturer’s intended manufacturing processes prior to entering commerce. Some types of finished feed may be: 1) fed directly to animals, such as complete feeds, supplements feeds, and Type C medicated feeds; or 2) intended only further manufacture of feed, such as premixes.” The term was established to distinguish between “complete feed” and “finished feed.”

4. Meat and Bone Meal: AAFCO membership approved a new tentative definition for meat and bone meal. The new definition removes previous requirements that the product: 1) contain a minimum of 4 percent phosphorus and a calcium level of no more than 2.2 times the actual phosphorus level; and 2) guarantee minimum crude fiber on its label. 

AAFCO is the professional organization of federal and state feed regulatory officials. AAFCO’s actions are significant because most states adopt AAFCO model regulations and policies within their commercial feed regulatory frameworks. The 2024 AAFCO Midyear Meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23-25 in Chattanooga, Tenn.