AAFCO Executive Director Austin Therrell provides a statement
Over the past few months the Pet Food Institute (PFI) has proposed a new system to federally regulate pet food. The organization’s concern around the current regulatory process overseen by state governments was first voiced during the Petfood Forum 2023 convention in Kansas City, Mo., and has been publicly shared in numerous articles since then.
PFI’s proposal for a new federal regulatory system is not as simple as it may appear. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an independent organization guiding state and federal feed regulators, believes a federally regulated approach is not in the best interest of pets or pet owners. AAFCO predicts that a federal-led system will significantly decrease the number of qualified inspectors in the marketplace and reduce the regulatory oversight of pet food and pet food ingredients. In addition, prohibiting state-led inspections at manufacturing facilities across the country would eliminate the routine collection of tens of thousands of samples for potential contaminants or adulterants, which may dangerously impact animal health and reduce consumer confidence in the marketplace.
Benefits of State-led Regulation
The current integrated food safety system includes state agencies that work independently under their own legal authority, and in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to ensure feed safety across the United States. Many state feed programs review and inspect thousands of pet food labels to make sure they contain all the required information for the consumer and don’t make unsubstantiated nutritional or marketing claims prior to products being available for sale to consumers. States also have dedicated employees to quickly follow-up on consumer complaints.
PFI’s proposal would prohibit these critical state programs from assessing registration fees, requiring label reviews or premarket approval, and any other attempts to regulate pet food sales. A completely federalized system would offer pet food manufacturers a loophole to avoid state inspections, sampling and the oversight of marketing claims.
“State feed programs are more accessible and equipped to inspect and regulate pet food. They have inspectors in the field everyday with eyes on the products, on the local manufactures, and on the distributors and retailers. A single federal regulatory system, without these local state partnerships, cannot have this level of awareness and surveillance in the marketplace to respond and take action on illnesses, recalls and issues quickly and effectively.”
AAFCO is working closely with its members and agricultural agencies across the country to ensure the regulatory oversight of pet food and treats continues to be an integrated food safety system with the scientific resources from the FDA, the compliance and enforcement resources of state agencies, and the collaborative process from AAFCO and its stakeholders. Together, this will provide continuity for pet food regulation and overall animal and human safety will not be compromised.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has been guiding state, federal and international feed regulators with ingredient definitions, label standards and laboratory standards for more than 110 years, while supporting the health and safety of people and animals. Its members are charged by their state or federal laws to regulate the manufacture, sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.