Why is Pet Food Regulation So Difficult?

I used to wonder about this when I first started attending AAFCO meetings. I still wonder today. Regulation of pet food makes sense; otherwise pet food companies would be free to include whatever they want into their formulations. Oh wait…that happens anyway.

Well, okay…according to regulatory law, they are supposed to use defined ingredients in their formulations. And those ingredients are supposed to improve the lives of our pets. Unfortunately, the list of defined ingredients has ended up being a way for food, oil, rendering, and distilling industries to dump their waste products and get paid for them instead of having to pay for waste disposal.

If an organization is going to define ingredients that go into animal feed, it would stand to reason they would have a definition of what the animals are, that they are feeding. I have found it laughable (and sad) that in the four years I have been attending AAFCO meetings, they have yet to define ‘livestock’, for instance. They presented a definition this year, but ended up tabling it and sending it back to a “working group” (ie-subcommittee) for more work. They forgot to consider the fact that DOGS are actually considered livestock (potentially) if they are used solely for breeding and sale purposes (ie-puppy mills).

This year we finally saw a definition for “Pets”. The definition is “dog or cat”. Four years for that? “Specialty pets” means any animal normally maintained in a household, such as, but not limited to rodents, ornamental birds, ornamental fish, reptiles and amphibians, ferrets, hedgehogs, marsupials, and rabbits. Then they added “not raised for fur or food”.

Once these “pets” were defined, they were finally able to define “pet food” as any commercial FEED prepared and distributed for consumption by pets. I emphasize FEED, because FEED is very different from FOOD. Food consists of “edible” ingredients, while “feed” consists of “inedible” ingredients. By definition, any “food” that enters a pet “feed” manufacturing facility immediately becomes inedible (as far as human consumption) and is now “feed”. Confusing? You betcha.

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