FDA and AAFCO Approved Foods… What is really in them?
Many pet owners are under the misconception that pet food is highly regulated under FDA food safety regulations. In reality, most have been under the discretion of the Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and major food manufacturers. AAFCO is “a voluntary body comprised of State Department of Agriculture employees who along with various representatives of the FDA develop all the necessary pet food/animal food ingredient definitions, nutrient profiles, and label requirements. These prerequisites and more are made into law by each individual state to govern all of their pet foods and animal feeds.
Most AAFCO members turn to the “Advisors” for each committee and they turn to the industry to write their own regulations. We are not seeking blame, just stating the facts of how things work. The “Industry” is made up of the Pet Food Institute, the National Renderer’s Association, American Feed Industry Association, and others. All of the above represent manufacturers of pet foods and ingredients. Because proper disposal of waste such as downer livestock animals, diseased animals, euthanized animals, rodent/bird feces-infested vegetables and grains poses an exorbitant expense to the ”Industry,” the FDA and AAFCO have provided them with a method to sell such waste as pet food ingredients. As a result, just about any pet food ingredient could be sourced from healthy animals and fresh vegetables or from diseased, rejected human-grade meats, poultry, fish, and contaminated vegetables. Consumers are not provided ANY clarification on the quality of any specific pet food ingredient. It’s actually illegal to indicate the quality of ingredients on a pet food label. A pet food would be pulled from store shelves by regulatory authorities if a quality-minded manufacturer stated on the label that the actual grade of the ingredients in their pet food were USDA inspected and approved (human grade). For your reference, here are the official definitions that we researched in our studies:
AAFCO: “Chicken or poultry – the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, and entrails. It shall be suitable for use in animal food.”
“Chicken by-product: must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice.”
(Note the words “slaughtered poultry” – ‘chicken’ does not have that same requirement. In other words, ‘chicken’ in pet food is allowed to be sourced from non-slaughtered poultry such as dead, dying, diseased, or disabled poultry – known as 4D – rejected for use in human food.)
Here is one of the actual products offered to the pet food companies and I quote: “Product 6027 Chicken parts, including heads, feet, lungs, viscera and dead birds (DOAs).” (This ingredient does not fit into the legal guidelines of either chicken or chicken by-product. Yet it is still offered for sale to pet food producers. It would be left to the pet food manufacturer’s discretion as to what ingredient name would be listed on the pet food label. In other words ‘chicken’ or ‘chicken by-product’ could be listed on the label and it could include DOA birds.)
Would you feed this to your pet? The valuable information is here and hopefully will guide you toward the best path for your pet’s nutrition and health. We see a simple solution, go back to the basics – all-natural and real food.
Bill Piechocki, nutritionist, and Dr. Diane Sudduth, DVM are partners in Fiesta Pet Deli in Pompano Beach, FL, and are co-hosts of the PetHealthCafe.com radio show. Our 40 years in the animal field have provided us with unparalleled vision and information which we pass on to our clients on a daily basis. We can be reached at www.PetHealthCafe.com or www.fiestapetdeli.com