People are often surprised to hear that pet food is regulated on both the state and federal levels. Before an ingredient can be included in a pet food product intended for sale, it must be recognized/accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for meat. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an organization of state and federal officials, plays a significant role in shaping the multiple levels of regulation. While not itself a regulatory body, AAFCO develops model pet food bills and regulations for adoption at the state-level and coordinates with FDA on what constitutes safe and usable ingredients through the agency’s committee participation.
Regulators, food safety experts and pet food makers will soon meet for the AAFCO Annual Meeting, taking place Aug. 1-3 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Throughout the year, AAFCO officials hold conference calls and web conferences with various committees and working groups to consider and advance priority issues. At the AAFCO meetings (Annual and Midyear), these groups discuss which items are ready to be presented to the AAFCO board for its consideration. If accepted, this guidance is published in AAFCO’s Official Publication (OP), which is recognized globally as the preeminent regulatory reference for placing pet food and pet food ingredients on the market.
AAFCO membership, at both the board and committee level, is comprised of both state animal feed regulators and FDA staff. PFI, other industry associations and consumer groups serve as advisors to AAFCO but only AAFCO members vote on final resolutions and model bill language.
The AAFCO Model Bills and Regulations Committee provides recommendations to the board regarding production, labeling, distribution and sale of commercial and non-commercial pet food. If accepted by the board, the model bill and regulations are published in January of the following year in the AAFCO OP and found on the Electronic OP (EOP). States can then choose to adopt all of these in full, some of the regulations (such as only adopting the ingredient definitions), or none of the AAFCO recommendations.
PFI supports and continues to work to advance a more uniform adoption and interpretation of OP recommendations across the country.