Pet Food Ingredients Pet Food Regulations Pet Food Labeling

What’s in a name? New and proposed petfood ingredients

["When a new or amended definition is first accepted by AAFCO, it is placed in tentative status.", "Seaweed-derived calcium may have some implicit consumer appeal in petfoods."]

Despite the expectation that the Food and Drug Administration will phase out its participation in the Association of American Feed Control Officials feed ingredient definition process by 2012, there are still many ingredients in the definition pipeline. During its “mid-year” meeting in January, AAFCO took action on a number of new and proposed ingredients, at least a few of which have impact on petfoods.

Ground pecan shell.  The full AAFCO membership voted to move the definition for this ingredient from tentative to official status. Originally proposed by a petfood company, it is intended to be used as a source of dietary fiber.

When a new or amended definition is first accepted by AAFCO, it is placed in tentative status, i.e., a form of probationary period. These tentative definitions are recognized in the AAFCO Official Publication by use of the letter “T” in front of the definition number, which is then removed when the definition is made official.

Other definitions moved from tentative to official status at the mid-year meeting included amendments to the definitions for L-carnitine, salvage petfood, distressed petfood and selenium yeast. However, none of the amendments concerned use in petfoods.

The AAFCO membership also voted to accept new definitions for biodiesel-derived glycerin and ammonium formate, to add a new microorganism to the direct-fed microbial list and to amend the definition for formaldehyde to conform to FDA regulations. As use of these ingredients only pertains to livestock feeds, none of these actions have any impact on the petfood industry, however.

Charcoal.  One action that will affect some petfoods is the deletion of charcoal from the list of feed terms. It is a decidedly very old term. It has been present in the AAFCO Official Publication since 1972 and perhaps for much longer (that year is the oldest Official Publication in my library).

For decades or more, some petfood manufacturers have been using the feed term in lieu of a formal ingredient definition to support use of charcoal in dog biscuits and similar items as a flavor and/or breath freshener. However, concerns regarding safety (e.g., potential dioxin contamination) and intended use as a “drug” prompted the recent action. Petfood manufacturers currently using charcoal in products theoretically could replace it with bone charcoal, which is an AAFCO-defined ingredient in the Mineral Products section of the Official Publication.

L-carnitine.  The Ingredient Definitions Committee accepted an amendment to the definition for this ingredient that broadens its use in petfoods. Current language makes reference for use in complete feed, which in interpretation by some did not allow it to be used in treats, snacks, supplements or anything other than complete and balanced dog and cat foods. Removal of that verbiage would thus provide for use in any dog food or cat food, which by definition includes items such as snacks and treats. The maximum inclusion rates remain the same, however, regardless of the contribution of the item to the total diet.

Also amended were the units used in reference to inclusion rates, from ppm to mg/kg. While the terms are scientifically synonymous, the change helps clarify use of the appropriate units needed to be consistent with units used for other trace nutrients in petfood label guarantees. The amended definition is now positioned to go before the full AAFCO membership for final vote in August.

Seaweed-derived calcium.  A newly accepted definition of this ingredient has potential use in petfoods. Obtained from the skeletal remains of specified marine algae species, it is intended as a source of calcium and magnesium in animal feeds. While others sources of these minerals are certainly plentiful in the AAFCO Official Publication, this ingredient may have some implicit consumer appeal in petfoods.

Although not alone among sources of minerals, seaweed-derived calcium appears to meet AAFCO criteria for designation as “natural.” Again, the new definition must now go before the full membership at the annual meeting before accepted by AAFCO.

Other actions  of the Ingredient Definitions Committee included:

  • Move amendments to definitions for DL-methionine and its analogs from tentative to official;
  • Accept a new definition for castor oil in animal feeds;
  • Accept a new definition for formic acid in swine feeds;
  • Amend the definition for ammonium chloride in ruminant feeds and move it from the Non-Protein Nitrogen section to the Mineral Products section;
  • Amend definitions for camellia meal in chicken and cattle feeds, phytase in swine and poultry feeds and canola meal; and
  • Withdraw the definition for rapeseed meal.

While no action was taken at this meeting, some new definitions and amendments on the horizon include fruit pomace, maltodextrins, hydrolyzed cassava and unrefined salt.

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