["Particularly with regard to treats, new companies seem to sprout up daily.", "An understanding of the regulatory requirements unique to petfoods is often lacking."]

In the September 2010 issue of Petfood Industry, I briefly reported on the Association of American Feed Control Officials’ intent to launch a website designed particularly to help small manufacturers understand and comply with labeling and other state and federal regulatory requirements. The preview of the site at last year’s annual meeting met with tremendous applause from the audience.

After many months of anticipation, I am pleased to report “The Business of Pet Food” is now online for the public. It may be accessed through the prominent link on AAFCO’s homepage (www.aafco.org) or directly via www.petfood.aafco.org.

Ask most state  feed control officials and they would likely say a considerable, if not inordinate, proportion of their time is spent dealing with the smaller or less established petfood manufacturers. Particularly with regard to treats, new companies seem to sprout up daily. Some start as home-based operations, others as human food companies looking to expand into the pet product realm. In either case, an understanding of the regulatory requirements unique to petfoods is often lacking. Feed control officials try to help the uninitiated, but there is only so much they can do and still keep up with their other duties. Since many questions are similar, AAFCO saw a need for a place to refer those seeking advice and guidance on the more common petfood issues.

The Small Manufacturers Working Group was formed a couple of years ago to help address this need. Operating under the AAFCO Pet Food Committee, the group is comprised of both regulators and industry members. The site as developed by the working group was reviewed by a number of feed control officials and modified accordingly, then approved by the AAFCO Board of Directors before going live.

The new site  covers many aspects of petfood regulations. It explains the need for product registration and/or company licensure at the state level, even for Internet and farmers’ market sales, and provides a table of basic state requirements as well as contact information and links for each state feed control office. It also discusses the federal requirement for Food Facility Registration and the obligation to report potential health incidents under the Reportable Food Registry.

A few other topics covered on the site include:

  • Ingredients;
  • Mandatory labeling requirements;
  • “Romance” and “drug” claims;
  • Determining appropriate guarantees;
  • Calculating calorie content;
  • Meeting nutritional adequacy requirements; and
  • Safe handling procedures.

In addition, the site lists contact information for analytical testing facilities, organized by state. Presentations and links that may be of service are also provided.

The Business of  Pet Food was designed with the smaller manufacturer who has limited regulatory experience in mind. However, it may prove useful for companies of any size or degree of experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if some states also found it helpful, not only as a reference to which to send manufacturers with questions but also for their own edification on specific matters. While not expressly designed for consumer education, pet owners may find it enlightening as well.

It is important to note that the new site is not intended to replace the AAFCO Official Publication as the definitive resource for understanding petfood regulatory requirements. In fact, under the header “What should I do first?” the site recommends that prospective petfood manufacturers purchase the latest edition of the Official Publication, which contains the most current version of the Model Bill and Regulations, ingredient definitions, nutritional adequacy standards and other aspects that are not on the website.

The site also suggests investing in a copy of the AAFCO Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food Labeling Guide for further insight and guidance. Both publications may be purchased through the main AAFCO website.

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Read more columns by Dr. Dzanis at www.petfoodindustry.com/petfoodinsights.aspx.