After a couple of years of discussion and planning, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), along with the Pet Food Institute (PFI), held a petfood regulatory workshop in early August, the day before AAFCO's Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. The intent was to educate both regulators and industry professionals about the AAFCO Model Regulations for Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food (also known as Model Pet Food Regulations).
The areas targeted for explanation included:
History and philosophy behind the regulations;
What the regulations mean; and
How they should be applied to practical situations.
By all accounts, the workshop appears to have been successful in meeting its goals.
Why a workshop?
While certainly more user-friendly than the Code of Federal Regulations by which the US Food and Drug Administration operates, the AAFCO Model Pet Food Regulations that many states have chosen to adopt as part of their own state rules can at times be difficult to understand and apply. During the 1990s, a major petfood company facilitated a series of regulatory workshops to assist state feed control officials and others in better understanding the rules.
However, that series ended a number of years ago, so for the bulk of this decade, a similar resource has not been available. As many new people have since joined state regulatory offices or petfood companies, quite a few of those involved in regulation today have not had an opportunity to participate in such a venue.
But the workshop was not just for the new folks. Since the AAFCO rules seem to be amended almost every year, it can be a struggle for both regulators and industry to keep up to date. Thus, everyone attending, among whom I would include the presenters themselves, most likely came out of the meeting with at least some new information or a new insight on an old issue.
Content still relevant today
The workshop started with some overviews of AAFCO, how products are regulated and an inside look at how petfoods are developed and manufactured. I especially enjoyed the discussion on the history of the Model Pet Food Regulations and how issues that affected the industry in the 1960s are still relevant in today's regulatory environment.
The bulk of the workshop was a breakdown of the Model Pet Food Regulations themselves. In general the discussion followed the format of the AAFCO Pet Food Regulations Label Review Checklist as found in the AAFCO Official Publication and the AAFCO Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food Labeling Guide . (In fact, having copies of both of these publications was a requisite for participating in the workshop.)
Most of the individual topicsfor example, product name, guaranteed analysis, feeding directionswere presented by pairs of speakers, one from the government and one from industry. Many pairs chose to present the information via a dialogue between the two, with the industry person asking questions and the regulator offering sage responses. While the presenters perhaps did not quite reach the level of a George Burns and Gracie Allen comedy routine, that style of presentation proved enjoyable to the audience and hopefully facilitated the learning process.
A few topics merited discussion in this venue but didn't fall under the checklist format. Near the end of the workshop, I offered a brief discussion of issues specifically pertaining to specialty pet foods, nutritional supplements, treats and chews. Another presenter spoke on issues related to products that do not easily fall within AAFCO's purview, such as herbal supplements and other similarly marketed products.
What if you missed it?
Unfortunately, the workshop was not video or audio recorded. Reportedly, the slide set used in the presentations will be posted on both AAFCO's and PFI's websites.