Expert panel upholds AAFCO guidelines

Panel upholds AAFCO guidelines for copper in dog food.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recently announced the findings of an expert panel convened in response to a February 2021 article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) concerning the current AAFCO guidelines for maximum concentrations of copper (Cu) in foods for normal dogs. AAFCO is the independent organization that provides ingredient definitions, label standards and laboratory guidance for state, federal and international feed regulators.

The JAVMA article, “Is It Time to Reconsider Current Guidelines for Copper Content in Commercial Dog Foods?” noted that Cu content in dogs’ livers has been increasing over the past 25 years, but AAFCO questioned whether the increase resulted from a change in the methods used to quantify liver Cu concentrations or from other factors unrelated to dog food.

“AAFCO was and remains reluctant to make regulatory recommendations based on implications or associations without definitive proof of cause and effect,” said Austin Therrell, executive director of AAFCO. “For that reason, the AAFCO Pet Food Committee felt it was prudent to convene an expert panel and ask noted experts in animal nutrition and health to assess whether it is necessary to revise the copper guidelines in the current AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.” 

After an extensive review of relevant veterinary literature, the 13-member expert panel* concluded that data for establishing a safe upper limit or maximum tolerance for Cu in dog foods was insufficient when the 2006 Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats was published, and no scientific data on a safe upper limit for dietary Cu for dogs has been published since then.

The association will be paying close attention to veterinary literature around this topic, but until science definitively shows additional controls or restrictions are needed, AAFCO believes its recommendations for Cu concentration in foods for normal dogs are appropriately and sufficiently regulated at present.

“To set a maximum recommended content for Cu in dog foods at this time would be an arbitrary decision, not based on science, with no assurance that the value selected would protect against liver disease,” Therrell said.

Background Materials

·      Full response from AAFCO to the JAVMA Viewpoint Article

·      Full report from the Expert Panel to the AAFCO Pet Food Committee

·      The National Research Council Nutrient Requirements for Dogs and Cats (2006)

*AAFCO Expert Panel participants

William Burkholder, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition)

Andrea Fascetti, VMD, PhD, DACVIM (Internal Medicine, Nutrition)

Angele Thompson, PhD

Charlotte Conway, MS, PAS

Dana Tomlinson, PhD

David Dzanis, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition)

Gail Czarnecki-Mauldin, PhD

George Collings, PhD, DACAN, CNS, PAS, CFS

George Fahey, Jr., PhD

Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, DACVSMR, DACVIM (Nutrition)

Karen Donnelly, MS, DVM

Laura Amundson, PhD

Louise Caulderwood



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