AAFCO meeting covers feed terms, ingredient definitions

AAFCO's mid-year meeting highlighted several issues the pet food industry should be aware of when it comes to potential ingredients.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) held its "mid-year" meeting on January 18–20, 2016, in Isle of Palms, South Carolina, USA. Perhaps the most exciting development from a pet food perspective was the acceptance by the Ingredient Definitions Committee of new AAFCO feed terms for "human grade" and "feed grade," which will be discussed in depth in April's column. That doesn't mean there wasn't other important news, though, particularly with regard to other ingredient definitions.

Steps to remedy a significant issue with use of pea protein and other pulse fractions have been taken. Currently, the definitions for pulse protein, pulse fiber, pulse starch and pulse flour allow for dry-milling only, which restricts the use of much that is on the market today. However, new tentative definitions were accepted to allow for wet processing of pulse protein and pulse starch (from peas and lentils so far). Until those are moved to official status in 2017, the existing definitions still only allow for dry-milling, though it's likely that most state feed control officials will not push the issue if a wet-milled ingredient is used.

In August 2015, AAFCO deleted the definition for "fat product" in a controversial vote. The issue was that the term was reported to have been used as a "catch-all" for materials that were not suitable for use in animal feed. However, that action left out the ability for inclusion of some important ingredients in pet foods. A new definition for "fat product" was accepted at this meeting as a temporary replacement for what was deleted in August. However, it is scheduled for automatic deletion in 2017, after which time it is expected to be replaced by other definitions for various specific fat products that will have been developed (e.g., yellow grease). The temporary definition is quite restrictive, though, so inclusion of at least one common "fat product" often used in pet foods as an alternative source of DHA may be limited until a new specific definition for that ingredient is developed.

Definitions for various poultry products were amended to reflect current practices in the industry. Current definitions specify that "poultry by-product meal" and "poultry by-products" must be derived from "slaughtered poultry" (i.e., from a US Department of Agriculture—USDA—slaughter facility) while the definitions for "poultry" and "poultry meal" failed to include that verbiage. The new tentative definitions are exactly the reverse; i.e., they will specify that "poultry" and "poultry meal" must be from slaughtered poultry, while the origins of "poultry by-products" and "poultry by-product meal" won't be indicated in their respective definitions (the materials still must be from "clean parts," however).

There has been quite a controversy for the past few meetings over definitions regarding alfalfa meal. A new tentative definition for "direct dehydrated alfalfa meal" passed, but the definition for "dehydrated alfalfa meal" did not. The issue is whether sun-cured alfalfa can be including in the latter ingredient. While this debate does not significantly impact the pet food industry, it could affect the labeling of some specialty pet foods.  

Outside of work by the Ingredient Definitions Committee, there was not very much progress with regard to pet food issues. The Model Bills and Regulations Committee passed an amendment to the pet food calorie statement regulations (PF9) to clarify that they do, in fact, apply to snacks, treats and supplements, in addition to other pet food products. That is expected to be voted in by the full AAFCO membership without controversy at the next meeting. 

With respect to the Pet Food Committee, work continues on issues with carbohydrate-related claims and tartar control claims. It will also work further on "human grade" guidelines to accompany the definition mentioned above. A new version of the AAFCO Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food Labeling Guide is due for publication later in 2016. A training workshop on pet food labeling is scheduled for August 2017. A new working group will be formed to explore the possibility of "modernization" of pet food labeling. 


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