AAFCO plans another Pet Food Labeling Workshop

Two-day event designed for pet food industry newcomers as well as those wanting a refresher course.

Those who missed AAFCO’s August 2017 Pet Food Labeling Workshop will have a second chance to attend in January 2018. | treenabeena.Fotolia
Those who missed AAFCO’s August 2017 Pet Food Labeling Workshop will have a second chance to attend in January 2018. | treenabeena.Fotolia

Did you intend to participate in the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Pet Food Labeling Workshop held in August 2017, but couldn't make it or it was overbooked? Usually, AAFCO only holds these types of workshops every five years or so. However, if you wanted to go but missed this last one, you are in luck, because AAFCO is planning to repeat the full 1½-day workshop in January 2018.

Who is the workshop for?

Fundamentally, the workshop is designed for anyone relatively new to the pet food industry or government, particularly those in regulatory affairs and/or marketing. However, that doesn't mean people with more than a few years experience can't benefit, too. Everyone can use a refresher course now and then. Also, there are always new developments in the regulatory arena, and the workshop could help you keep up with some of the recent changes to the rules.

Frankly, some of the information provided is likely going to be above "beginner level," and so newcomers to the field may feel overwhelmed by the whole thing. However, there will be plenty of time for questions scheduled, and during breaks many of the presenters will be available to further answer your individual queries. Also, participants are to be provided with a copy of the presentations along with the publication "AAFCO Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food Labeling Guide" as last updated in 2016. The key to successful mastery of a field is not only what you know, but also knowing where to find the information you need. These resources will be of continued benefit long after the workshop is over.

What will be covered during the workshop?

The presentations will be given by those with appreciable experience and expertise in the area of pet food labeling. This will include both employees of state feed control officials' offices as well as some of the more seasoned industry folks. Generally, representatives from both groups will work together and present a given topic. The tentative agenda has not been published, but based on the past workshop, topics will cover the basics as well as more complicated issues. The basics include:

  • Overview of the AAFCO Model Bill and Regulations
  • Label content and format overview
  • Intended species designation
  • Quantity statement
  • Guarantor information
  • Product names (percentage rules)
  • Guaranteed analysis
  • Ingredient declarations
  • Nutritional adequacy statements
  • Feeding directions
  • Calorie content statements

Some of the more involved topics that will be discussed include:

  • Special considerations for specialty pet foods (e.g., ornamental birds and fish, rodents, reptiles)
  • Descriptive terms (e.g., "low" or "less calories")
  • Product comparative claims
  • Food vs. drug claims
  • Dosage-form animal health products
  • Other claims ("natural," "organic," human grade," "made in USA," etc.)
  • Fermentation product and enzyme labeling

Interactive opportunities available

Interspersed with the didactic presentations and lots of scheduled question-and-answer periods will be a number of interactive "breakout" sessions. The participants will be assigned to smaller groups, and they will be given a task to complete. For example, the group may be given a number of pre-printed components to a label, some of which are in correct format and some that are not. The assignment would be to assemble the correct components and place them appropriately on a blank sheet of paper so that the end result is a properly worded and formatted label. The facilitators (generally one from government and one from industry) will then help that group go over their results and point out where they did well (or further explain and discuss where they went awry).

There will be other exercises, as well. Admittedly, some of these breakout sessions worked better than others at the last workshop, but the organizers are taking that experience along with comments from the post-workshop survey to construct the exercises in a way that is more conducive to understanding the concepts as intended.

Having been one of the presenters at the past workshop and with plans to do that again this time, I may be biased. However, I personally believe this sort of function will be of help to many in the pet food industry today, whether new to the industry or even with a few years or more experience. From my decades of working with many clients, I find that those who are well-versed in the applicable AAFCO regulations make my job much easier. For those interested in attending, the workshop is scheduled to take place immediately after the conclusion of the AAFCO "mid-year" meeting in Anaheim, California, USA. The workshop will start on the afternoon of January 24, 2018, and run through the full day on January 25, 2018. Details on the workshop, including location, agenda, costs, etc. are published (or will soon be published) on the AAFCO web site (www.aafco.org/meetings/midyear).


For more insights by Dr. Dzanis


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