AAFCO meeting highlights pet food ingredient changes

Pet food-related topics covered at the AAFCO 2018 annual meeting included ingredient definitions and labeling issues.

Photo by Andrea Gantz
Photo by Andrea Gantz

The annual meeting of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) was held on July 30-August 1, 2018, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. The meeting set a new record for attendance, with a total audience of 432 from government, industry and consumer organizations. Representatives from 44 states were at the meeting.

Association business: Accepted pet food ingredient definitions

There were only a few pet food-related items discussed during the session where the full AAFCO membership votes on proposals as the last step in the acceptance process. "Oat Fiber" (T69.8) was accepted as a new tentative definition. It is derived from oat hulls, but is a more refined source of insoluble fiber that can be used in pet foods. Also accepted was "Cashew Nut Shell Liquid" (T73.450), which can be used as an antioxidant preservative in fats and oils. As it is produced by heat extraction, not by any chemical means, it may serve as an alternative to other preservatives such as mixed tocopherols in "natural" pet foods. Its functionality is limited, however, because it is not suitable for use in highly unsaturated oils. 

Pet Food Committee: Feeding trials, ‘human grade’ and labeling modernization

The Committee accepted a report from a working group looking at possible changes to the AAFCO feeding trial protocols. Its charge was to make recommendations to better substantiate the nutritional adequacy of growth in large size dogs. Presently, there are few colonies of dogs of the bigger breeds available to conduct trials for this life stage and size, so it leaves question as to whether a feeding trial with puppies of smaller breeds is sufficient to substantiate use in bigger dogs. 

Usually, a dog food that passes a feeding trial does not have to conform to the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles. To remedy the problem, it is being recommended that a product intended for large-size puppies would still have to meet the maximum calcium and phosphorus levels as set forth in the profiles, unless the growth trial (as well as the gestation/lactation trial, if the product is intended for all life stages) was done using a breed that met the large-size dog criteria. Amendments to the protocols and regulations were drafted, which will be reviewed for discussion at future meetings.

A definition and guidance with regard to "human grade" claims on pet food labels are already established. However, another working group reported on its efforts to further the means of substantiation of the claim. It proposes that AAFCO cooperate with the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) of the US Department of Agriculture in this matter. AAFCO would establish standards, and AMS would audit companies wishing to make the claim (paper and physical inspection) to confirm compliance with these standards. With acceptance of the report this working group was disbanded, but a new group will be formed to hash out the details.   

The last half of the committee session was an update on progress by the various subgroups under the Pet Food Labeling Modernization Working Group. The reports were largely a rehash of what was provided at the last meeting, but with some further developments and details. There were criticisms expressed relating to several aspects. Notwithstanding these concerns, the plan now is to provide various iterations of the proposed changes to consumer focus groups for feedback, then consider further changes as needed.  

Ingredient definitions committee: New definitions and re-named organisms

As with most meetings of this committee, there were a number of new tentative definitions established and quite a few tentative definitions moving to official status. Perhaps the item of most significance to the pet food industry is the renaming of some direct fed microbials (i.e., probiotic microorganisms). To keep up with the currently accepted nomenclature, the working group proposed dropping the names for four microorganisms from the AAFCO list. In all cases, these organisms would still be allowed in animal feed, but they would have to be reclassified under a different name. For example, Lactobacillus bulgaricus would have to be declared as Lactobacillus delbrueckii on future versions of the label. Other reclassifications will include:

  • Lactobacillus cellobiosus to Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Lactobacillus lactis to Lactobacillus delbrueckii
  • Proprionibacterium shermanii to Proprionibacterium freudenreichii

Of course, while these changes were accepted by the committee, they would still have to pass muster with the AAFCO membership at large before taking effect. Fortunately, though, all the names to which these organisms will be reclassified already exist in the AAFCO definitions. That means that at any time moving forward, existing labels can be revised with confidence that the reclassified organisms will still be acceptable. However, for those companies that are not planning label revisions in the near future there is no need to fret. The recommended grace period to make the transition to the new organism names will be set for January 2022.


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