The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) met virtually Jan. 19-21, hosting half-day sessions each day on topics ranging from regulatory inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic to committee-specific updates and discussions.

The American Feed Industry Association, an active participant and partner of AAFCO, recapped the meeting, which was attended by more than 500 people. Additionally, as part of AFIA’s 2021 Pet Food Conference, Erin Bubb, president of AAFCO, provided a brief update summarizing the organization’s Mid-Year Meeting in a pre-recorded session released Jan. 25.

“Some notable happenings during the busines session included the addition of several new official feed ingredient definitions that had been in tentative status,” Bubb said. “The new language inserted into the Model Bill, establishing required guarantees for treats and purpose statements for treats. Now, these additions are for all animal classes and species, exclusive of pets and specialty pets. However, it’s a timely reminder that pet treats are still subject to states’ feed laws and do require proper labeling and registration.”

The AAFCO Pet Food Committee covered three topics during the meeting. One action was the approval of “human grade” as an ingredient term by the AAFCO Ingredients Definitions Committee (IDC), on the condition that the decision would not be sent to the board under the working group on human grade guidelines had finalized the proposal through the Model Bill and Regulations Committee. The board hopes to review the term “human grade” and the guidelines associated with it at the same time.

AAFCO plans to host a webinar to review the new pet food label modernization revisions approved by the Pet Food Committee earlier this month. The webinar is planned for March.

Additionally, the discussion on proposed changes to how carbohydrates are labeled continued at the meeting. No changes were recommended for fatty acids and arachidonic acid (ARA) for AAFCO’s dog food nutrient profiles.

“The consensus seemed to be that total carbohydrates should be guaranteed along with total dietary fiber and sugar guarantees,” Bubb said. “The workgroup [Pet Food Nutrition Facts Box] will continue work to address the concerns surrounding the carbohydrate and fiber guarantees, most of which seem to stem from lab methodology and the use of appropriate nutritional guarantees.”

Bubb also shared what the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) said during the meeting that ARA is an Omega 6 fatty acid, but ARA itself is not essential on its own in dog food formulations.

Due to an oversight issue, the organization has not yet reviewed guidelines for therapeutic pet food diet claims through the Model Bill Review Committee, but expects actions to be taken toward that goal by its annual meeting in August.

AAFCO’s Inspection and Sampling Committee reviewed the early results of a University of Kentucky sampling study, designed to reassess crude protein and mineral analytes in bagged feedstuffs. Those preliminary results showed textured feeds had more variability of these ingredients than pelleted feeds, and that minerals were more variable than crude protein in those assessments. The study included eight feeds collected from three manufacturers representing five feed types, including livestock feeds, single ingredients and extruded dog food.

Also during the meeting, the IDC officiated one definition, approved one tentative definition, and edited other definitions. The committee will meet again on Jan. 27 to address issues from other work groups pertaining to pet food ingredients.

“We had a hemp update from the hemp products investigator, an ingredient definition submission was provided recently and it is for hemp seed meal in layer feed,” Bubb said. “There still seems to be a lot of interest in hemp seed oil and hemp seed meal for other animal species, so we are hoping to see some more ingredient submissions in the near future.

“…A new tentative definition adding adult dog food to the list of approved uses for dried black soldier fly larvae was discussed,” Bubb added. “A few questions delayed the vote, but it should be available for committee consideration on Jan. 27. Again, this would be a proposal for a tentative definition if passed out of committee.  It will have to be approved by membership in August before it is considered as a tentative definition. We shouldn’t see black soldier fly larvae in a dog food before then.”

The Feed and Feed Ingredient Manufacturing Committee shared during the meeting that it has completed its mineral contaminant guidelines, which have been posted to AAFCO’s FeedBIN for comment. AFIA also stated it will be reviewing the updates with the Feed Regulatory Committee. AAFCO will vote on these revised guidelines at its annual meeting later this year.

“The survey data analysis indicated the need for method validation and best practices guidance. It also showed an interest in speciation of metals, microbiological pathogens, dioxin, pentobarbital and drug residue,” Bubb said.

The vitamin common name table was discussed, but no consensus on label requirements was made, so the table will not move forward at this time, Bubb said.

“This is an evaluation of a vitamin’s chemical names, and what is required for labeling on pet foods for a consumer’s understanding of the ingredient names,” she explained.

AFIA’s own Paul Davis, Ph.D., director of quality, animal food safety and education, participated in a panel during the Mid-Year Meeting, which discussed challenges associated with conducting state and federal inspections throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Other panelists included George Ferguson, feed administrator for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; Vinetta Howard-King, director of the Office of Human and Animal Food Operations – East, within the Office of Regulatory Affairs at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and Eric Nelson, director of the Division of Compliance, within the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at the FDA.

The panel largely agreed that pre-announced inspections supported a smooth transition and health and safety precautions. It also discussed how some companies conducted initial reviews virtually, followed by in-person, on-site inspections. Davis pointed out during the panel that “any remote review of records must be carried out voluntarily at the discretion of the inspected facility,” AFIA reported.

Bubb also shared several leadership changes, including the departure of Stan Cook from AAFCO’s board and the addition of Laura Scott as the new board director. Ali Kashani has stepped down from her previous long-time role as secretary and treasurer of AAFCO, and will be succeeded by Ashlee-Rose Ferguson for 2021.

“We look forward to having our meetings in-person again and, whenever that may be, I’m looking forward to being there,” Bubb said.

Find out more about AAFCO’s 2021 Mid-Year Meeting on the organization’s website.

Read more about pet food and treat industry events.