CHAMPAIGN, ILL. — The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on Sept. 20 issued a position paper and call to action urging hemp and feed industry players to conduct further research on the use of hemp ingredients in livestock feed and pet food.

AAFCO plays a key role in guiding state, federal and international animal feed regulators on label standards, ingredient definitions and laboratory guidance in the feed processing industry. The association recognizes a need for more research on the nutritional impacts of hemp and hemp byproduct ingredients, including whole hemp plants, hemp seed oil, CBD and other cannabinoids.

With additional research, AAFCO would be able to formally define the ingredient and standards for safety, allowing pet food and feed manufacturers to incorporate hemp in their products and sell them across all 50 states.

"We understand the hemp industry is eager to enter the animal food market, but we are concerned that not enough research has been completed on these products,” said Susan M. Hays, executive director of AAFCO. “That's why we are urging the hemp industry to conduct appropriate research and submit their results to us for review as a normal step in our ingredient approval process."

In 2018, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed a Farm Bill that legalized the growing of hemp, but the safety of these products for animals has yet to be determined by AAFCO or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is the ultimate domestic regulator of animal ingredients. Research on THC and cannabinoid levels, their effects on different species and for intended uses, would help pave the way for regulatory approval for these ingredients.

"Allowing hemp byproducts to be used for animal nutrition before rigorous research and legal approval processes have been completed could have adverse impacts on ranchers' access to markets, on animal health, and ultimately on human health when hemp-fed animal products enter the human food chain," Hays added.

Some states allow in-state use of hemp as a feed ingredient, AAFCO stated, but the national regulatory environment for hemp remains uncertain. AAFCO expressed concern for this state-by-state approach, as it could foster inconsistent manufacturing practices, unsupported and varied marketing claims, and restriction to interstate and international markets, the association stated.

According to AAFCO, “hemp and hemp products may not be used in animal feed or pet food in the United States,” as of July 2020 and regardless of the 2018 Farm Bill.

AAFCO recommended lawmakers work with key stakeholders, including AAFCO, the FDA, USDA, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, other industry associations and consumer advocacy groups, to move on the approval of hemp-based ingredients in animal feed. Manufacturers of these products should also conduct research and submit findings to AAFCO for review.

Read AAFCO’s full position paper on hemp and hemp byproducts in animal food here.

In a recent step forward for the pet food industry, AAFCO tentatively approved the use of black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) in adult dog food formulations in August. The ingredient is seen as a sustainable protein alternative, and products incorporating this ingredient can now be accepted for sale across the United States.

Keep up with the latest regulatory news affecting the pet food market.