This article was published in Pet Food Processing’s October 2022 Buyers Guide. Read it and other articles from this issue in our October 2022 Buyers Guide. 

In a heavily regulated sector like pet food, industry members turn to the experts to stay attuned to regulatory hurdles and opportunities, ingredient standards, testing methods and food safety support. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has been a trusted leader in this space for more than 110 years.

The independent, non-profit organization serves as a forum for animal feed and pet food manufacturers and state and federal agencies to develop uniform regulatory language for animal feed ingredients. It also provides a key framework for animal feed and pet food ingredient definitions and hosts biannual meetings through which industry members can connect and learn.

AAFCO’s current priorities include pet food label modernization (PFLM), streamlining the ingredient approval process, and encouraging cross-industry collaboration around the question, “Why isn’t hemp in animal feed?”   

In August, AAFCO partnered with the National Industrial Hemp Council of America (NIHC) to co-host a national webinar on the use of hemp in animal feed. The webinar was attended by nearly 600 virtual participants who witnessed 18 topic experts speak to the topic through peer-to-peer discussions and panels on challenges, best practices and possible solutions. The event was just one facet of AAFCO’s ongoing advocacy for industry members, regulatory officials and state agricultural leaders to embrace hemp safety and utility research in the interest of pet health and wellness.

Looking ahead, AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee is on the cusp of completing its years-long PFLM initiative. The project includes new nutrition fact boxes for pet food labels, as well as answers to additional ingredient, safe handling and nutritional adequacy questions. Final surveys and webinar discussions will be held leading up to the implementation of PFLM sometime in 2023. The committee will hold a formal vote for approval next year, and will continue working with state regulatory officials and pet food manufacturers to support a smooth transition.

“Pet Food Label Modernization is one of the most significant industry advancements in recent years,” said Austin Therrell, AAFCO’s executive director. “AAFCO’s work with the industry and state regulators to modernize how pet food and specialty pet food labels are presented to consumers will create a new level of consistency and transparency not seen before.”

AAFCO is also working alongside the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and Pet Food Institute (PFI) to push for additional funding for the new ingredient approval process and advocating for additional marketing claims — things like environmental attributes, production claims and microbiome effects — to be allowed by the US Food and Drug Administration.

In September, AAFCO tapped Therrell as its new executive director. He is a longtime active member of AAFCO, having previously served as feed safety program manager for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

AAFCO’s continued awareness of current challenges and trending topics, including rising costs, supply chain disruptions and the rise of e-commerce purchasing, will continue to help it guide and support the pet food and animal feed industry in the years to come.

Read more news from associations and agencies in the pet food sector.