CHAMPAIGN, ILL. — The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is standing firm following pushback from a February 2021 article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) regarding maximum copper (Cu) concentration standards set for adult dog foods.

In the article, titled “Is It Time to Reconsider Current Guidelines for Copper Content in Commercial Dog Foods?,” researchers suggested Cu content found in the liver of dogs has been increasing over the last 25 years. However, AAFCO has questioned whether this increase is from the level of Cu found in dog foods, from “a change in methods used to quantify liver Cu concentrations,” or from “other factors unrelated to dog food.”

In response, AAFCO assembled an expert panel of 13 members who conducted what AAFCO described as “an extensive review of relevant veterinary literature.” Through the review, the panel concluded the following: “…Data for establishing a safe upper limit or maximum tolerance for Cu in dog foods was insufficient when the 2006 Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats was published, and no scientific data on a safe upper limit for dietary Cu for dogs has been published since then.”

As a result, the association noted it will keep an eye on veterinary literature regarding Cu levels in commercial dog food, but does not plan to update its Cu recommendations until science is able to definitively prove that adjustments are needed.

“AAFCO was and remains reluctant to make regulatory recommendations based on implications or associations without definitive proof of cause and effect,” said Austin Therrell, executive director of AAFCO. “For that reason, the AAFCO Pet Food Committee felt it was prudent to convene an expert panel and ask noted experts in animal nutrition and health to assess whether it is necessary to revise the copper guidelines in the current AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.

“To set a maximum recommended content for Cu in dog foods at this time would be an arbitrary decision, not based on science, with no assurance that the value selected would protect against liver disease,” he added.

The expert panel was comprised of veterinary nutritionists, industry veterans and consultants, and regulatory experts of pet food industry associations, including:

  • William Burkholder, DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM (Nutrition)
  • Andrea Fascetti, VMD, Ph.D., DACVIM (Internal Medicine, Nutrition)
  • Angele Thompson, Ph.D.
  • Charlotte Conway, MS, PAS
  • Dana Tomlinson, Ph.D.
  • David Dzanis, DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM (Nutrition)
  • Gail Czarnecki-Mauldin, Ph.D.
  • George Collings, Ph.D., DACAN, CNS, PAS, CFS
  • George Fahey, Jr., Ph.D.
  • Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., DACVSMR, DACVIM (Nutrition)
  • Karen Donnelly, MS, DVM
  • Laura Amundson, Ph.D.
  • Louise Calderwood

Read the full response from AAFCO to JAVMA, issued on Feb. 15, 2021.

For more regulatory news affecting the pet food market, visit our Regulatory page.