CHAMPAIGN, ILL. — The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has expressed concerns about Pet Food Institute’s (PFI) proposal for a new system to federally regulate pet food.

During the past few months, PFI has proposed a federal system to address concerns about the current label review process, which varies state-by-state. The proposal involves lobbying for a new federal entity responsible for reviewing dog and cat food labels which, according to PFI, would streamline the process for manufacturers across the United States as well as abroad for exports. The proposal does not intend to change food safety regulations or FSMA procedures related to dog and cat food and is focused on label review processes.

However, according to AAFCO, this system may not be in the best interest of pets and pet parents.

The association released a statement on May 30, detailing the possible impact a new federal system would have on the safety of pet foods and treats.

“AAFCO predicts that a federal-led system will significantly decrease the number of qualified inspectors in the marketplace and reduce the regulatory oversight of pet food and pet food ingredients,” the statement read.

Prohibiting state-led inspections, as PFI is proposing, would eliminate routine collection of more than tens of thousands of samples that are examined for potential contaminants of adulterants, according to AAFCO.

AAFCO believes that the current food safety system, which includes state agencies acting on their own legal authority in partnership with the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), helps ensure the safety of animal feed and pet food products. According to the association, state feed programs review and inspect thousands of pet food labels to ensure they contain all required consumer information and do not carry unsubstantiated nutritional of marketing claims. The state system also has dedicated employees to enable quick follow-up on consumer complaints.

“State feed programs are more accessible and equipped to inspect and regulate pet food,” said Austin Therrell, executive director of AAFCO. “They have inspectors in the field everyday with eyes on the products, on the local manufactures, and on the distributors and retailers. A single federal regulatory system, without these local state partnerships, cannot have this level of awareness and surveillance in the marketplace to respond and take action on illnesses, recalls and issues quickly and effectively.”

Additionally, PFI’s proposal may provide pet food manufacturers with a loophole to avoid state inspections, sampling and oversight of marketing claims, potentially allowing unsafe products into the market, according to AAFCO.

With PFI’s proposal in mind, AAFCO has revealed that it is working closely with its members and agricultural agencies to ensure full regulatory oversight of pet food products. The association highlighted the importance of integration within the current food safety system, utilizing scientific resources from the FDA, compliance and enforcement resources from state agencies, and collaboration from AAFCO and its members.

Read more about pet food safety on our Operations page.