USDA Certified Organic.
Those three words represent the epitome of superb pet food. The certification means that the ingredients and processes are third-party audited, giving consumers confidence that what they buy is not only the best but also truly organic.
However, behind the reassuring USDA seal lies a patchwork of confusing and conflicting interpretations of certified organic pet food. So, in essence, there are no reliable or consistent standards.
This distinction is critical.
For pet food to be certified under the AAFCO definition of the human-grade pet food rule, it must be made to FDA human food standards and in a human food processing facility, or it cannot make the human-grade claim.
It is not surprising that ACA certifiers use their interpretation of the law because historically, there has been no consistent guidance or regulations since the organic certification of pet food began eighteen years ago.
As an example of the conflicting guidance, during a presentation in 2014 at an American Association of Feed Control Officials conference, the AMS said that certifiers are using NOP human food processing standards. And AAFCO believes that organic pet food meets human food standards and is regulated as such.
Yet, today, the AMS’s unofficial guidance is that ACAs follow the regulations for organic livestock feed production, handling, and processing.
Years ago, the NOSB said that the existing organic livestock feed regulations were not suitable for pet food as they restrict the use of mammalian products fed to mammals and do not allow a “Made with Organic” label claim. In addition, NOP human food processing standards do not allow the use of natural feed additives, and processing aids in livestock feed.
To preserve the integrity of the USDA NOP, the agency must clarify the requirements for organic pet food – so that certifiers follow the same rules and consumers can be confident that the pet food they purchase is made to human food standards, and not to animal feed standards.
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