The Pet Food Institute (PFI) doesn’t like how pet food is regulated. And they have a plan on how to fix it.
“There’s only one answer, and it’s one federalized system,” says Dana Brooks, the President and CEO of the Pet Food Institute, a trade group whose members account for the vast majority of the dog and cat food made in the United States, pointing to the “challenges involved in getting pet food products approved for sale in different states.”
THE PET FOOD INSTITUTES DISTURBING PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
After 18 months of secret meetings, news is emerging about their objectives that paint a disturbing view of the future as they would like to see it. Essentially, the PFI, according to Brooks, wants to upend the structure of the U.S. government as it relates to pet food/animal feed laws:
- Detach pet food from state oversight.
- Detach pet food from FSMA.
- End AAFCO’s role in the pet food ingredient approval process.
- Subject the pet food industry to federal regulations only.
Historically, the FDA relies heavily on state food firm inspections. Yet, one of the main objectives of their ludicrous plan is to stop the state departments of agriculture from conducting pet food surveillance, essentially depriving states of performing inspections. Considering that state regulatory officials conduct about 75 percent of FDA inspections, it is preposterous that such a plan even be contemplated.
PFI’S DAMNING CRITICISM OF AAFCO
The PFI also has issues with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) ingredient definition process. Brooks delivered a scorching criticism of AAFCO, saying it was “run by state volunteers and given minimal support by the federal agency responsible for pet food safety, which is far from acceptable.”
Incredibly, Brooks has the audacity to believe that AAFCO does not have the “expertise required to review ingredients for pet food effectively,” even though the representatives from the FDA, the Centers for Veterinary Medicine, and state feed regulators participate in and are members of AAFCO. “Once an ingredient is defined by AAFCO,” Brooks complains, “inconsistent interpretation across states creates a muddled regulatory landscape for pet food.”
THE “FRUSTRATING PATCHWORK” OF STATE LAW AND THE TENTH AMENDMENT
However, what Brooks describes as a “frustrating patchwork” and lack of uniformity of laws between the states is, in actuality, a state’s inalienable right of autonomy and interdependence afforded to them under the Tenth Amendment in which the government shares power between the federal and state (local) government. Because state agencies work independently under their legal authority, AAFCO creates the model legislation and regulations, which a state can adopt in whole – in part or not at all – into their own state’s commercial feed law.
PFI’S INEXPLICABLE PLAN TO DIVIDE PET FOOD AND ANIMAL FEED REGULATIONS
Despite Brook’s accusation of AAFCO’s regulatory members’ competency in reviewing pet food ingredients, inexplicably, she has no objection to their capability to review animal feed ingredients.
Likewise, the PFI plan is that state FSMA inspections for animal feed – with the exception of pet food – will remain the states’ responsibility. And any FDA agreements with the states will remain intact regarding animal feed, not pet food.
PFI’s attempt to separate “pet food” from “animal feed” is incomprehensible as the term “animal food,” as defined in 21 CFR 507.3, is “food for animals other than man and includes pet food, animal feed, and raw materials and ingredients,” which includes “pet food.”
AAFCO WARNS OF LOOPHOLE TO AVOID INSPECTION
AAFCO’s Executive Director Austin Therrell has expressed grave concerns about PFI’s new federally regulated pet food system proposal.
Therrell believes a federally regulated approach is “not in the best interest of pets or pet owners,” warning that a completely federalized system would offer pet food manufacturers a “loophole” to avoid state inspections, sampling, and the oversight of marketing claims.
Therrell makes a dire prediction: “Prohibiting state-led inspections at manufacturing facilities across the country would eliminate the routine collection of tens of thousands of samples for potential contaminants or adulterants, which may dangerously impact animal health and reduce consumer confidence in the marketplace.”
And he cautions 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.”
Indeed, one of the directives of FSMA is that the Act calls for enhanced partnerships between the states, which provides the legal mandate for developing an Integrated Food Safety System (IFSS). The IFSS’s guiding principles and critical components are a coordinated approach to food safety.
AFIA EXPRESSES THEIR CONCERN
Constance Collman, president and CEO of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), warns that if this proposal proceeds as outlined, ingredient suppliers would be “forced to comply with a duplicative, dual registration process at the state and federal levels.” Collman says that the PFI’s plan to create a new center to be developed at the FDA to focus solely on regulating cat and dog food and treats has met with industry “confusion” and “frustration.”
THE DANGER OF DISMANTLING STATE ANIMAL FOOD REGULATIONS
Consider first that the PFI is the mouthpiece for the industry – they voice what the vast majority of pet food companies want. I find it deeply troubling that if the PFI gets what they want, pet food sold in your store won’t undergo state inspection or audits to ensure that the pet food and feed produced, processed, and distributed within your jurisdiction follow state laws and regulations; if their plan succeeds, your state feed regulators will be powerless to intercede when problems with pet food occur.
THE FDA’S VISION OF THE FUTURE
While the FDA is envisioning a new human foods program, a plan that includes establishing an Office of Integrated Food Safety System Partnerships (IFSS) to strengthen and unify food safety and response activities with state and local regulatory partners as intended in FSMA, PFI’s plan is in direct opposition to the FDA’s vision for the future. The FDA’s proposed structure will ensure greater collaboration and support of state-level inspectional activities. Robert Califf, M.D., the Commissioner of Food and Drugs at the FDA, admits, “We know that we cannot be everywhere, at all times, and our relationships with our state and local regulatory partners will be more important than ever going forward.”
But, if the PFI has its way, it will send pet food safety back to the stone age.
NOTE: Illustration by Mollie Morrissette, available at Saatchi Art.
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