Over the past few months, PFI proposed a federal system to address concerns about the current label review process, which varies from state to 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 and abroad for exports.
According to AAFCO, while the proposal for the label review process does not intend to change food safety regulations or FSMA procedures related to pet food, this system may not be in the best interest of pets and pet parents.
“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.
The AAFCO holds that prohibiting state-led inspections, as PFI is proposing, would eliminate the routine collection of more than tens of thousands of samples that are examined for potential contaminants of adulterants.
AAFCO also believes that the current food safety system, which includes state agencies acting on their 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 or marketing claims.
Additionally, 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. They have inspectors in the field every day with eyes on the products, local manufacturers, and distributors and retailers,” said Austin Therrell, executive director of AAFCO.
Therrell added that 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.”
Moreover, PFI’s proposal may present pet food manufacturers with a loophole to avoid state inspections, sampling, and oversight of marketing claims, potentially allowing unsafe products into the market.
With PFI’s proposal in mind, AAFCO 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 between AAFCO and its members.