Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why Best Foods? The AAFCO's "Guidelines"

Which kind of meat is contained in some foods? Your guess is as good as mine. For that matter, your guess is as good as the AAFCO's (Association of American Feed Control Officials), because this group's only job is to declare what should be stated on pet food labels. Each state has an agricultural department or office of state chemist that may enforce AAFCO guidelines--or not. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) helps AAFCO draft its guidelines, but does nothing to enforce them. Indeed, the FDA takes no action on pet food matters unless a claim is made on a label that may be fraudulent, such as that a cat food may help feline lower urinary tract disease (formerly known as feline urological syndrome) when it does no such thing. There is, in other words, no federal agency that polices the pet food industry at all, and at best a patchwork of state regulators who may, from time to time, make inquiries. Unfortunately for your dog or cat, the pet food industry pretty much regulates itself.

According to AAFCO, meat can be derived from any skeletal muscle of any slaughterd animal. It can come from the tongue, diaphragm, heart, or esophagus, and it can include fat or skin. "If it bears a name descriptive of its kind," AAFCO's guideline goes on to say of meat, "it must correspond thereto."

An investigative report by the Animal Protection Institute of America (APIA), a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization, is both impressive in its scholarshop and utterly depressing in its conclusions. A book by Ann Martin titled Food Pets Die For is even more damning.

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