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First Time Ever: Small Pet Food Manufacturers at AAFCO

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For the first time, small manufacturers of high-quality pet food were represented at an AAFCO meeting. Pittsburgh, August 1-3, 20176 marked the first official forum attended by Next Gen PFMA.

In pre-conference conversations, we were told the AAFCO policy is to wait a year before representatives of new trade associations are allowed to participate on AAFCO committees. However, as this was my third year attending AAFCO meetings, I was granted an informal meeting with current and future AAFCO presidents, as well as the chairs of the Ingredient Definitions and Pet Food Committees.

The regulators had 3 questions: why we (NGPFMA) want to participate in AAFCO, what our members need from AAFCO, and how formally our organization is set up. Here are our answers:

First, participation in AAFCO gives representation to the 2% – those pet food manufacturers who’ve never been represented before as the current lobby groups represent the 98% of pet food in the marketplace. In reality, because our member base is selective, only focused on those manufacturers who use ingredients that meet (exceed really) the standards of the law, it’s not even 2% of the marketplace. Second, our members all are looking for variations of the same three things: representation at regulatory and legislative meetings, equity of labelling standards across states, and new ingredient definitions. Finally, we are set-up as a non-profit organization, finalizing federal paperwork to be recognized with non-profit status. I was asked what companies comprise NGPFMA membership. My answer: at this point, membership is confidential as the members already have bullseyes on their back that don’t need to grow any larger.

The answers from the regulators: Excellent, welcome! AAFCO welcomes participation from all stakeholder groups; NGPFMA members have not been represented at AAFCO before but are definitely wanted/needed for equity/balance. On the second point, the regulators see our members as leading edge, innovators, the ones who use new ingredients and push the envelope resulting in growth of the pet food industry – therefore, needing involvement in the AAFCO process! As for the third point, encouragement to complete the NGPFMA business plan and the remaining paperwork needed for non-profit status. The regulators insist on abiding by their year mandate before Next Gen can “sit at the table” with other industry stakeholders; however, effective immediately, we may participate in working groups – where the real work is done.

This last concession is a HUGE “win” as several in-progress working groups are deliberating issues which will affect how NGPFMA members do business: the Feed PC (Preventative Controls) Harmonization Work Group and the Pet Food Label Modernization Work Group. We were immediately granted membership in the first work group and are tentatively scheduled to join the latter next week. Furthermore, during the Ingredient Definitions Committee meeting, two new work groups were formed: an “animal food term” work group and a work group to define “pet.” (Official work group names will be published forthwith.)

The information discussed during work group deliberations is considered “confidential.” However, as the liaison between the work groups and NGPFMA members, we are permitted confidential discussions –to gain input from pet food industry stakeholders. Therefore, for members of NGPFMA, private updates will be posted to the organization website (www.ngpfma.org).

This was a momentous meeting! The heretofore unrepresented 2% of pet food manufacturers, the small companies which represent a niche segment of the pet food market, finally have representation at the premier regulatory meeting in North America – AAFCO. While politics and regulations are long arduous processes, it is the nature of the beast and we have arrived.

I highly encourage those of you who have not yet joined Next Gen Pet Food Manufacturers Association to do so. Joining Next Gen ensures when the time comes to ask for new ingredient definitions, your food item is on the list. Membership ensures your company receives timely updates to important industry matters – like FSMA compliance. Membership allows your voice to be heard at a national meeting (while keeping the bullseye on your back small).

About Cathy Alinovi

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