What does “Made with Real Chicken” mean when it is printed on a pet food label? Or what does “Beef” mean listed in the ingredient panel on your pet’s food label? Or what about those controversial pea ingredients “Pea Protein” or “Pea Starch” – what do they mean?
I can’t tell you what they mean – because pet food ingredient definitions are “confidential commercial information” per the FDA.
Just so you know…
Each and every ingredient in your pet’s food has a legal definition that is VERY different than the same food ingredient in your (a human’s) food. As example, Chicken in a human food means ONLY USDA inspected and passed chicken meat. But chicken in pet food means something VERY different.
When a pet food label ingredient list includes the word “chicken” – it could be USDA inspected and passed chicken meat (just like in human food) OR it could be condemned chicken meat, chicken bones with no meat, condemned chicken bones, chicken skin with no meat, condemned chicken skin or a long list of other possibilities.
And it gets worse.
If you’d want to look up what the ingredient ‘beef’ means that listed on your pet’s food label…nope, you can’t look it up – Google doesn’t have the definition. If you’d want to look up the definition of the currently controversial pet food ingredients ‘pea protein’, ‘pea starch’, ‘pea fiber’…you can’t. Pet owners can find the definition of the human food processed pea ingredients – Google has that information. But Google has no information on the pet food ingredient definitions that are very different than the human food counterparts; pet owners are denied public access to ANY pet food ingredient definitions.
So…to the point of this post…
We asked FDA for those definitions, with the intention of sharing them with pet owners. FDA most certainly has the definitions, the definitions are part of law that FDA enforces. On December 1, 2017we filed a Freedom of Information Act request with FDA asking for:
“Records requested are definitions of all feed/pet food ingredients, which includes the common ingredient name, description, and any appropriate limitations for its use. These records are published in the AAFCO 2017 Official Publication under a Memorandum of Understanding agreement between FDA and AAFCO. Should the 2018 AAFCO Official Publication definitions be currently available to FDA, the 2018 definitions are requested.”
Eighteen months later, the FDA finally decided to respond to our FOIA request telling us:
“We are denying your entire request. Specifically, we are denying a copyrighted document. You can obtain the information you requested directly from AAFCO:
AAFCO Headquarters Office
1800 S. Oak Street, Suite 100,
Champaign, IL 61820-6974
Phone: 217-356-4221 — Fax: 217-398-4119
Exemption (b)(4) Trade secret and confidential commercial information.
The following sections of the implementing regulations of FDA and reasons applicable to this denial contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21 are
• 20.61(b)(c) Trade secret and confidential commercial information, in general, and information, not previously publicly disclosed.”
The FDA said “no” – pet owners will not be allowed to know what is in their pet’s food because it is “confidential commercial information“.
To read the full FDA response, Click Here.
The FDA is charged with enforcing the laws and pet food ingredient “confidential commercial information” (definitions).
How in the world can a federal agency legally enforce “confidential commercial information” onto the public when the public has no clue to what is being enforced?
Would you buy a car not knowing ANYTHING about it other than seeing the outer shell? You are not allowed to know what’s under the hood, denied the ability to see the interior, you have no information on the car other than seeing the shape and the color. Would you buy it?
Pet owners are put in this exact situation when buying pet food. They are provided ONLY minimal information – basically only the shape and color of the product they trust their pet’s life with. How in the world can this happen?
It happens because of a special ‘confidentiality agreement’ FDA has with AAFCO; they call this confidentiality agreement a “Memorandum of Understanding“. The FDA/AAFCO agreement states:
“The FDA and AAFCO agree to the following:
A. AAFCO maintains definitions of various feed ingredients, which includes the common ingredient name, description, and any appropriate limitations for its use, and publishes the currently accepted feed ingredient definitions in the AAFCO Official Publication (OP).“
The very first agreement item – AAFCO gets to “maintain” or own the legal definitions of pet food ingredients. Because of this special agreement between FDA and AAFCO – pet food ingredient definitions become “confidential commercial information“. Pet owners are denied the ability to understand what chicken or beef or pea protein or every other ingredient listed on their pet food label means.
Angry? You deserve to be.
Tell the FDA the current Memorandum of Understanding agreement is little more than a confidentiality agreement. We (Association for Truth in Pet Food) are waiting for a meeting date to be scheduled to meet with FDA on this very issue. In the meantime, please send the FDA your sentiments. Example email:
I am contesting the current Memorandum of Understanding agreement between FDA and AAFCO and any future agreement that prevents my public access to pet food ingredient definitions. Currently the agreement is little more than a confidentiality agreement that denies my and other pet owners rights to understand what we are feeding our pets. Legal definitions of pet food ingredients and all applicable rules should be public information. I contest any agreement that prevents public access to this significantly important pet food information.
Also send an email to your elected officials in Washington DC. Example email:
I want to make you aware of an official agreement FDA currently has with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO); Memoradum of Understanding MOU 225-07-7001. In essence, this agreement is a confidentiality agreement that denies the public access to any and all pet food ingredient definitions. Directly due to this FDA and AAFCO agreement, I am not allowed to know what is in my pet’s food. FDA has recently stated pet food ingredient definitions are considered “confidential commercial information” (FOIA request 2017-10123 provided June 27, 2019). This MOU agreement between FDA and AAFCO must be amended in order to provide all pet owners with full access to ingredient definitions.
Please tell the FDA on my behalf to properly amend MOU 225-07-7001 so that all of my pet’s food ingredient definitions are public information.