I say PFI made this mess and caused the misperceptions. The Pet Food Institute (PFI – lobby organization for Big Pet Food) can help fix the problem or they can continue to cause further distrust.
In a recent article published by the PFI, Pet Food Ingredients Explored, the lobby organization representing all the big pet food manufacturers in the U.S. stated “Terms such as ‘by-product’ and ‘meal’ can trigger misperceptions” from the public.
The Pet Food Institute article begins by discussing ingredient splitting, stating there is a common ‘misunderstanding’ of this practice. The term ‘ingredient splitting’ occurred when educated consumers and pet food experts found several similar ingredients in a particular pet food. Such as the example provided by the PFI article, ingredient splitting misperception would be a pet food containing corn gluten meal, corn flour and whole ground corn. One basic ingredient – corn – is ‘split’ into three seemingly different ingredients. The PFI says corn gluten meal, corn flour, and whole ground corn are required to be listed this way due to AAFCO regulations. “Companies should not be maligned because they are complying with legal requirements and providing consumers with important information they want. No splitting is occurring in the hypothetical product.”
As to why three types of corn (corn gluten meal, corn flour, and whole ground corn) would be used (in their hypothetical product), the organization that represents Big Pet Food states “As any baker can attest, the three example ingredients have different properties and therefore fulfill different functions in a food product. When it comes to developing a recipe for a pet food, ingredients are selected based upon their nutrient content and their functional properties. Every ingredient serves a function, therefore the concept of a filler is a misnomer.”
Before some think this explanation from PFI makes a bit of sense (‘We have to because of regulations’ and ‘We have to because each corn ingredient has different properties’), you should first know that representatives of PFI are heavily involved in the pet food ingredient definition development process. Basically, they write their own definitions of pet food ingredients – then AAFCO members approve the definition (or perhaps slightly alter the definition). They (PFI) can’t blame AAFCO regulations for having to list corn three different ways, because they (PFI) were there helping to write those exact definitions. Further, I’ve looked for a recipe of a baked product that would contain three types of one ingredient – in browsing the entire Joy of Cooking cookbook…I couldn’t find one recipe that ‘split’ wheat or corn or any other single ingredient into three different ingredients. Neither PFI explanation to the misperception of ingredient splitting pans out. It seems to remain exactly what we’ve believed all along – it IS ingredient splitting.
Another misperception the PFI tries to explain is the use of by-products. The PFI skillfully explains that many parts of a slaughtered animal are not consumed by Americans, thus the remaining parts of slaughtered healthy animals are dubbed a ‘by-product’ and become the foundation for many pet foods. “Americans choose not to eat billions of pounds of nutritious sources of animal-based protein each year. This is protein that America’s 145 million pet cats and dogs are happy to eat and that they need in their diet. Some of those co-products are shipped from livestock meat processing facilities directly to pet food plants. Others are cooked down and ground at rendering facilities to turn them into nutritionally dense meals (think corn meal, but from animal tissues).”
But what the PFI doesn’t explain to readers is FDA Compliance Policies; the possibility that by-products – or the new term coined in this article, pet food “co-products” – could include euthanized animals, diseased animals rejected for use in human food, cancerous tissues cut away from the animal carcass, and worse. For years, representatives of PFI have worked (with) FDA and AAFCO to develop Compliance Policies that allow illegal rendered waste into pet food and develop ingredient definitions that are so non-descript any waste goes undetected by the consumer.
Educated pet food consumers don’t have an issue with ‘co-products’ of a healthy slaughtered animal being processed into pet food. But we have huge issues with the numerous wastes that become pet food ingredients without clearly stating such on the label.
Enough already. Many of us know – more are learning the tricks of the trade every day. If you (PFI) truly want the ‘misperceptions’ to end, do something productive. Work to put and end to illegal animal food Compliance Policies, work to require pet foods to have the same nutritional labels as human foods. Provide petsumers with full transparency.
The next AAFCO meeting is in less than a month. We’ll see how serious the PFI is about changing those misperceptions.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
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