"Nutritionally Complete" assurances for our pet food?

ldg

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Sorry for the length of this post. Please bear with me.

I'll post the point first, and then explain. It seems to me the AAFCO "nutritional completeness" standards provide a false sense of security when it comes to feeding our pets.

Yes, having definitions, guidelines, and consumer protection via labeling regulations is better than nothing.

But when the definition of "nutritional completeness" is based solely on a nutritional profile of ingredients, and not BIOAVAILABILITY of those nutrients, that label becomes essentially meaningless.

In fact,

Although the Nutrient Profile system has done a lot to standardize the business of pet food production, it's not without its critics. There are studies that suggest some nutrient levels may be too high, and others too low. The Nutrient Profile system of formulation does not address the issue of ingredient quality whatsoever. One critic of this method of feed formulation designed a “food” that met all the AAFCO nutrient profile requirements – even though the food was primarily formulated from old shoe leather, sawdust and motor oil with a multi-vitamin-mineral supplement. Obviously, there would be no guarantee that any animal would eat such a food, or could digest it, even though it contained all the vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, etc. that the nutrient profiles required.
(bold emphasis added) (excerpt from Jeane Hofve, DVM of LittleBigCat.com, "Pet Food Regulation" http://www.littlebigcat.com/nutrition/pet-food-regulation/ ).

Clearly, if anyone checked the ingredients, I doubt those consumers would purchase the product. But I didn't start checking ingredients on the cat food I feed my pets :anon: until one of our vets (a DVM trained in nutrition and chinese medicine) basically insisted we switch our cats to an all wet food diet.

******************

It's really only in the past few months/year that discussions in the Nutrition Forum have sparked my interest in nutrition / food for cats...which I find very odd. I normally research everything. So why would I assume that commercial pet food is healthy? Because there are ... "nutritional standards," and we can look for the remarks on bags of kibble or cans of wet food that the food is "nutritionally complete?"

Now - I know there are differences in quality, but I just never considered the fact that the AAFCO would allow something like feces to be considered acceptable as an ingredient in our pets' food.

But recent discussions on the board about raw food diets got me wondering about the "nutritionally complete" aspect of commercial foods, and, frankly, it was the link in this quote to the protocols for the AAFCO food trials that outright SCARED me and sent me running for information. (From this thread: http://www.thecatsite.com/t/239547/scientific-studies-supporting-raw-food-diet )

3) We have scientific studies that verify that supplemented cooked food is nutritionally complete, thanks to FDA/AAFCO feed trials on large numbers of cats (addressing concerns of taurine deficiency for example) for over 40 years.
Well, I clicked on that link and read the protocols for the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) food trials, which are:

Only 8 animals (either dogs or cats) need to participate in the feeding trial. There is no restriction regarding breed or sex. Only 6 of these 8 need to complete the trial, which lasts for just 26 weeks. During the trial, the only food available to the test animals is the food being tested. Water is available ad libitum.

Before the trial starts, and after it ends, the participating animals must pass a physical examination by a veterinarian. The veterinarians evaluate general health, body and hair coat condition. At the end (but not at the beginning) of the trial, 4 blood values are measured and recorded: hemoglobin, packed cell volume, serum alkaline phosphatase, and serum albumin.

The diet being tested fails if any animal shows clinical or pathological signs of nutritional deficiency or excess. No dog or cat is allowed to lose more than 15% of its starting body weight. Specific minimum values for the blood tests are given, and applied to the average result of all participating animals that finished the trial.
So SIX (or 8) animals don't die, meet FOUR blood values measures, and don't lose 15% of their body weight in 6 months and two weeks, the manufacturer can state that the food was subjected to and successfully met AAFCO feeding trials. :thud:

Further inspection of AAFCO requirements revealed that pet food subject to feeding trials need NOT be analyzed in a laboratory for a nutrient profile in order to state it is "complete and balanced." :thud: OR... pet food analyzed in a laboratory that meets the AAFCO guidelines for nutrient minimums (and a few maximums) need not be subject to feeding trials in order to be declared "nutritionally complete."

Notably, (I believe this was discussed before), the AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve or certify pet foods in any way.

So what do they do?

Simple. The AAFCO establishes a framework for uniform regulation of the feed industry. They

- establish standards or models for regulations aimed at ensuring that manufacturers provide clear, accurate, and consistent information about animal feed, including pet food;

- provide ingredient definitions and feed terms;

- establish "nutrient profiles," an effort to identify the minimum (and a few maximum) levels of “macronutrients” (protein, fat, and fiber) and the “micronutrients” (vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids) that research has shown to be necessary for dogs and cats.

- address labeling issues such as label format, ingredient lists, nutrition claims, and guaranteed analysis;

- define "nutritionally complete" for three life stages (Growth; Gestation/Lactation; Adult Maintenance) (or "All Life Stages." ).

Yet the last time the nutritional requirements ("profiles") for cats was updated by the AAFCO was in a report released by the AAFCO's Feline Nutrition Expert Subcommittee in 1991-1992. Yet the National Research Council's "Nutrient Requirements of Cats and Dogs," (most current version, released in 2006), accepts that despite ongoing research, large gaps still exist in the knowledge of quantitative nutritional information for specific nutrients.

So with 20 year-old nutritional guidelines and admitted gaps in knowledge of nutritional requirements for our pets, how do AAFCO standards ensure healthy food for our pets?

They don't.

In generational studies, where animals were kept on the same food for three to five generations, researchers at the University of California at Davis found that some foods that pass feeding trials still won’t support animals over the long term. They estimated that, of 100 foods that pass AAFCO analysis criteria, 10 to 20 would not pass the feeding trials, and of those, 10 percent would not be adequate for long-term feeding.
(Again, Jeane Hofve, DVM of LittleBigCat.com, in "Pet Food Regulation" http://www.littlebigcat.com/nutrition/pet-food-regulation/ ).

And it's not surprising, given what is approved for use in our pet food.

Because of the nondescript nature of the mush and nuggets in pet food cans and bags, pet owners must extend a lot of trust to manufacturers. But the balm of blind trust and faith never turns out to be a solution for anything. For example, consider the following approved ingredients from the official AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) regulatory publications:

dehydrated garbage (you read that right)
polyethylene roughage (plastic)
hydrolyzed poultry feathers
hydrolyzed hair
hydrolyzed leather meal
some 36 chemical preservatives
peanut skins and hulls
corn cob fractions
ground corn cob
ground clam shells
poultry, cow and pig feces and litter
hundreds of chemicals
a host of antibiotic and chemotherapeutic pharmaceuticals
a variety of synthetic flavorings
adjuvants
sequestrates
stabilizers
anticaking agents

This is not to say these ingredients are commonly used, just to point out that they can be. Obviously these ‘approved’ ingredients prove it may not be such a good idea to blindly trust regulators, manufacturers and nutritionists, and assume they know better about how to feed your pet than you do.

The absurdity of official nutrition deepens because at the same time regulators approve dehydrated garbage, they ban natural ingredients like pollen, chondroitin, Coenzyme Q10, and other nutraceuticals (natural substances with health effects). Any health food store and grocery has foods and nutraceuticals approved for humans that are banned from inclusion in commercial pet foods.

This sad state of irrationality—approving feces and garbage but banning chondroitin—can only be explained by the fact that regulators are trained in old school nutrition - using textbooks parroting 100-year old nutritional ideas. They are taught and come to believe that the nature of the food makes no difference, just the percentages of protein, fat, vitamin A, and the like. If dehydrated garbage and feces is made sterile (safe?) and has 12% protein, then to them that equals nutritious food. Similar thinking can be found in human hospitals where old school nutritionally trained dieticians feed diseased and starving patients instant potatoes, Jell-O, canned meat, and Diet Coke. Any claim about special merits of natural ingredients is often considered voodoo by them.

Both human and animal nutritionists can be so caught up in their science of percentages that no room is left in their brains for common sense. If that’s the way they want to eat, that is one thing. It’s quite another for consumers to follow along just because nutritionists and regulators promote themselves as expert, authoritative, and immune from error.
(From "The Myth of "100% Complete and Balanced" Processed Pet Foods" by Wysong: http://www.wysong.net/pet-health-and-nutrition/?article=36&cat=cat6 ).

If you want to read more detail on the limitations of AAFCO nutrient allowances, an article, "Assessment of the Nutritional Adequacy of Pet Foods Through the Life Cycle," by members of the Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, published in the Journal of Nutrition is available here: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/124/12_Suppl/2520S.full.pdf

Like I said. I, for one, believe that having definitions, guidelines, and consumer protection via labeling regulations is better than nothing. But it is certainly no end-all / be-all guarantee that the food we purchase for our pets is actually good for them.
 

auntie crazy

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This is a tough topic to face, but an important one. I think you're very brave for raising it, Laurie.

That "100% Complete and Balance" is as patently false today as it was when they used it in the '70s while hundreds of cats perished from insufficient taurine. I have repeatedly stated that science doesn't know everything there is to know about feline nutrition; they don't have a complete list of all the nutrients cats need, nor an understanding of the natural combinations in which those nutrients are best utilized. Therefore, as Wysong so succinctly puts it, "If 100% knowledge is not available, a 100% complete manufactured diet is not either."

On the other side of the equation are the non-nutritional additives mixed into the food. Food dyes linked to tumors and cancers. Ethoxyquin preservative - rarely allowed in human foods (with the sole possible exception of some spices) - is also linked to cancers. There are many more.

Some additives are included for nutritional purposes, but because of the form used, are toxic to the liver, kidneys and other organs if consumed in large doses or over an extended period of time (such as day in and day for months on end).... safer, natural options exist but are not required (sodium selenite and medadione sodium bisulfate are two such).

Here is a documentary that aired in Canada and was supposed to air here in the U.S. Despite a petition in support of allowing the American consumer to view the documentary, CNBC pulled it just days before it was scheduled. No reason was ever given. Thankfully, that video has popped up on youtube and is now available to anyone who is interested. In one memorable scene, it graphically illustrates the point Laurie makes above about a recipe of old shoe leather, sawdust and motor oil passing AAFCO's nutritional standards. Pet Food: A Dog's Breakfast .



I've had pets all my life. Before I could walk, I was crawling after the family cat and watching birds hop around the yard. I've owned, rescued, or fostered everything from rats to rabbits to parrakeets. I researched the care of all of these animals most thoroughly, but I had only begun to truly examine feline nutrition when the 2007 pet food poisoning swept across the continent. To my everlasting regret, I lost my Ollie one month and five days before the first recall was announced. Even after Ollie's passing (which was not, at first, even attributed to the poisoned food), it took me months to let go of my belief in the pet food industry's good will towards the pets eating their products. But it wasn't until I saw the electrifying leap in energy and overall vitality my cats enjoyed after I transitioned them to raw that I finally acknowledged the complete truth - due to missing nutrients, too many toxic additives or a mix of the two, even the high-end, mostly grain- and fish-free cat foods I was feeding clearly weren't providing my furchildren with everything they needed to be their happiest, healthiest selves.

This is, again, a tough topic. If we accept that the pet food industry isn't churning out the healthy foods we thought they were, to where do we turn? That's a question each of us has to answer to our own satisfactions, but arming ourselves with all the facts is the first step in making choices we can live with.

Best regards!

AC
 
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carolina

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All I have to say is :thud:
I had already read before that the AAFCO guidelines are not followed by raw feeders, due to exactly as you mentioned, the bioavalability of the nutrients in the raw food.
I never expected to read the list of approved ingredients by the AAFCO. What disturbs me even further, is that the FDA works with the AAFCO, and for the life of me, I can not figure out how that could ever be allowed by them http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm048025.htm
I am having the hardest time finding this "OP" list published by the AAFCO - sounds like you have to pay for it :scratch:...... That's a red flag if you ask me.... weird..... $105!! http://www.aafco.org/Publications/AAFCOStore/ProductDetailPage/tabid/134/rvdsfpid/2012-official-publication-int-l-26/rvdsfcatid/international-3/Default.aspx
And did you know that the AAFCO is not a governmental agency? yep - they are independent and have almost no Government control :scratch: We trust them sooooomuch...I was under the impression they were a Government agency..... Wrong! :doh3:
This interview with Dave Syverson, Chair, AAFCO Pet Food Committee http://www.petfood.aafco.org/Portals/0/pdf/q_and_a_petfood_regs.pdf about the subject is quite revealing and worthy reading.

This powerpoint presentation, also from the AAFCO, I am guessing used in a training session, is quite revealing as well: http://www.aafco.org/Portals/0/powerpoint/aafcosafety.pdf
What I gather from it, is that the AAFCO/FDA do approve somewhat toxic/harmful ingredients, with calculated risks.

About regulating/approving a food in regards to being Nutritionally complete and balance.... Surprisingly:
To regulate claims of nutritional adequacy, AAFCO established pet food nutrient profiles and feeding trial methods. A manufacturer does not have to comply with both the profiles and testing methods before selling its product. Because the pet food industry found the feeding trials too expensive and restrictive, AAFCO adopted Regulation PF7.[77] Regulation PF7 states that if the manufacturer intends to represent that its food is nutritionally complete (“complete and balanced,” “100% nutritious,” “perfect,” etc.) they need comply with only one of the following: establish that the product’s formula meets the nutrient requirements of the applicable nutrient profile, complete an AAFCO recognized animal feeding protocol, or establish that the product is nutritionally similar to the lead product in the same product family. If a manufacturer intends to rely on the product family method, they must also establish that the family product “meets criteria for all life stages” and that the nutritional similarity can be substantiated according to procedures established by AAFCO.[78] Thus, the options provided under PF7 allows a manufacturer to make nutritional adequacy claims by performing something as simple as a standard chemical analysis proving that its product formulation meets the AAFCO nutrient profiles.[79]http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/784/Patrick06.html#fn78
About the Trials:
As an alternative to formulating a product in accordance with AAFCO’s nutrient profiles, a manufacturer wishing to claim the nutritional adequacy of its food may conduct feeding trials in accordance with AAFCO standards. The trials for dog and cat foods are relatively similar. Each requires a minimum of eight animals and the trial must last 26 weeks.[84] The same formulation of food must be fed throughout the trial, although different production batches may be used.[85] AAFCO permits up to 25% of the animals starting the study to be removed from the study for “non-nutritional reasons or poor food intake.”[86] Data recorded from the dispatched animals does not have to be included in the final reports.[87] Finally, even if an animal loses 15% of its initial body weight throughout the course of the trial, the feeding trial is still considered a success.[88] It is worth recognizing that there are no limits to the amount of weight an animal can gain during the trial.
(as if 8 animals were a lot already.... but they let you remove 25% of them! :thud:)

About the label "100% Complete and Balanced:"
The proof that commercial pet food is not necessarily balanced is found on the packages: consider the high level of carbohydrates (as discussed above) and the “wild card” of the rendering process. Plus, each time regulatory agencies meet, they debate all over again how much of which nutrients will constitute 100% complete.[211] If this is so, then how could the previous balance of nutrients have been 100% complete? The most honest solution would be to cease the “complete and balanced” claims and start to educate the consumers about nutrition and their pets’ specific needs. But this would not sell pet food; the American public is addicted to the convenience of commercial pet foods and judging by the reluctance to eliminate fast food from our own diet, our pets will likely fare far worse.

Today, one simple word can strike fear in the heart of the pet food manufacturer claiming that its product is “100% complete”: taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid found in most animal protein sources.[212] Taurine regulates the amount of calcium entering the heart tissue. The calcium then triggers each heart beat.[213] Thus, taurine deficiency can cause heart failure.[214] Few mammals are unable to produce taurine, but cats and humans are among them.[215] While the National Research Council did not issue a guideline regarding the minimal amount of taurine to be included in cat food until 1981, taurine was considered an essential nutrient as early as 1976.[216] In August of 1987, researchers at the University of California at Davis, reported in Science Magazine that a taurine deficiency in commercial cat foods had resulted in the deaths of thousands of cats before manufacturers began supplementing their products with taurine.[217]

Upon the discovery of the link between the dying cats and their taurine deficiencies, pet food companies, such as Ralston-Purina and Hill’s Pet Products, began reformulating their products to include additional taurine.[218] Ralston Purina produces Purina Cat Chow, the best-selling brand of cat food.[219] While no one will ever know exactly how many cats died as a result of eating nutritionally-inadequate pet food, there is little doubt that at least one (if not all) of the taurine-deficient brands bore the label “100% complete.”http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/784/Patrick06.html
This paper, from a Graduating Harvard Law Student on this subject is very worthy reading, IMHO http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/784/Patrick06.html

I think, with all of the above and what Laurie posted, that it is really up to us to research and feed accordingly, what is better for our kiddos. I, for one, had no Idea of many things I just found out tonight.... this has been an eye opener for sure....
I have always looked at ingredients, and such, but I do think it might be time for a change of directions here....
If I didn't have a problem kitty, things would be easier - but I do.... So I might look for a Holistic vet or have a consult with Bugsy's vet about his diet.... Not sure what I am looking at it.... But more and more, I am failing to believe in what the industry is making available for us, and I am convinced I am the only one, with the help of my vet, who can advocate for my babies' health. Unlike the pet Industry after all, I have no agenda, but their well-being...
Thank you so so much Laurie, for taking the time to post this :hugs:
 

auntie crazy

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All I have to say is


The proof that commercial pet food is not necessarily balanced is found on the packages: consider the high level of carbohydrates (as discussed above) and the “wild card” of the rendering process. Plus, each time regulatory agencies meet, they debate all over again how much of which nutrients will constitute 100% complete.[211] If this is so, then how could the previous balance of nutrients have been 100% complete? The most honest solution would be to cease the “complete and balanced” claims and start to educate the consumers about nutrition and their pets’ specific needs. But this would not sell pet food; the American public is addicted to the convenience of commercial pet foods and judging by the reluctance to eliminate fast food from our own diet, our pets will likely fare far worse.

...
(Bold highlighting is mine.)

Shocking and disgusting....  


All of this information is well known within the industry; consumers taking control of their pets' health is the stuff of their nightmares.

You remarked upon the rendering process, so here's a little more info, from Dr. Hofve: Selecting a Good Commercial Pet Food
Rendering (basically a process of slow cooking) produces two major items: animal fat or tallow, and a processed product usually called “meat meal,” “meat and bone meal,” or “by-product meal.” (Due to historical quirks in naming, the term “by-product meal” refers to poultry, while the equivalent mammalian product is called “meat and bone meal.”)

Animals that are dead, dying, diseased, or disabled prior to reaching the slaughterhouse are known as “downers” or “4D” animals. These are usually condemned, in whole or in part, for human consumption, and are generally sent for rendering along with other by-products, parts and items that are unwanted or unsuitable for human use – such as out-of-date supermarket meats (along with their plastic wrappers), cut-away cancerous tissue, and fetal tissue (which is very high in hormones).
More info on rendering from TruthAboutPetFood.com: What ‘kind’ of Protein is Your Pet Eating? and Disturbing (and illegal) FDA Compliance Policies.

Just a little more "food for thought". *cough*

Regards!

AC
 
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sweetpea24

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An interesting book to read is "Feed Your Pet Right" by Marion Nestle and someone whose name I never remember. Although it is not.the end all of pet nutrition books, it is a good start. It gives the reader a good picture of the pet food industry and of the sketchy definitions of ingredients.

The AAFCO nutrient profiles and feeding trials are less than adequate but.right now it's the only thing that we have to provide a yardstick. The AAFCO has mo regulatory power either So how much faith are we, as pet owners, supposed to place in it? Companies opt not to do feeding trials because they are expensive. Even Hills doesn't do feeding trials on all their foods. The companies just have to make sure the food meets the nutrient profiles in order for it to be 'complete and balanced'. In addition, marketing makes the situation worse as claims such as 'human grade', 'organic' and ' natural' have cropped up on labels and sucked the consumer into believing we're feeding our pets the most nutritious foods. Truthfully, the 'human grade meat' is really just the parts that are left after the parts that humans consume are taken out for the human food industry. The lack of regulation of the pet food industry has allowed companies to capitalize on the ideq that our pets are members of our family and duped us. The AAFCO provides its nutrient profiles and feeding trials but it is positioned strategically between the consumer.and the pet food companies.

The documentary the Laurie posted 'A Dog's Breakfast" is a good commentary on the state of the pet food industry. The human food industry isn't't that great So I can't even begin to imagine what the pet food standards are. We would never feed our animals a leather boot breakfast but it does bring to light that any food can claim to meet the nutrient profiles as a minimum requirement to claim completeness. It sucks to say it plainly. How do you think the melamine got into the pet food lines? All they had to do was test the level of protein and the method by which they do this does not test the actual ingredient but the waste product (nitrogen.) Of protein. Though the foods may have had an adequate level of crude protein, what was providing the protein was not found out I.til ma.y animals got.sick or died.

As of today, Nature's Variety is the only pre-made food that has met the AAFCO nutrient profiles. That is why I used to feed it to my dog (until her liver issues started). It is not adequate but it is.the best we have. The National Research Council has attempted a couple of times to de elop better guidelines but have not gained any ground. Until pet food companies are willing to test their food VIA feeding trials and safety tests, and until a more strict regulation of the pet food industry is established, it is up to ya, the consumers, to figure out what is good for our pets. We cannot.blindly open a can of food and assume their manufacturing practices are up to par and that they source their ingredients from viable sources.
 

auntie crazy

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OMG my poor babies.... I feel awful by feeding them pet food
Don't, Carolina.
  We none of us know what we don't know until we do. ALL we can do is make the best decisions we can based upon the info we have to hand today. Not to mention that guilt is an awful, destructive emotion that does no one any good at all.

And keep in mind that it's also major stressful, which can be felt by our kitties. And we don't want to share that with them, do we? 
 

AC
 

auntie crazy

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In regards to books on this topic, I think the just recently published Buyer Beware by Susan Thixton, the pet advocate who runs TruthAboutPetFood.com, is far and away the most detailed and easy to understand. Not Fit for a Dog!, published in 2008 and written by Dr.s Michael Fox, Elizabeth Hodgkins and Marion Smart, has a lot of good, detailed info, too, but the book is a bit hard to follow - the information jumps around rather than following a linear format (possibly because it has too many authors?).

I wasn't impressed by the latest version, also published in 2008, of Food Pets Die For by Ann Martin. The book gave me little info that I didn't already know, and not as much detail as either Buyer Beware or Not Fit.

Another book I thoroughly enjoyed, but focused more on the health and nutrition of cats than on commercial pet food ingredients, is Holistic Cat Care by Dr.s Celeste Yarnall and Jean Hofve. And, of course, no listing of books on feline health would be complete without Your Cat, written by Dr. Elizabth Hodgkins and published in 2008. This was one of the first books I read that introduced me to the subject of "naturally" feeding a house cat and is still one of my favs today.

Regards!

AC
 

jcat

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OMG my poor babies.... I feel awful by feeding them pet food :(
The thing is, commercial cat (and dog) food can be better than table scraps/homemade, because it wasn't available in Warsaw Pact countries, and pets' lifespans increased quite a bit after the Iron Curtain fell and people began feeding commercial food. Cats' average life expectancy almost doubled (from 8 to 14, according to one study). Obviously, a lot of people weren't feeding nutritionally balanced food.
 

mschauer

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Laurie, I strongly urge you to read the book Feed Your Pet Right. It is written by 2 nutrition professors, Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim. It is an objective look at the pet food industry and the complaints many have with it. They are human nutritional professors who became interested in pet nutrition issues when people kept asking them questions about it. They come to the issue without an agenda and that is why I like it so much. For one thing they debunk the "leather shoe" dog food recipe notion.

They give an objective, factual review of pet food regulations and control.

Marion Nestle also wrote an excellent postmortem of the '07 pet food recalls called Pet Food Politics. It is an objective look at what happened and what went wrong.

I'll write more when I have time... 
 
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auntie crazy

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The thing is, commercial cat (and dog) food can be better than table scraps/homemade, because it wasn't available in Warsaw Pact countries, and pets' lifespans increased quite a bit after the Iron Curtain fell and people began feeding commercial food. Cats' average life expectancy almost doubled (from 8 to 14, according to one study). Obviously, a lot of people weren't feeding nutritionally balanced food.
 
Good point, Jcat. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if the foods originally sold for cats and dog were healthier, in at least some respects, than their counterparts are today. As time has passed, the system has found more and more ways to dump agricultural waste into the pet food market, hiding the waste and making a profit on it at the same time.

For instance, renderers include waste and expired foods from retail outlets such as Walmart in animal feed, and at this year's annual AAFCO meeting, conversation took place at the request of the rendering industry to provide a animal feed/pet food name for grocery store waste, and the example provided at the meeting was left over pizzas and expired Hot Pockets from Walmart. Hot Pockets and related processed foods for people weren't even around when commercial pet foods first became popular.

See Day Three of AAFCO Meetings for more on what went on during that meeting, including this little gem dropped by one of the AAFCO members, "We'll have to come up with a term that the consumer will buy or a renderer won't be able to sell it." 

And, sadly, that trend of animals living longer reversed back in the late 90s. I don't have any international info, but here in the US, feline longevity has been declining for the last decade (Banfield’s “State of Pet Health 2011” report). Among other issues noted, diabetes is up 16% in cats, and ear infections and dental disease have both increased.  :-{

AC
 

carolina

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Good point, Jcat. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if the foods originally sold for cats and dog were healthier, in at least some respects, than their counterparts are today. As time has passed, the system has found more and more ways to dump agricultural waste into the pet food market, hiding the waste and making a profit on it at the same time.

For instance, renderers include waste and expired foods from retail outlets such as Walmart in animal feed, and at this year's annual AAFCO meeting, conversation took place at the request of the rendering industry to provide a animal feed/pet food name for grocery store waste, and the example provided at the meeting was left over pizzas and expired Hot Pockets from Walmart. Hot Pockets and related processed foods for people weren't even around when commercial pet foods first became popular.

See Day Three of AAFCO Meetings for more on what went on during that meeting, including this little gem dropped by one of the AAFCO members, "We'll have to come up with a term that the consumer will buy or a renderer won't be able to sell it." 
:yeah:
It is said that the pet food industry is a gigantic and absolutely necessary recycling "powerhouse" for the human food industry - without it, we simply would not have the capability of getting rid of all the carcasses, organs, bones, and all the left overs generated after the production of food for human consumption.... Think about McDonalds alone and how many cows they need to dispose of in producing their burgers..... The pet food industry is "nice", "convenient" and lucrative way to make all that trash disappear..... You can't simply toss millions and millions of dead animals in landfills and not expect a public health problem.....

In regards to this:
And, sadly, that trend of animals living longer reversed back in the late 90s. I don't have any international info, but here in the US, feline longevity has been declining for the last decade (Banfield’s “State of Pet Health 2011” report). Among other issues noted, diabetes is up 16% in cats, and ear infections and dental disease have both increased. :-{
It might have to be due to this - I am pretty sure, in fact, it does....:
The rise in the use of grain and carbohydrate products over the last decade further contributes to the nutritional imbalance in commercial pet foods.[195] “Once considered a filler by the pet food industry, cereal and grain products now replace a considerable proportion of the meat that was used in the first commercial pet foods.”[196] Why the change? Cost. Corn is a much cheaper energy source than meat.[197] But the change in pet food formulas has a real impact on a pet’s health. “Dogs have little evolved need for carbohydrates and cats have no need for this source of energy.”[198] Moreover, although dogs and cats can almost completely absorb the carbohydrates from some grains such as rice, the nutrient availability of wheat, beans, and oats is poor. [199] Other ingredients, such as peanut hulls, have absolutely no significant nutritional value and are used strictly as filler.[200] This news is even more disturbing where two of the top three ingredients in dry pet foods is almost always some form of a grain product.[201] The result of ingredients with low nutritional value is a pet that is slowing starving to death and at the same time consuming more and more food. Also, since cats are true carnivores, one must wonder how pet food manufacturers justify feeding them substantial quantities of corn as part of their “balanced” diet. http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/784/Patrick06.html
 
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ldg

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...snip...

I never expected to read the list of approved ingredients by the AAFCO...What I gather from it, is that the AAFCO/FDA do approve somewhat toxic/harmful ingredients, with calculated risks.

About regulating/approving a food in regards to being Nutritionally complete and balance....

http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/784/Patrick06.html#fn78

The proof that commercial pet food is not necessarily balanced is found on the packages: consider the high level of carbohydrates (as discussed above) and the “wild card” of the rendering process. Plus, each time regulatory agencies meet, they debate all over again how much of which nutrients will constitute 100% complete.[211] If this is so, then how could the previous balance of nutrients have been 100% complete? The most honest solution would be to cease the “complete and balanced” claims and start to educate the consumers about nutrition and their pets’ specific needs. But this would not sell pet food; the American public is addicted to the convenience of commercial pet foods and judging by the reluctance to eliminate fast food from our own diet, our pets will likely fare far worse.
Today, one simple word can strike fear in the heart of the pet food manufacturer claiming that its product is “100% complete”: taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid found in most animal protein sources.[212] Taurine regulates the amount of calcium entering the heart tissue. The calcium then triggers each heart beat.[213] Thus, taurine deficiency can cause heart failure.[214] Few mammals are unable to produce taurine, but cats and humans are among them.[215] While the National Research Council did not issue a guideline regarding the minimal amount of taurine to be included in cat food until 1981, taurine was considered an essential nutrient as early as 1976.[216] In August of 1987, researchers at the University of California at Davis, reported in Science Magazine that a taurine deficiency in commercial cat foods had resulted in the deaths of thousands of cats before manufacturers began supplementing their products with taurine.[217]
Upon the discovery of the link between the dying cats and their taurine deficiencies, pet food companies, such as Ralston-Purina and Hill’s Pet Products, began reformulating their products to include additional taurine.[218] Ralston Purina produces Purina Cat Chow, the best-selling brand of cat food.[219] While no one will ever know exactly how many cats died as a result of eating nutritionally-inadequate pet food, there is little doubt that at least one (if not all) of the taurine-deficient brands bore the label “100% complete.”http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/784/Patrick06.html
This paper, from a Graduating Harvard Law Student on this subject is very worthy reading, IMHO http://leda.law.harvard.edu/leda/data/784/Patrick06.html
I think, with all of the above and what Laurie posted, that it is really up to us to research and feed accordingly, what is better for our kiddos. I, for one, had no Idea of many things I just found out tonight.... this has been an eye opener for sure....

I have always looked at ingredients, and such, but I do think it might be time for a change of directions here....
Yes, and it's interesting to learn that reading the list of ingredients isn't actually all that helpful.

From the Harvard paper you provided a link to, Carolina:


4. Label Regulations

To understand the impact of the gaps in pet food regulation, it is necessary to review AAFCO’s labeling requirements in detail. To comply with AAFCO Regulation PF2, “Label Format and Labeling,” a manufacturer must list their name and address, brand name, product name, quantity statement, species statement (specifying for which species the food is intended), guaranteed analysis, ingredient statement and, if required, a statement of nutritional adequacy and feeding directions.[94] While this sounds like a comprehensive list of requirements, in reality it proves quite fallible. For example, the listing of the ingredient statement is not as straight forward as the moniker implies. “Federal regulations require ingredients be listed on the product label by their common or usual name in descending order of predominance according to weight. A common or usual name is one that accurately identifies or describes the basic nature of the ingredient.”[95] The FDA recognizes only the AAFCO ingredient definitions as the “common or usual name.” Thus, if an ingredient is not recognized by AAFCO, then it has no AAFCO ingredient definition and no common or usual name, thereby prohibiting use of the ingredient in pet food.

Such a requirement might seem logical, but consider Dr. Wysong’s account of trying to include organic ingredients in his pet food. Because AAFCO’s list of approved ingredients excludes “organic,” attempting to label a pet food product organic requires “third party confirmations, affidavits, and proofs like those needed in some kind of criminal case.”[96] Costly and time-consuming requirements such as these necessitate Dr. Wysong’s listing of his organic ingredients as simply “meat.” These organic products are then sold on the same shelf as a mass market pet food containing inferior ingredients such as chicken beaks and cow intestines, yet also labeled “meat.”[97] AAFCO allows no distinction.

Some of the most common ingredients found on commercial pet food labels, such as meat meal and animal by-product meal, reveal almost nothing of their true nature through such cryptic, yet FDA approved, “common or usual” names. Meat meal is “the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices .”[98] Animal by-product meal is defined as “the rendered product from animal tissues, exclusive of any added hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices .”[99] Rendering, the melting down of animal parts, is discussed in detail below. But it is important to recognize that the AAFCO definition leaves much to be desired. Until AAFCO defines “good processing practices” in specific terms, it takes little imagination to wonder how much hair and stomach contents are included in bone meals, considering the time and cost it would take to remove such items in mass quantities.
(Bold, my emphasis).
 
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carolina

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Yes, and it's interesting to learn that reading the list of ingredients isn't actually all that helpful.
From the Harvard paper you provided a link to, Carolina:
(Bold, my emphasis).
Oh, and how about how pathetically confusing and misleading the labels Chicken for Cats/Chicken cat Foods, Chicken Dinner, Chicken formula cat food, and With Chicken" (chicken as an example) get? :thud:
My goodness - what these manufacturers get by with! They do not need to list the percentages either...... I bet a lot of people don't know the difference in between the three, when they see all those beautiful pictures of chicken legs on the cans!

Chicken For Cats/Chicken Cat food: 95% chicken
Chicken formula Cat food or Chicken Dinner: at least 25% chicken
With Chicken: 3% THREE! percent chicken
 

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And did you know that the AAFCO is not a governmental agency? yep - they are independent and have almost no Government control
We trust them sooooomuch...I was under the impression they were a Government agency..... Wrong!

 
I think there is a lot of confusion about what the AAFCO is. I've seen posts were people have said it is a pet food industry association. That really isn't accurate.

The following are some quotes from the book I referenced in my earlier post, Feed Your Pet Right unless otherwise noted:

From www.aafco.org:

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.
Among other things, the AAFCO publishes nutrient guidelines that pet food manufacturers are required to adhere to if their products are to carry the AAFCO nutritional adequacy atatement of "complete and balanced".

The AAFCO nutrient guidelines are based on the NRC (National Research Council) recommendations found in their publication "Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats". The recommendations in this publication include summaries of and references to all peer reviewed literature used as the basis of the recommendations.

The NRC is one of four units that together constitute the National Academies,a group chartered originally by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 "to investigate, examine, experiment, and report on any subject or science art" when requested to do so by the government.
Later in the book in reference to the NRC publication "Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats":

This report is a joint effort of government and industry; the subcommittee's expenses were paid by the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Pet Food Institute, a trade association of pet food manufacturers.
More on the AAFCO:

...state officials responsible for enforcing the feed laws got together to form AAFCO in 1909. ... AAFCO was and is a voluntary, nonprofit organization. Its membership consists of state and federal officials in charge of implementing feed laws, and researchers who conduct studies on animal feeds.

...

In developing and tweaking the model regulations, AAFCO works closely with the FDA, and an FDA official sits on the AAFCO board of directors in an advisory capacity.

    AAFCO also works closely with the pet food industry. In 2009, the pet food committee consisted of ten members, three of them FDA officials and the others state feed control officials. Like other AAFCO committees, the pet food committee has its own trade advisory group. AAFCO says "It is the general practice of AAFCO to invite representatives of industry/trade associations and consumer groups to serve as advisors." These representatives are "to be available to answer questions relevant to animal nutrition, analytical

expertise, industry practices or other pertinent questions." Advisors sit in on committee meetings, but are not supposed to vote. ... Since 2008, as a consequence of the 2007 pet food recalls, the advisory group includes a consumer representative from the organization Defend Our Pets, which advocates for more rigorous oversight of pet foods.
 

mschauer

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I think the AAFCO standards and guidelines are a much more "lightweight" in their assurance of nutritional adequacy than most people realize and I hope this thread will help bring clarity to that issue. 

However, I have many problems with the way the issue is addressed by many websites. So many web sites not only concentrate solely on what the AAFCO standards *aren't* and completely omit what they *are* but also provide arguably factual information but in a misleading manner. While the standards are certainly lacking in some ways I don't think they should 

be dismissed just because of those lackings nor do I think those lackings should induce panic in pet owners. 

I believe there is a preponderance of websites committed to opposing conventional wisdom of all sorts rather than in support of it. Not surprising I guess. Advocating what most people are already in agreement with anyway isn't going to attract nearly the attention as opposing it.

Most websites that broach the topic of this thread are doing so because the website owner has a negative opinion of the pet food industry and of course is far more likely to present information in support of that opinion rather than against it. 

Getting information from such a site is not a good way to get a balanced view. Frequently there is a basis in fact to the information presented but it is presented in such a one sided and inflammatory manner that as far as I am concerned it is useless information. To fully understand an issue requires having access to complete and unbiased information.

With regards to the AAFCO recommendations not taking bioavailibility into account:

    ( From Feed Your Pet Right )

    Although the NRC's recommended allowances represent the gold standard for the nutrient needs of cats and dogs based on research, they are not recipes for making commercial foods. For one thing, they are based largely on experiments using purified nutrients, not foods. But pet foods are typically made from foods or food ingredients (except

for supplementary vitamins and minerals). For another, the NRC's recommended allowances in the mid-1980s were set a levels designed to meet minimum nutrient requirements for dogs and cats, levels that did not account for variations in bioavailability-how well food ingredients are digested, absorbed, and metabolized-or losses of nutrients that occur when pet foods are cooked.

    AAFCO set about developing nutrient profiles that take such factors into consideration. It began with the NRC minimum nutrient requirements based on purified diets. It then

converted the requirements to practical minumum and maximum nutrient standards (profiles) for dog and cat foods made from "nonpurified ingredients", meaning real foods.
The AAFCO applies a scale factor to some NRC recommended nutrient values to allow for losses during processing and to account for bioavailbility. They don't however explain how the scale factors are determined and the bioavailibility to a cat of all nutrients in all ingredients used in cat food manufacturing is not known. In the case of some critical nutrients the scale factor might be set quite high, as long as it is safe, to account for unknowns.

The above reference to the NRC recommendations being based on the use of purified nutrients is a reference to the 1986 NRC recommendations. From the 2006 publication overview, which is the first revision since 1986:

This edition contains the latest data on requirements that are based on the utilization of nutrients in ingredients commonly produced and commercially available in dog and cat foods rather than only on purified diets.
I don't believe the AFFCO has yet released its revised recommendataions based on the 2006 NRC publication. According to the authors of Feed Your Pet Right that effort was underway at the time they were writing their book.
 

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One critic of this method of feed formulation designed a “food” that met all the AAFCO nutrient profile requirements – even though the food was primarily formulated from old shoe leather, sawdust and motor oil with a multi-vitamin-mineral supplement.
From Feed Your Pet Right :
    We learned the importance of AAFCO definitions when we were asked by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to review a script for an investigative report on pet food that it aired in the wake of the 2007 recalls. In one part of the script, the CBC announcer is speaking with a Canadian veterinarian:

    CBC: Old boots, wood shavings, and motor oil. Add some vitamins and minerals and this brew could actually pass a nutrient test.... By regulation, pet food labels list the key nutrient values-like protein, fat, and fiber. But it turns out these regulations have big enough holes to drive just about anything through. Old leather work boots can be a source of protein...

    VETERINARIAN: Now we need fiber.

    CBC: Wood shavings.

    VETERINARIAN: The next essential ingredient is fat.

    CBC: Crankcase oil is a fatty ingredient. ...It's a poisonous mixture but our

    Old Boots pet food meets the required government regulations for the key elements-protein, fat and fiber.

    Is this frightening scenario even remotely possible? No way, at least not in the United states. Although the accusation holds a grain of truth, it is only a tiny grain: AAFCO does have an approved definition for leather as an ingredient in pet food <definition snipped>

    This defintition firmly excludes indigestible leather processed into boots. We have never seen hydrolyzed leather meal listed on a pet food label (Note from mschauer: And it would have to be listed!) and we doubt state feed control officials would allow it.The requirement for approved AAFCO definitions also firmly excludes the other ingredients. <snip> Although we repeatedly pointed out that this scenario was highly unrealistic, the CBC aired the program early in 2008 with the segment unchanged. Journalism like this sows further confusion and is not helpful to owners and their pets.
The last sentence sums up how I feel about a lot of what I read with regards to pet nutrition online: It isn't helpful.
 

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he AAFCO definition for "dehydrated garbage" :

http://agr.wa.gov/foodanimal/animalfeed/Publications/ProhibMatDefs.pdf

<The subject of the above document is not pet foods but does contains some AAFCO definitions. Look at the bottom of the last page to see the source of the definitions.>

Dehydrated Garbage – is composed of artificially dried animal and vegetable waste collected sufficiently often that harmful decomposition has not set in, and from which have been separated crockery, glass, metal, string, and similar materials.  It must be processed at a temperature sufficient to destroy all organisms capable of producing animal diseases.  If part of the grease and fat is removed, it must be designated as “Degreased Dehydrated Garbage.” 
Doesn't sound so bad to me. It's inclusion in that list seems to me to be solely for inflammatory purposes due to the unfortunate name. This makes me question the authors true motive in providing the list. I would certainly want to see the AAFCO definitions for the other items on the list before forming an opinion on how awful they really are.
 
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mschauer

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Well, I clicked on that link and read the protocols for the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) food trials, which are:
So SIX (or 8) animals don't die, meet FOUR blood values measures, and don't lose 15% of their body weight in 6 months and two weeks, the manufacturer can state that the food was subjected to and successfully met AAFCO feeding trials.
Well, they didn't all die! 


I don't know why the feeding trials are considered the "gold standard" of testing for pet food. Maybe because it is a lot more difficult to do meaningful testing today than it was a couple of decades ago. Today they have to be very careful when using companion animals in testing. The public is pretty sensitive to that kind of thing.     
Further inspection of AAFCO requirements revealed that pet food subject to feeding trials need NOT be analyzed in a laboratory for a nutrient profile in order to state it is "complete and balanced."  OR... pet food analyzed in a laboratory that meets the AAFCO guidelines for nutrient minimums (and a few maximums) need not be subject to feeding trials in order to be declared "nutritionally complete."
Also, if a food is considered part of a "family" of foods they can be labelled as "balanced and complete" even if they have undergone no testing at all. I haven't been able to find what it takes for a food to be part of a "family" of foods.

Maybe the AAFCO label should read "balanced and complete, as far as we know". 
 
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