AAFCO Publishes Proposed Common Food Index of 72 Foods; Requesting Feedback

May 15, 2023By Riëtte van Laack

For those readers unfamiliar with the regulation of animal food ingredients in the United States, below is a brief background.

In the United States, animal food (feed) regulations are enforced by state and federal regulatory officials.  At the federal level, the Center of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) of FDA regulates food for animals, including livestock and pets.  As part of its regulatory responsibilities, CVM reviews the safety of new or modified animal food ingredients.  Such reviews may be in response to food additive or color additive petitions, or notifications that a substance is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).  In addition, CVM, on its own initiative, may propose an animal food additive or color additive regulation.

States frequently review labels (and labeling) for animal food products.  Part of this review involves the status of the ingredients included in the product.

The Association of the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a group of state, federal, and international regulatory officials that partner to support uniform animal food regulatory systems.  AAFCO develops model regulations, that serve as model for the states.  The goal is to create uniformity to facilitate interstate commerce.

A major component of AAFCO is its work on ingredient definitions, specifying what ingredients may be use in animal feed under what conditions.  AAFCO’s ingredient definitions are not federal regulations and do not have the force or effect of federal law. However, most states incorporate the ingredients listed in the AAFCO Official Publication (OP) into their state laws, so the AAFCO feed ingredient definitions facilitate the interstate marketing of animal food ingredients.  The AAFCO OP includes FDA approved feed and color additives, substances that are subject to GRAS notifications (AGRNs), etc.  Most states treat the OP as a “positive list” of ingredients that may be included in animal foods.  The absence of “common foods” in the OP has resulted in uncertainty as to whether such common foods can be used in animal foods.

On May 2, AAFCO announced that it had published its first installment of a common food index (CFI).  AAFCO defines “common food” as a food item “commercially available and suitable for use in animal food but [which is] not defined by AAFCO, including but not limited to certain whole seeds, vegetables, or fruits.” The CFI includes a list of common foods that “may be appropriate for use in animal food and serve as a tool for use during review of ingredients on an animal food label.”  The goal of this positive list is to provide harmonization, consistency, and transparency.

The first installment includes 72 foods. AAFCO is requesting stakeholders, such as veterinarians, animal nutritionists, consumer groups, and the public, to provide feedback on the initial CFI by June 2, 2023.  Comments may be submitted using a virtual form.  AAFCO has developed procedures for further review and determination as to what products will be included or removed from the CFI.  This document also describes an appeal procedure.

This by no means constitutes the complete list of common foods.  AAFCO has developed a process for submitting applications to add additional products to the CFI.  However, while AAFCO is receiving feedback on this first proposed list of products, applications for additional common foods are not accepted.

Inclusion on the CFI does not mean that the common food is safe.  Manufacturers are responsible for determining that the common food is safe and has utility for its intended use prior to commercial distribution as animal food.