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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Organic pet food standards get groomed

After years of discussion, government standards specifically for organic pet food are on the fast track.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials released an Aug. 6 report from the Pet Food Institute saying it had met with staff members from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program in April after USDA officials told organic certification agencies that some nutrients in pet food didn’t comply with national organic standards. The USDA standards are based on human dietary needs and don’t include amino acids such as taurine and methionine, which feed-control officials require in complete and balanced pet food.

The Pet Food Institute said NOP officials issued a memorandum to the National Organic Standards Board “that provides valuable guidance and clarification as all parties work to establish the specific regulations for the formal certification of organic pet food.” Some finer points:

  • Rulemaking for pet food, included in the NOSB’s 2008 recommendation that the NOP establish a list of substances and ingredients in organic pet food, will be a part of NOP’s priority work plan for fiscal year 2011.

  • Certifiers and manufacturers of organic pet food have been playing by the rules administered by the NOP in 2006.

“We are encouraged that … the USDA National Organic Program [will] allow organic certification of pet food to continue under the previous guidance while the program also moves to initiate rulemaking procedures that will eliminate future confusion and contradictions,” the institute said in its report.

Laura Batcha, chief of policy and external relations for the Washington, DC-based Organic Trade Association, identified the completion of pet food regulations as its “number-one priority” for finalizing standards for currently unregulated categories. “It will be important that the specific nutrient requirements of pets be acknowledged in the final standard, as pet food is a single source of nutrition for dogs and cats,” she said.

Batcha made specific mention of OTA members who “currently choose voluntary certification for pet food [in addition] to USDA standards.”

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