Natural Foods Merchandiser

Future of organic pet food uncertain

Pet food manufacturers are facing immediate threat in their ability to market products certified organic after earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture informed certification agencies that some nutrients don’t comply with National Organic Standards.

The USDA standards, suggested by the Federal Drug Administration, are currently based on human dietary needs and do not include acids like Taurine and Methionine which the Association of American Feed Control Officials requires in complete and balanced pet food.

“If this recent reinterpretation of National Organic Program policy is not stayed, the market for complete and balanced organic pet food will be eviscerated,” said Nancy K. Cook, vice president, Pet Food Institute. “We are seeking to engage the USDA to find a workable solution that upholds the integrity of the organic standard while enabling pet food makers to meet the demands of their consumers.”

Though established in 2005, until now certifiers have loosely followed the rule to allow for organic, nutrient-appropriate pet foods.

“Everyone recognized that it was a little bit of a square peg in a round hole. Pets are not humans and the formulations they need in their diets are different,” said Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association and member of a committee seeking change in the USDA standards.

Responding to the National Organic Standards Board, the USDA National Organic Program established an Organic Pet Food Task Force in 2005 to recommend a list of substances and ingredients in the manufacture of organic pet food. While the NOSB adopted the task force recommendations in 2008, the NOP has not implemented them, frustrating manufacturers who wonder why enforcing old guidelines is important while implementing new regulations that address pets needs is not, Carter said.

While manufactures have yet to see certification revoked, Carter said right now the industry’s in limbo.

“The new administrators have made it a point to enforce national organic standards. Most people would say yes, that’s a good thing. Over the last few years regulations haven’t been enforced the way they should,” he said. “But they also need to put the same time and concern into adopting these NOSB approved regulations. Otherwise, organic pet food manufacturers won’t be able to say in business.”

The Pet Food Institute is still awaiting a response from the the NOP in regards to a letter sent earlier this month requesting the standards be re-evaulted.

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