Twice a year, State Department of Agriculture officials meet with members of the FDA to discuss your pet’s food – from ingredients to labeling and everything in between. But who’s on your pet’s side?

You (the consumer) deserve a voice when it comes to your dog or cat’s food. Consumer advocates like Susan Thixton are dedicated to ensuring that your pet’s health remains the primary concern at AAFCO meetings. But Susan was recently “fired” from her position at AAFCO. Though she can – and will – still attend the bi-annual meetings as a consumer, her friend B.C. Henschen will be taking over her official position as consumer advocate.

Animal Wellness spoke to Susan to get her take on the recent events.

AW: In a few sentences, explain AAFCO to our readers.

ST: AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. AAFCO is not a government body, though they do write laws (they are in essence an extension of government). AAFCO itself does not have any regulatory (enforcement) authority, though its members do. Members of AAFCO consists of State Department of Agriculture officials and FDA. Industry and consumer groups are provided with “advisor” positions at AAFCO, and are allowed to participate on various committees – though advisors have no voting rights.

AW: What are the roles and responsibilities of a consumer advocate at AAFCO meetings?

ST: Consumer advocates provide a voice for consumers in the rule making process. As an example, at the last AAFCO meeting the discussion was to consider changing the names of particular pet food ingredient names that consumers have a bad outlook of (such as by-products). I voiced the opinion that changing the names of the ingredients doesn’t benefit consumers at all.

AW: Briefly explain why you were “fired” from this role.

ST: AAFCO ‘fired’ me because of something I wrote on TruthaboutPetFood.com – an opinion I stated on a website that was not affiliated with my role as advisor. So – in my opinion – AAFCO fired me because I was not ‘towing the party line’.

AW: Mr. B.C. Henschen will be taking over the position. Why is he a good fit?

ST: BC has been attending AAFCO meetings for several years, thus he already understands the AAFCO process. He is an independent pet food store owner, and interacts with consumers on a daily basis. He understands the confusing laws of pet food. Above all, BC has the integrity that consumers need to represent them. He could never be bought.

AW: What is the cost of attending an AAFCO meeting, and why is it so high?

ST: It costs $500.00 to attend an AAFCO meeting, not including hotel or travel costs. This month’s meeting will be held in Anaheim, CA. I’m traveling from Florida and BC is traveling from Indiana. The regulatory folks that attend meetings are going on taxpayer dime – attending the meeting is an expense of their state regulatory position. For consumer representatives, we attend AAFCO meetings at our own expense. 

As well, it costs $110.00 each year to view the regulations and ingredient definitions of pet food. 

AW: Can consumers attend?

ST: Yes, consumers can attend. But they are required to pay the full $500 admission.

AW: How can our readers support your cause?

ST: Your readers can join our consumer association – actually for as little as $10 for a year membership. This helps us a great deal. Previously our association was only paying for my expenses to attend AAFCO meetings, now we need to send two of us – myself and BC.

Consumers can also help by sharing information on TruthaboutPetFood.com. The more informed consumers are, the better pet food choices they can make.

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