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State stringent on animal feed

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Here’s disappointing news for dogs that insist on eating all-natural treats that contain amaranth, a non-glutinous grain.

WellPet, a company that manufactures natural dog food, was told to pull some of its doggie treats from store shelves in New Mexico because they contain amaranth, which is used in human foods but not included in a list recognized by New Mexico law as the standard of approved animal feed ingredients.

The state’s Commercial Feed Law requires that any ingredient contained in animal feed, including pet food, be listed by a nationwide organization called the American Association of Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO.

Each of the estimated 15,000 animal feed products old in New Mexico must be registered with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, which rejects products that contain ingredients omitted from AAFCO’s list, said Liz Higgins, a compliance specialist with the Department of Agriculture.

“We feel very strongly that we need to review labels and ensure citizens that products are safe to feed their animals,” Higgins said. “I take that responsibility very seriously.”

In October, Higgins issued a “no-sell” order for several types of Wellness Wellbars, a doggie treat, after the company tried to register the products with the agency.

WellPet removed the products from New Mexico stores and is reformulating Wellbars without amaranth, said Jon Cox, WellPet’s consumer affairs manager. The Tewksbury, Mass., company learned from New Mexico officials that amaranth is not an approved ingredient for pet food, he said.

“It’s an ingredient that is found in a lot of human food,” Cox said of amaranth, which is sold as a gluten-free alternative for people with wheat allergies. “It just hasn’t been approved for pet food yet.”

Unapproved ingredients that are potentially harmful to pets – such as chocolate – sometimes find their way into products, said Higgins, who also heads AAFCO’s pet food committee.

“I’ve had probably five or six products with chocolate in it that I’ve denied,” she said. “People think that if I can eat it, my pet can eat it, and that’s not true.”

Manufacturers who want a new ingredient added to the list typically need to perform safety studies, including animal feeding tests, that demonstrate its safety and effectiveness, she said.

Tom McDonald, the owner of Pet Food Harvest in Albuquerque, said New Mexico officials are sticklers about enforcing the AAFCO list.

“Here, for whatever reason, they’re very stringent,” McDonald said. He estimated that the state orders a product removed from his store once every few years.

State officials say New Mexico’s law has recognized the AAFCO list since the 1960s and is similar to laws in most other states.

Manufacturers can avoid no-sell orders by registering their products before distributing them to stores, said Tim Darden, the director of the agency’s feed, seed and fertilizer division and a member of AAFCO’s board of directors. “The goal of AAFCO is to bring uniformity among the states for the benefit of the manufacturers,” he said.

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