Feed Bites

Hemp in Animal Food: Sure, It's There, But Is It Legal?

Written by: Louise Calderwood   |   February 17, 2022

Hemp, Ingredients

A quick internet search will pull up hundreds of animal treats and snacks containing hemp and hemp derivatives, such as CBD and various oils. The label promises the products will bring animals relief for anxiety or pain and better skin and coat health. There is only one problem: there is no legal way to offer hemp in animal food or treats.

What are the problems with these unregulated products being in the marketplace? Why should we care? And what can be done about it?

The first concern is around animal health and safety. The second is the safety of the food from production animals entering the human food chain. And finally, there are legal implications for animal food manufacturers looking to market animal foods or animal products produced with hemp ingredients.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is stepping in to address the growing use of illegal hemp products in animal food, including snacks and treats. This week, in collaboration with 16 industry organizations, including the American Feed Industry Association, AAFCO sent an open letter to lawmakers and other agricultural leaders addressing the trend of state legislatures introducing bills that allow the use of hemp and hemp byproducts in commercial livestock feed and pet food.

It is confusing for consumers to see hemp-based products offered for sale for their pets or livestock, and the hodgepodge of state legislation allowing it creates an unlevel playing field for other ingredients that follow the proper regulatory pathways.

The letter highlights concerns that hemp and hemp byproducts (e.g., CBD) are being used in animal food before federal approval affirms they are safe and legal to use. Some in the hemp industry are actively lobbying legislators and state departments of agriculture to support legislative pathways for the sale of hemp and hemp derivatives for use in animal food, rather than following recognized regulatory structures.

State leaders and proponents of hemp in animal food are encouraged to work through the defined regulatory pathways used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and AAFCO to assure ingredients undergo a thorough safety review before they are commercially available as feeds or pet food. The letter states:

“Currently, no hemp ingredients have been approved through the established animal feed ingredient review pathways. It would be imprudent to bypass these established procedures needed to protect both human and animal health and unilaterally legislate approval of animal feed ingredients at the state level.”

How can hemp products be researched for use in animal food? Well, someone has to pay for it.

The letter encourages proponents of hemp-based animal foods to support research through universities or private labs so that the safety and utility of hemp can be fully understood before it is allowed for commercial purposes. This is what companies do when they want to have new ingredients approved. They don’t circumnavigate regulations and move straight to store shelves. They spend the money and time, and have their new products undergo the appropriate testing and review before they are put in animals’ mouths. The resulting data supports applications submitted through the established animal food ingredient review process.

We agree with AAFCO that it is impulsive to legislate approval of animal food at the state level, bypassing the robust safety reviews imparted by the FDA and AAFCO. Every day, Americans purchase food for their livestock and companion animals with the reasonable expectation that it is safe, and that the nutritional benefits claimed on the label are supported. The AFIA continues to stand by the FDA and AAFCO review processes to provide the necessary protection for consumers regarding safety and efficacy of products.

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