AAFCO in warning to industry on use of hemp ingredients in feed

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Laurence Dutton
© GettyImages/Laurence Dutton

Related tags hemp aafco Fda

US organization, AAFCO, has warned that bringing hemp products to market in animal feed through a patchwork of state laws will lead to inconsistent manufacturing guidelines, unsupported marketing claims across the country, and restriction of interstate and international markets.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has published a position paper​ and call to action on hemp and its byproducts in livestock feed and pet food.

The organization is urging US states to work with the Center for Veterinary Medicine of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA-CVM) along with the US National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, livestock and dairy associations, consumer advocacy groups and AAFCO within the formal process for review and approval of hemp and its byproducts for animal nutrition.

Recently, proponents of hemp in feed have focused on passing state legislation to allow in-state use of hemp as a feed ingredient, despite the lack of a national approval based on a comprehensive scientific review of its safety, said AAFCO.

Montana has approved legislation for farmers to use hemp in animal feed for pets, horses and other livestock, once approved by the FDA. And Nevada recently passed a new law, which is set to take effect next month that allows veterinarians to recommend and administer hemp and CBD products below 0.3% THC without getting sanctioned by the state licensing board, reported Hemp Industry Daily​.

AAFCO, which provides ingredient definitions, label standards and laboratory guidance for state, federal and international feed regulators, wants the hemp and feed industries to continue researching proposed hemp and its byproducts as nutritional ingredients, to gather data on the products' safety and efficacy.

The products to be evaluated include whole hemp plants, hemp seed oil, CBD, and other cannabinoids.

'More research is needed' 

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized growing hemp, but any feed ingredient, including hemp products, falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA. “It is not yet known whether hemp products are safe to feed to all animal species. Research is needed to address the levels of THC and other cannabinoids in hemp and what effects the content will have on the intended uses and species,”​ said AAFCO.

Additional research on hemp will allow AAFCO, it continued, to formally define ingredients and provide standards for safe animal feed. When the data gathering is complete, the organization can then formally define the various ingredients and provide standards for safe pet and livestock feed with that information.

“We understand the hemp industry is eager to enter the animal food market, but we are concerned that not enough research has been completed on these products

“That’s why we are urging the hemp industry to conduct appropriate research and submit their results to us for review as a normal step in our ingredient approval process,”​ said AAFCO executive director, Susan M Hays.

Access to market could be in question 

Allowing hemp byproducts to be used for animal nutrition before rigorous research and legal approval processes have been completed could have adverse impacts on ranchers' access to markets, on animal health, and ultimately on human health when hemp-fed animal products enter the human food chain, she added.

Hunter Buffington, executive director of the Hemp Feed Coalition, told us that despite the 2018 US Farm bill recognition for hemp as an agricultural commodity, one of the biggest challenges around securing hemp legislation for feed in the US is the lack of research conducted domestically. 

“While other countries never stopped feeding it, we have to prove the nutritional profile using American grown and processed hemp and then use published research (when it is available) and work with feed and species experts to create the protocols and methods to conduct the safety and efficacy feed trials in the US," ​she said.

That group, earlier this year, put forward a submission ​for a hemp product to become an approved animal feed ingredient in the US. The application is under review by AAFCO and the FDA-CVM. Once approved, hempseed meal and cake can be legally used as commercial feed for laying hens in the US. 

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