July 21, 2020

Monday's Recap - Companion Animal Symposium I

Companion Animals Symposium I

By: Lauren Soranno

            To start off day one of the ASAS-CSAS-WSASAS 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting and Trade Show, the Companion Animals Symposium I consisted of various speakers focusing on food safety, food fraud, and regulation of safe production and labelling of food. A common theme reinforced in each presentation was the importance addressing food issues, educating others to avoid misinformation, and implementing preventative measures. Dr. Maria R. C. de Godoy, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, was first presented with the Corbin Award in Companion Animal Biology for her innovative research that has advanced the pet food industry and for her outstanding teaching record. Congratulations, Dr. Godoy! She then began the presentations by stating the three main aspects of her research focus: ingredient evaluation, pet food technology, and therapeutic nutrition. Dr. Godoy stressed that animals require nutrients, not ingredients, but understanding the ingredients is key to create complete and balanced diets. Searching for and evaluating novel ingredients for pets is important to hopefully improve sustainability issues, satisfy market demands for various diets, enhance health status by mitigating diseases and improving quality of life.

            Dr. Robert Hanner, an associate professor at the University of Guelph, continued the symposium by introducing various forms of food fraud such as dilution of juices, ingredient substitution, mislabeling, and deceitful repackaging. Not only does this occur in human food, but also in pet food. Dr. Hanner explained that along with mislabeled products and other food fraud comes economic concerns, health concerns, and conservation concerns. With the use of a barcoding process using short DNA sequences and real-time PCR, the specific species in human and dog food can be identified. In specific instances, species not included on the label have been found in the product. This widespread food product mislabeling may either be intentional or unintentional, but either way Dr. Hanner stressed that producers need to be aware of their supply chains and that overall prevention is key.

            Next, Dr. David Edwards, the Director of the Division of Animal Feeds at U.S. FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, focused more on the regulations behind labeling foods and what can be put in pet food. For example, the FDA approves food additives and AAFCO publishes an annual Official Publication that contains a comprehensive list of substances accepted in the US for use in animal food. Similar to previous presenters, Dr. Edwards stressed the importance of prevention from the start and properly informing the consumer so they can make safety choices for their own pets/livestock.

            Bill Bookout, the President of the National Animal Supplement Council, went further into how products are regulated in the US, emphasizing that verification is critical at each step throughout the production process starting with the raw materials. He repeated that fraud can occur intentionally or unintentionally, but with regulations, being vigilant, educating customers, and examining all of the steps in the production process, food fraud does not have to be a major concern.

            Finally, Dr. Yi-Cheng Wang, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, wrapped up by introducing the idea of biosensors and intelligent packaging to improve food safety. Biosensors can be used for point-of-care detection of foodborne contaminants and intelligent packaging can be used for real-time monitoring of food quality and safety throughout the food supply chain. These novel technologies are just part of the solution to address food safety issues. Overall, food safety is a critical issue not only in human food but also in animal food and to address this issue collective efforts need to be made.