Feline Nutrition 2 :: Pet Food Regulation & Reference Links
A number of agencies and organizations regulate the production, marketing, and sales of commercial pet foods. Each agency or organization has different responsibilities with varying degrees of authority. Some regulate the information found on pet food labels whereas others influence the regulatory process.
Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
Early regulators recognized the need for uniform and consistent regulation of animal feeds by forming AAFCO in 1909. Membership in AAFCO includes animal feed control officials from states and territories within the United States and Canada. The purpose of AAFCO is to provide a forum for local, state, and federal feed regulatory officials to discuss and develop uniform and equitable laws, regulations, and policies. AAFCO remains the recognized source of information on pet food labeling, ingredient definitions, official terms, and standardized methods for testing pet food products.
Many pet owners recognize the need to feed their animals nutritionally balanced pet foods. As a consequence, consumers usually purchase pet foods that are labeled "complete and balanced". Nutrient minimums in the past were based on the recommendations of the National Research Council (NRC). Since the early 1990's, AAFCO has developed new dog and cat foods. The nutrient profiles, based on current information, one for growth/reproduction and one for adult maintenance, differ from previous NRC recommendations. The AAFCO nutrient profiles also establish known minimum nutrient levels and maximum allowable levels of some nutrients. The AAFCO nutrient profiles have replaced NRC recommendations as the basis for the substantiation of label claims. AAFCO also publishes minimum feeding protocols for dog and cat foods. These are minimum testing protocols used by manufacturers for substantiating the nutritional adequacy of pet foods via feeding trials and determining metabolizable energy of dog and cat foods.
AAFCO is the official source of information on pet food labeling, ingredient definitions, official terms, and standardized feed testing methods.
Dr. Mark Morris, Sr. who formulated the first Prescription Diet pet food in the 1940's, also spearheaded a committee to establish nutritional standards for pet foods. This committee formed the basis used today by the AAFCO.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the United States Food and Drug Administration has broad responsibilities, including authority over pet foods. Today, the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), in FDA, shares the regulation of pet food with individual states. FDA is responsible for establishing certain animal food labeling regulations, specifying certain permitted ingredients such as drugs and additives, enforcing regulations on chemical and microbiological contamination, and describing acceptable manufacturing procedures. Inspection of facilities and enforcement of these regulations is usually provided by feed control officials within each state. Health claims on pet food labels or literature accompanying the product are subject to regulation by the CVM.
The FDA, or more specifically, the CVM regulates health claims made by pet food manufacturers.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The USDA inspects animal ingredients used in pet foods to ensure proper handling. The USDA also inspects and regulates animal research facilities. All animal research facilities owned and operated in the United States by pet food companies must fulfill USDA requirements for record keeping; physical structure, housing, and care of animals; food and water quality; and sanitation. Research facilities are subject to unannounced inspections by USDA officials at least once a year.
National Research Council (NRC)
The NRC is a private, nonprofit organization that evaluates and compiles research that has been conducted by others. The NRC is not part of the United States government, it is not an enforcement agency, and it is not a basic research organization with laboratories of its own.
Before the development and acceptance of AAFCO's Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles in the early 1990's, the NRC publications on nutrient requirements for normal dogs and cats were used as the recognized authority for substantiation of label claims on commercial pet foods. The AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles have replaced the NRC recommendations as the standard to be used by pet food manufacturers in the United States for formulating foods for normal dogs and cats.
The NRC has no pet food industry regulatory responsibilities and has requested that it's recommendations not be used to substantiate nutritional adequacy in pet foods. Pet food labels in the United States which make reference to NRC nutritional profiles are considered to be mislabeled. Revisions of the NRC's Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Nutrient Requirements of Cats will, however, continue to be important sources of research information on small animal nutrition.
Pet Food Institute (PFI)
PFI was organized in 1958 as the national trade association of dog and cat food manufacturers in the United States. The Institute works closely with veterinarians, humane groups, and local animal control officers to sponsor public affairs and owner education programs which encourage responsible dog and cat ownership. It also acts as spokesperson for the industry before legislative and regulatory bodies at both federal and state levels. PFI has sponsored various projects, such as research on amino acid requirements of dogs and cats, as well as research on the benefits of pet ownership and the role of pets in society.
Each individual state is responsible for adopting and enforcing pet food regulations. Many, but not all, states have adopted pet food regulations which follow model regulations established by the AAFCO. Pet food regulation and enforcement in most states is administered by the State Department of Agriculture, Regulatory Protection Division, or State Chemist.
Links to more information:
of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Research Council (NRC)
Food Institute (PFI)
and Drug Administration (FDA) (Center for Veterinary Medicine)
Information on Marketing a Pet Food Product
Interpreting Pet Food Labels
Interpreting Labels-Special Use Foods