Quality Control of Pet Nutrition Products

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates the sale and distribution of pet nutrition products

The Association of feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary association of local, state and federal agencies that is required by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drugs.  Although the AAFCO has no regulatory authority, the association provides a forum for the membership and industry to achieve three main goals:
1. Ensure consumer protection
2. Safeguard the health of animals and humans
3. Provide a level playing field of orderly commerce for the pet nutrition industry

The AAFCO develops and implements uniform and fair laws, regulations, standards, definitions and enforcement policies for regulating the manufacture, distribution and sale of pet nutrition products, resulting in effective and useful feeds by promoting uniformity amongst member agencies.

AAFCO pet nutrition label regulations

The AAFCO require that a pet nutrition label contain guarantees for minimum amounts of theQuality Control of Pet Nutrition Products percent of crude protein, fat, and fiber as well as maximum amounts of the percent of moisture in the diet.  Each label should show the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor of the pet food.  Although not required, often times a toll-free consumer information number will be provided as a means for consumers to obtain information that may not be on the product label.  The net weight of the product must be listed in metric conversion.

The ingredient list on a pet nutrition product provides an indication of ingredient quantity and to some extent ingredient quality.  All ingredients are required to be listed on the pet nutrition product label in descending order of their contribution by weight.  A manufacturer must list an ingredient even if it is not added directly, but comes from part of another ingredient, such as a fat preservative like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA).  The first 5 to 10 ingredients on the list usually indicate the ingredients that constitute the greatest percentage of the pet nutrition product and the final 5 to 10 ingredients listed generally represent micronutrients in the product at levels of parts per million.

AAFCO pet nutrition label nutritional adequacy statement (NAS)

AAFCO requires the label to have a nutritional Adequacy Statement (NAS).  The NAS informs the consumer of the appropriateness of the pet nutrition product for an animal’s life stage.  A product that is “Complete and Balanced for Adult Dogs” indicates that the diet is suitable for adult dogs, but may not be appropriate for puppies, pregnant or lactating dogs, or senior dogs.  A diet that is “Complete and Balanced,” without a specific life-stage qualifier, is assumed to be appropriate for all life stages (growth, gestation, lactation, adult, and senior).

The NAS is typically found on the front label and on the information panel of the pet nutrition product.  It is presented in one of 2 different formats.  The first format involves a statement that does not require animal testing and states that the product is formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO for a particular life stage.  This statement indicates that the product meets the minimum AAFCO nutrient profiles.  The second format is a statement that states animal feeding tests were used to substantiate the adequacy of the diet.  This type of statement indicates that the adequacy of the diet was established by animal studies using AAFCO feeding trial procedures.

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Dr Stephen Atwater

Stephen W. Atwater, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVIM (oncology) is a board-certified veterinary oncology specialist. His professional interests include utilizing emerging therapies for difficult to treat cancers.

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