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Pet Food Labeling Requirements

Pet food labeling and advertising claims are regulated by the federal government and by the states. The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission evaluate pet food product claims at the federal level and take action against products that make claims that are untruthful or misleading.

Most states require that pet food labels be registered and approved, and enforce requirements developed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). In addition to including routine information such as net weight and name of the manufacturer, pet food labels are required to:

  • clearly identify the product as a dog or cat food
  • present a brand name that is not misleading (evaluation includes ingredients and nutritional content)
  • display an analysis and guarantee of the certain nutrients within the product
  • display an ingredient list in descending order by weight – names of ingredients must be accepted as standard or in common use, and no single ingredient can be given undue emphasis
  • provide feeding instructions so that pet owners understand how much of the product to feed daily
  • indicate how nutritional adequacy was determined if the product is "complete”, "balanced”, "perfect”, "scientific”, etc. – companies can determine nutritional by feeding trial or by laboratory analysis of the nutrient composition.

Under AAFCO regulations a pet food label may not express or imply any claim that a product is complete, perfect, scientific, balanced, etc. unless: 1. it is designed for all life stages (growth, adult maintenance, and gestation/lactation) or 2. the product is labeled as for one or more specific life stage.

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