Pet food is regulated at both the federal and state levels. While the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has federal regulatory authority, pet food is also typically regulated in states by their departments of agriculture. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), an organization of state and federal regulators, develops model pet food regulations for states to adopt as part of their oversight of pet food.

Representatives from the FDA, state regulators, and regulators from Canada and Costa Rica participate in AAFCO committees organized by subject matter that develop model regulations for animal feed, including pet food products. Committees normally work on these regulations for a number of years before they are finalized and provide to the AAFCO Board and membership for approval. Each year, AAFCO publishes its “Official Publication” (“OP”), which contains model rules that may be adopted in part or in full by state regulators. This includes:

  • The most current model law and pet food regulation. This will include label requirements and instructions for use of product claims such as “human grade,” “natural” or tartar control claims;
  • Definitions for pet food ingredients;
  • Nutrient profiles for dogs and cats, which includes the minimum and maximum requirements of essential nutrients to be included in a pet food recipe for a specific life stage, as well as procedures acceptable to assess nutritional adequacy; and
  • Additional materials as agreed upon by the organization.

Adoption of the model law makes it easier for states to keep their pet food regulations current.

AAFCO maintains “The Business of Pet Food” website to help explain the regulatory obligations which are required to manufacture pet food. AAFCO also supports “AAFCO Talks Pet Food” with consumer-friendly web content about pet food.

The full AAFCO membership meets twice per year, typically in January and early August. In addition, committees and working groups collaborate throughout the year on various topics.