Just as pet food makers are governed by both federal and state laws and regulations, the labels that go on these products are also regulated by these government entities. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) govern pet food labeling requirements, including advertising and labeling claims, and can take action against claims that are untruthful or misleading. At the state level, model regulations developed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) are adopted by almost every U.S. state[1]. Federal pet food labeling requirements include net weight and the manufacturer’s name, while AAFCO’s model pet food labeling regulations require labels 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 guarantee of the certain nutrients within the product;
  • Display an ingredient list in descending order by weight – names of ingredients must be accepted by AAFCO or accepted as standard or in common use, and no single ingredient can be given undue emphasis;
  • For products identified as “complete and balanced,” 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 and balanced.” Companies must determine nutritional adequacy by sound scientific methods, such as analysis or feeding studies. 

AAFCO model guidelines only allow for claims such as “complete and balanced.” if the food is designed for all life stages (growth, adult maintenance, and gestation/lactation) or labeled as for one or more of these specific life stages.

PFI understands that pet food labels can be difficult for consumers to understand, and FDA recognizes this as well. We’re developing ideas for FDA to consider that will make pet food labels more user-friendly and informative. For more information on PFI’s efforts to help you make more informed decisions regarding the best food for your dog or cat, click here.

[1] http://www.aafco.org/Regulatory