A to Z of Pet Food: Understanding the Nutritional Adequacy Statement

In the United States, pet food is among the most highly regulated food products. As part of the requirements, America’s pet food makers must include specific pieces of information on the labels of pet food products. One of these items is the Nutritional Adequacy Statement.

What is the Nutritional Adequacy Statement?

The National Adequacy Statement can be found on the back or bottom of pet food packaging and includes language that reaffirms the pet food is formulated to provide complete nutrition for a pet’s specific life stage and how that nutrition is assessed.

Dogs and cats require more than 40 essential nutrients in their diets. A pet food with a nutritional adequacy statement labeling it as “Complete and Balanced” will contain all the nutrients necessary for good health at the appropriate levels for dogs and cats, as these nutrients are different for each.

Understanding the information included within the Nutritional Adequacy Statement

The Nutritional Adequacy Statement is full of helpful information that can inform and assure pet owners that the product they are buying provides complete nutrition for their pets.

First, the mention of “Complete and Balanced” indicates that the food is suitable as the sole nourishment for your pet. “Complete” means the product contains all the nutrients required, and “Balanced” means the nutrients are present in the correct ratios.

The Nutritional Adequacy Statement must state which life stage or stages the pet food product is developed and suitable for. The life stages for cats and dogs include gestation/lactation, growth, maintenance, and all life stages. It’s important pet owners select the appropriate life stage for their pet. For example, the nutritional needs of a growing puppy or kitten are different than the needs of a pregnant, or adult dog or cat.

Some pet food products are not meant to be served as a meal, such as treats or a topper, and do not provide complete and balanced nutrition. This will be clearly stated on the Nutritional Adequacy Statement. If the food does not meet the complete and balanced requirements, it is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only, and pet owners should follow the feeding directions indicating proper use.

Pet Food Regulation

The Nutritional Adequacy Statement is reviewed as part of the full label review conducted by state regulators when they approve product labels for sale in their state. The nutritional adequacy statement is required to conform to a standard format and there are a limited number of versions that can be included on a label. Manufacturers can be asked to substantiate the Nutritional Adequacy Statement by providing a comparison with nutrient profiles.

All pet food products, regardless if they provide complete and balanced nutrition, must meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for safety, according to the Food Safety Modernization Act.


Wondering what else you can find on the pet food label? Learn more about the information provided, which can be helpful in making an informed decision about dog or cat food.

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