Science articles

Pet Food Labeling in the USA. Summary of general labeling requirements

Pet food products and treats in the United States are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which governs the manufacture and sale of such products by requiring that pet foods, like human foods, be manufactured under safe and sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be clearly and truthfully labeled.

FDA relies on the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and other state regulators as a source of information on state regulations. AAFCO is a voluntary organization created by state, federal, and industry officials who have developed a set of “Model Regulations for Pet Foods and Specialty Pet Foods” found in official AAFCO publications. The Association is not a regulatory body, but regulatory agencies such as the FDA recognize AAFCO standards as guidance in the oversight of pet foods.

The pet food label is a very important communication element, which is regulated at both the federal and state level. The regulations address not only the labels affixed to the food but also any form of communication about any aspect of the product in various media.

The federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 21 CFR.

Requirements for pet food and treat labels are set forth within AAFCO, where general information that must appear on products is outlined through model legislation, which contains a checklist for labels.

The main regulations focus on labeling information and ingredients that can be used and there are also rules on descriptive and non-mandatory information. AAFCO has listed the 8 mandatory elements that a pet food label must contain:

  • Brand and product name: the way in which ingredients may be included in the product name and certain uses of descriptors are contemplated.
  • Name of the species for which the product is intended: the name of the species for which the product is intended must be visibly indicated.
  • Quantity declaration: the net weight or volume should be indicated in the lower third of the main display panel.
  • Guaranteed analysis: the nutrients provided by the food must be listed, supported by verifiable methods of analysis. Guarantees should be given in a specific order, in specific units and with a minimum or maximum depending on the case.
  • Declaration of ingredients: they must be listed in order of weight within the formulation, from the highest to the lowest.
  • Nutritional adequacy claim: this claim indicates that the food is complete for the life stage claimed. Certain products may be exempt from this claim.
  • Feeding instructions: products must include feeding instructions indicating the amount of feed by weight/species. Depending on the category of the product it may be necessary to provide additional information.
  • Name and address of manufacturer or distributor: the person or company responsible for the product and its location should be indicated. Where necessary, other companies manufacturing or distributing the product could be included.

In addition to these mandatory items, other declarations may be included following analytical methods and indicated according to specific formats.

Depending on the product packaging, if the label is placed only on the front side, all items must appear there. If the label is front and back, certain items must be mandatorily included on the main display side, on the front of the package.

Kaeltia Consulting provides specialized scientific and regulatory support to meet the regulatory compliance needs of pet food products in the USA, complying with the criteria established by the agencies and new regulatory frameworks. Kaeltia Consulting has more than 10 years of experience helping clients around the world to market their products under specific regulations.

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