In the US, pet foods are subject to regulations and guidelines at the federal and the state levels, some of these govern the sale and distribution of both animal feed and human food.
At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) all regulate the sale and manufacturing of pet foods. At the state level, each state has its own regulations and guidelines, to learn more information about your state, visit https://www.aafco.org/Regulatory/State-Information.
1- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), the FDA is responsible for ensuring drugs and food are safe, properly manufactured, and properly labeled, for both humans and animals.
In most animal drugs, the FDA requires that an animal drug must be approved to be legally sold in the market, the company submit information about the drug to the FDA to be evaluated for its safety and effectiveness and to make sure the drug is properly manufactured and labeled correctly.
However, animal foods do not need to be approved prior to distribution (except food additives, see below), but it still needs to meet FDA regulations and like human foods, respect the following criteria :
- Safe to eat.
- Produced under sanitary conditions.
- Free of harmful substances.
- Truthfully labeled.
And according to the FDA : “Canned pet food must also comply with the regulations for low-acid canned food.”
Food additives need to be approved by the FDA for its safety and effectiveness before it can be used, it is illegal to use an unapproved food additive, a food additive is any substance that changes the food’s characteristics, whether it’s added directly or indirectly.
Substances used for nutrients like minerals and vitamins or for food flavoring may be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) thus it does not count as a food additive and does not need pre-market approval.
2- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Before an ingredient enters the market as a pet feed or pet food ingredient, it is regulated by the USDA, animals, and meat is under the USDA, when the product becomes pet feed, the FDA and state-feed control programs regulate them.
One way the USDA regulates pet food is through its Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) voluntary reimbursable inspection services, which provides for the inspection, certification, and identification of Certified pet food.
3- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) protects the consumer by stopping misleading and deceptive advertising, in 2016 Mars Petcare U.S., Inc. has agreed to an FTC settlement, when Mars petcare ran ads on television, print, and the internet claiming its Eukanuba Dog Food increased the longevity of dogs.
4- Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
The AAFCO does not have any regulatory authority but it acts as an advisory board, developing standards, definitions, and policies for enforcing feed laws, promoting uniformity in feed laws and regulations.
The AAFCO has many voting members, membership is limited to employees of state and government agencies responsible for enforcing animal-feed regulations in North America, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico. Each member gets one vote.
Members of the AAFCO include :
- The state departments of agriculture.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).
It would be impracticable for a company to distribute pet food in multiple states without adhering to the AAFCO Model Pet food Regulations.
The FDA have a major role in AAFCO’s standardization activities, FDA act as a scientific resource for the AAFCO, FDA staff are members of the AAFCO Board of Directors, Pet Food Committee, and other committees.