EU Pet Food Labels

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In the European Union, pet food labelling is mainly governed by Regulation (EC) No 767/2009[1]on the Marketing and Use of Feed. This Regulation sets out the rules for feed designed for both food-producing and non-food producing animals, including requirements for labelling, packaging and product claims. Regulation 767/2009 also provides a framework for the establishment and labelling of feed intended for particular nutritional purposes (dietetic feeds).


For clarity it is important that terms used in the legislation are well defined. This is established in Article 3 of Regulation 767/2009[1], and some important definitions are given hereafter:
(c) Food producing animals: any animal that is fed, bred or kept for the production of food for human consumption, including animals that are not used for human consumption, but belong to a species that is normally used for human consumption in the community.
(d) Non-food producing animals: any animal that is fed, bred or kept but not used for human consumption, such as fur animals, pets and animals kept in laboratories, zoos or circuses.
(i) Complete feed means a compound feed which, by reason of its composition, is sufficient for a daily ration.
(j) Complementary feed means a compound feed which has a high content of certain substances but which, by reason of its composition, is sufficient for a daily ration only if used in combination with other feeds.
(s) Labelling means the attribution of any words, particulars, trademarks, brand names, pictorial matter or symbol to a feed by placing this information on any medium like packaging, container, notice, label, document, ring, collar or the internet referring to or accompanying such feed, including for advertising purposes.
(t) Label means any tag, brand, mark, pictorial or descriptive matter, printed, stencilled, marked, embossed, impressed on, or attached to the packaging or the container, of feed.

From definitions (c) and (d) of Article 3, companion animals such as horses, pet rabbits and (racing) pigeons are considered food-producing animals by the EU Commission and the national authorities of the EU Member States.

Definition (i) does not provide any recommendation for nutrient levels that would be appropriate for a feed to be considered ‘complete’ - FEDIAF’s[2] Nutritional Guidelines list minimum recommended nutrient levels for commercial pet foods and can be used as a guidance document to determine whether or not a pet food is complete for healthy dogs and cats.

Mandatory Declarations

On the label, mandatory declarations should be easily identified and not obscured by any other information. The mandatory labelling particulars, sometimes referred to as the statutory statement, must be given in their entirety set in a prominent place on the packaging or label (Regulation 767/2009 Article 14[1]). Mandatory information must be provided in at least one of the official languages of the Member States in which it is sold.

Mandatory Labelling Requirements

Articles 15 to 20 state that the following particulars have to be declared in the statutory section of a pet food label:

1. Complete Feed or Complementary Feed
A pet food label must indicate whether the pet food is complete or complementary, in other words, whether the food can satisfy all nutritional demands without an additional ration (complete) or whether it must be fed with another product (complementary). The description “complete” or “complementary” must be considered in relation to the animal the food is intended for. Optionally, the life stage or purpose for which the food is intended may be indicated (e.g., adult, growth, all life stages, activity or light). This should be clear from the label e.g., Product X is a complete pet food for adult dogs or Product Y is a complete pet food for growing and reproducing cats.
2. Name and address of the feed business operator (company) responsible for the labelling.
3. Approval or registration number(s), or, if not available, the address of the manufacturing plant.
In cases where the producer is not the person responsible for the labelling: the business name and address of the producer (e.g., private label manufacturer), or the approval number of the producer should be given.
4. Batch Number
This is needed for traceability. Where circumstances require it, most pet food manufacturers can trace a bag or can back to the minute it was produced.
5. Net Quantity
The net quantity must be expressed in units of mass (g, kg) for solid products and units of mass or volume (ml, L) for liquid products. The “e” often seen after the weight statement indicates that the product complies with all packers rules. In addition, strict rules regulate the limits of variation permitted under the declared weight to ensure that the consumer receives, on average, the amount stated on the package (Directive 2009/34)[3].
6. Minimum Storage Life
This may also be called an expiry date and requires a DD/MM/YYYY.
7. Animal species or category of animals for which the compound feed is intended
E.g. adult cat, puppy etc.
8. Directions for Use
In practice these consist mainly of the feeding instructions, but it is not specified by law what is required as a minimum. This can also include storage instructions, especially once a pack is opened.
9. Composition
This is the list of feed materials (see details below).
10. Analytical constituents
This is the nutrient content of the feed. In Europe, the typical or proximate analysis has to be declared (see details below).
11. Additives
(see details below)
12. Additional Labelling Requirement
Pet food has an additional labelling requirement in Regulation 767/2009[1], and that is the requirement to provide a free telephone number or other suitable means of communication to enable consumers to contact manufacturers to request additional information on the additives in the pet food and also on feed materials that are listed by category rather than as single feed material. (See Common Ingredients Used In Pet Food).


As a derogation, the following mandatory labelling items may be declared outside the statutory section:

  • ‘best before date’,
  • ‘batch number’,
  • ‘net quantity’,
  • ‘name and address of the feed business operator responsible for labelling’, and
  • ‘approval, registration number or address of manufacturing plant’.

In such cases it shall be pointed out in the statutory section where these particulars appear.

Composition = List of Feed Materials

Table 1 - List of ingredient categories:
1. Meat and animal derivatives 11. Minerals
2. Milk and milk derivatives 12. Various sugars
3. Egg and egg derivatives 13. Fruit
4. Oils and fats 14. Nuts
5. Yeasts 15. Seeds
6. Fish and fish derivatives 16. Algae
7. Cereals 17. Molluscs and crustaceans
8. Vegetables 18. Insects
9. Derivatives of vegetable origin 19. Bakery products
10. Vegetable and protein extracts
Table 2 - Categories (1-4) and examples of functional groups of additives.
1) Technological Additives 3) Nutritional Additives
a. Preservatives a. Vitamins, pro-vitamins and chemically well-defined substances having a similar effect
b. Antioxidants b. Compounds of trace elements
c. Emulsifiers c. Amino acids, their salts and analogues
d. Stabilisers d. Urea and its derivatives
e. Thickeners 4) Zootechnical Additives
f. Gelling agents a. Digestibility enhancers
e. Binders b. Gut flora stabilisers
2) Sensory Additives c. Coccidiostats and histomonostats
a. Colourants d. Other zootechnical additives
b. Flavouring compounds

Feed materials (ingredients) have to be listed in descending order by weight, and the list has to be preceded by the heading: Composition. On the label of pet foods for dogs and cats, individual feed materials can be replaced by ingredient categories. These categories are designed to provide consumers with some indication of the source of raw materials used, while allowing the manufacturer some flexibility in the selection of the ingredients within a specific category[4]. The categories are defined by law in Commission Directive 82/475/EEC laying down the categories of feed materials which may be used for the purposes of labelling compound feeding stuffs for pet animals (Table 1).

Analytical Constituents

Regulation 767/2009[1] requires that under “Analytical Constituents” of both complete and complementary feeds the typical analysis of nutrients must be declared. In Europe, the typical (proximate) analysis has to be declared. This is the typical nutrient level obtained by considering the results of analysis of several samples. In other words, the typical analysis gives the nutrient levels found in the actual food. The declaration of the following nutrients is mandatory for pet foods for dogs and cats:

  • Crude Protein
  • Crude oils and fats
  • Crude fibre
  • Crude ash*
  • Moisture if >14%

The declaration of nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium and other nutrients is optional. However, all nutrients must be declared to which a manufacturer draws attention either as a picture, icon or in words e.g., stating that the food is “high or rich in nutrient A”.
In addition for pet food there is a derogation that permits "crude protein" to be replaced by "protein" and "crude oils and fats" to be replaced by “fat content".

  • Ash is the term used to define the inorganic material left after organic material has been burnt. It is important to recognise that this does not indicate ash was added to the food. It is also permitted to call “ash”, “incinerated residue” or “inorganic matter”.


Within the EU, Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003[5] on additives for use in animal nutrition provides for 4 categories of additives (1-4), each of which contain functional groups (Table 2). More categories may be added over time. Vitamins and trace elements are considered additives and, therefore, are not listed under composition.

Which Additives Must Be Declared on the Label?

According to Regulation 767/2009[1], the following additives have to be declared if added by the manufacturer:

  • Additives where a maximum content is set for any kind of target species (see Register of additives for links to authorising legislation). This means that, for example, if an additive has a maximum inclusion level for calves, it has to be declared also on the label of cat foods, if added. This is because pet foods and livestock feed are regulated by the same legislation.
  • Additives belonging to the categories:
  • Zootechnical additives
  • Coccidiostats & histomonostats
  • Additives belonging to the functional group ‘urea & derivatives’
  • Any other additive if its presence is emphasized on the label, whether in words, picture or graphic.

How Additives Must Be Declared:

The specific name of the additive as defined in the relevant legal act authorising the additive and/or its identification number* must be declared in a list preceded by the name of the functional group or category to which they belong (Table 2). In addition to the name, the added amount of the additive must be declared. The list of additives has to be preceded by the heading ‘additives’.

  • N.B. Since the beginning of the reauthorisation of feed additives under Regulation 1831/2003[5] as amended, E numbers are being replaced with new identification numbers.


For pet food, additives of the functional groups “preservatives, antioxidants and colorants” with a maximum legal level, only the respective functional group can be declared. In this case, the name, identification number and the functional group of the feed additive, which are not declared, shall be disclosed to the purchaser on his request.

Particular Nutritional Purposes (PARNUT)

PARNUT = Feeding stuffs for PARticular NUTritional purposes

Articles 9 & 10 of Regulation 767/2009[1] provide the basis for feeding stuffs intended for particular nutritional purposes, in other words ‘dietetic (pet) foods’. Feed intended for particular nutritional purposes may only be marketed as such if the intended use (PARNUT indication) is included in the list of intended uses published in Directive 2008/38/EC[6], which establishes a list of intended uses of animal feeding stuffs for particular nutritional purposes.

What are Particular Nutritional Purposes?

A Particular Nutritional Purpose is intended to meet the specific nutritional needs of animals whose process of assimilation, absorption or metabolism is, or could be, temporarily or irreversibly impaired and who can, therefore, benefit from a feed that is adapted to the specific needs generated by their condition. The objective of the PARNUT legislation is to fill the gap between the legislation for feed for healthy animals, for which health claims are not permitted, and the legislation on medicated feed.

The term ‘dietetic pet food’ (and its official translations) is the only term to be used to indicate that a product falls under this legislation. These label declarations apply in addition to rules already in place for regular pet food products.

Directive 2008/38/EC

Directive 2008/38/EC[6] lists all permitted PARNUTS (1), together with the essential characteristics (2) needed to meet the requirements for the specific PARNUT, the species (3) for which it is indicated, the additional mandatory labelling requirements (4) and other provisions where necessary (6) (Table 3). Consequently, a number of additional statements appear on the labels of dietetic pet foods.

Table 3. Required information on labels of dietetic pet foods in Europe.
Particular Nutritional Purpose Essential Nutritional Characteristics Species or Category of Animals Labelling Declarations Recommended Length of Time Other Provisions
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)

Since the legislator tends to consider most PARNUTs as being ‘temporary situations’, they make it mandatory to publish on the labels a defined length of time for use (Table 3, column 5). However, not all PARNUT indications are temporary, e.g., diabetes mellitus type 1 and chronic kidney disease are irreversible and need lifelong dietary management. This issue has been resolved by stating in column 5 ‘initially up to xx weeks or months’. In the same time this statement should stimulate the pet owner to visit the treating veterinarian for regular control check-ups.

Feeds intended for particular nutritional purposes shall be marketed only if their intended uses are included in Part B of Annex I to this Directive and if they fulfil the other provisions laid down in that Part of Annex I (columns 2 to 6). The PARNUTs currently approved for dogs and cats are listed in Table 4.

How is it Decided Whether a Condition is a Nutritional Purpose and is Included in Directive 2008/38/EC[6]?

Table 4. List of Particular Nutritional Purposes for Dogs and Cats.
Support of renal function in case of chronic renal insufficiency Dog and cat
Dissolution of struvite stones Dog and cat
Reduction of struvite stone recurrence Dog and cat
Reduction of urate stones formation Dog and cat
Reduction of oxalate stones formation Dog and cat
Reduction of cysteine stones formation Dog and cat
Reduction of ingredient and nutrient intolerances Dog and cat
Reduction of acute intestinal absorptive disorders Dog and cat
Compensation for maldigestion (including exocrine pancreatic insufficiency) Dog and cat
Support of heart function in case of chronic cardiac insufficiency Dog and cat
Regulation of glucose supply (diabetes mellitus) Dog and cat
Support of liver function in case of chronic liver insufficiency Dog and cat
Regulation of lipid metabolism in case of hyperlipidaemia Dog and cat
Reduction of copper in the liver Dog
Reduction of excessive body weight Dog and cat
Nutritional restoration, convalescence Dog and cat
Support of skin function in case of dermatosis and excessive loss of hair Dog and cat
Support of the metabolism of joints in the case of osteoarthritis Dog and cat
Reduction of iodine levels in feed in case of hyperthyroidism Cat

The Commission may update the list of intended uses set out in Directive 2008/38/EC by adding an intended use, withdrawing an intended use or by adding, removing or changing the conditions associated with a particular intended use. In order to add a new nutritional purpose or modify an existing PARNUT, a dossier must be introduced to the EU Commission, showing sufficient scientific data to support that

  1. the indication matches the definition of PARNUT and
  2. a diet with the proposed essential characteristics has a beneficial effect on the specific condition.


Regulation 767/2009 [1]states that the labelling and the presentation of feed shall not mislead the user, in particular:

a. As to the intended use or characteristics of the feed, in particular, the nature, method of manufacture or production, properties, etc. (article 11).
b. By attributing to the feed effects or characteristics that it does not possess or by suggesting that it possesses special characteristics when in fact all similar feeds possess such characteristics (article 11);
c. By claiming that it will prevent, treat or cure a disease (article 13). Such claims are considered medicinal and imply that the product is a medicinal drug and should comply with all regulations governing veterinary medicines.
d. By claiming that it has particular nutritional purpose (PARNUT), but is not included in the list of permitted PARNUTS published in Directive 2008/38/EC[6] (table 5) (article 13).

Any claim referring to the product must be substantiated, must not confuse or mislead purchasers and must not denigrate other pet foods.

Regulation 767/2009 [1]provides for industry to develop Codes of Good Practice to encourage both self-regulation in areas where regulation is top-level or non-existent, and to help promote a “level playing-field” approach within the EU. To that end, FEDIAF have developed a Code of Good Labelling Practice for Pet Food Labelling that provides more detailed guidance on claims and claim substantiation, including the definition of specific terms such as “fresh”, “natural” etc. The Code also contains a layman’s section where the key elements of pet food labelling, and the legal requirements behind them, are explained. The current version of the Code was recognised by the EU Commission in 2011.

Useful Websites


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Regulation (EC) No 767/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 on the placing on the market and use of feed, amending European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003 and repealing Council Directive 79/373/EEC ... OJ. L229, 1/09/2009, p. 1-28.
  2. FEDIAF website: accessed May 2017
  3. Directive 2009/34/EC of the European Parliament and of the CounciL of 23 April 2009 relating to common provisions for both measuring instruments and methods of metrological control OJ L106, 28/04/2009, p. 7-24.
  4. Burger IH. Reading a petfood label. Journal of Small Animal Practice 1993; 34: 189-191.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2003 on additives for use in animal nutrition. OJ. L 268, 18/10/2003 p. 29-43.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Commission Directive 2008/38/EC of 5 March 2008 establishing a list of intended uses of animal feedingstuffs for particular nutritional purposes. OJ. L 62, 06 March 2008 p. 9-22

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