Regulation of Pet Food in the USA

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Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has jurisdiction over all animal feeds in interstate commerce such as pet food, supplements and ingredients, including imported products. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates meat and poultry products for human consumption, materials of animal origin intended for animal consumption are under FDA jurisdiction. The FFDCA requires that all animal foods be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances and be truthfully labelled.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA) amended the FFDCA to set forth requirements for pet food manufacturers to establish preventive controls and follow Current Good Manufacturing Practices. The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) within the FDA ensures that additives and ingredients used in pet food are safe and have a proper function and enforces basic animal feed labeling requirements (e.g., statement of identity, net content statement, ingredient declaration, manufacturer's or distributor's name and address).

Most of the individual states within the U.S.A. also regulate pet foods (including treats, supplements and edible chews) that are offered for sale within their jurisdiction. To facilitate uniform interpretation and enforcement of state regulations, the majority of those states follow the model laws and regulations as set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These models augment and complement the FDA regulations, covering many aspects of labeling not addressed at the federal level.

The AAFCO also sets nutrient standards for substantiation of nutritional adequacy and defines ingredients and specifies acceptable ingredient names. AAFCO is a private organization, but all AAFCO members must be state or federal government officials. Laws and regulations developed by AAFCO are not directly enforceable, because AAFCO is not a governmental institution, but AAFCO provides a forum whereby control officials, industry associations and consumer groups meet in partnership to address problems and provide guidance. The AAFCO remains the recognized information source for pet food labelling, ingredient definitions, official terms and standardized feed testing methodology. This information is published annually in their Official Publication. Feed control officials within each state inspect facilities and enforce these regulations.


  • Dzanis DA. Are you ready for FSMA? The final rule has been published - is your company prepared for the changes? Pet Food, October 12, 2015.
  • Dzanis DA. Understanding regulations affecting pet foods. Top Companion Anim. Med. 2008; 23 (3): 117-120.
  • National Research Council. Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2006.
  • Pet Food Institute—Fact Sheet 1994. Veterinary Clinical Nutrition 1994; 1: 30-38.
  • Phillips-Donaldson D. 6 things you need to know about FSMA pet food safety rule. - The FSMA animal feed preventive control rule goes into effect November 17. Pet Food, October 9, 2015.

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