We will guide you on your pets’ nutritional needs, including dietary requirements for growth, weight management and performance, for each of their life stages.
What is AAFCO?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) was formed in 1909 to establish uniform regulation of the feed industry. Although it is not a government agency, AAFCO operates within the guidelines of federal and state legislation, including laws administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
What does AAFCO do?
AAFCO establishes standard regulations that ensure manufacturers are providing clear, accurate and consistent information about animal feed, including pet food. Every year, AAFCO issues an official publication that lists ingredient definitions and feed terms and addresses specific labeling issues such as label formatting, ingredient lists and nutrition claims. These model regulations aren’t laws, however, many state governments have adopted AAFCO pet food model regulations into their own state law.
What is an AAFCO statement?
The AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy or purpose is also called a “nutrition claim” or a “complete and balanced statement,” and it identifies which life stage and/or lifestyle the product has been approved for. Under AAFCO regulations, this statement must be substantiated by the manufacturer.
AAFCO recognizes three methods for substantiating the claim:
- Finished product is compared to minimum nutritional values established by AAFCO nutrient profiles for dogs or cats.
- Label states: “ABC Dog (or Cat) Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog (or Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for (appropriate life stage).”
- Finished, laboratory-tested product is fed to dogs or cats according to AAFCO protocols.
- Label states: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that ABC Dog (or Cat) Food provides complete and balanced nutrition for (appropriate life stage).”
Analysis comparable in nutritional adequacy
- Laboratory analysis of finished product is compared with nutritional values from a similar product fed to dogs and cats according to AAFCO protocols.
- Label states: “ABC Dog (or Cat) Food provides complete and balanced nutrition for (appropriate life stage) and is comparable in nutritional adequacy to a product which has been substantiated using AAFCO feeding tests.”
What are AAFCO feeding protocols?
AAFCO has outlined very specific protocols, or guidelines, for conducting feeding tests. The protocols specify how these tests are conducted, and protocols include:
- A minimum number of animals for each test
- Test duration
- Physical examinations by a veterinarian
- Clinical observations and measurements, including body weights, blood tests and blood taurine tests for cats
Each life stage has its own protocol. Life stages are the same for both dogs and cats and are defined as:
- Adult maintenance
- All life stages
What does do these life stages mean?
A pet food with an “all life stages” claim can be used from weaning through adulthood. This claim is considered an unqualified, absolute representation of nutritional adequacy. If substantiated through feeding trials, the protocol for gestation/lactation and growth must be performed sequentially, using the same group of animals.
What does “intermittent feeding” mean?
AAFCO regulations state that specific wording must be used when a diet is intended for special nutritional or dietary needs. These are needs that require veterinarian involvement for diagnosis, management and follow-up.
Understanding the AAFCO statements for nutritional adequacy can help you provide your dog or cat with complete and balanced nutrition appropriate for your pet’s life stage.