Pet Food Labels – The Importance Of The AAFCO Standards

From the desk of Sharda Baker.



 

 

Hi and welcome everyone!

This is Sharda with a pet food labels newsletter!

Choosing a healthy pet food and looking at the pet food labels can be stressful and confusing especially with all the pet foods for sale in the market.

But we all know how important looking at pet food labels and choosing a healthy dog food is for dog nutrition.

So, the question is: is there an easier way of choosing a healthy dog food? Yes, there is!

It’s called the AAFCO standard.

Let’s start shall we?


PET FOOD LABELES – THE AAFCO STANDARDS

The responsibility for regulating pet food is in the hands of individual states and that of the U.S Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

These agencies use the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) uniformed guidelines in order to better regulate pet food while using their uniformed label and ingredient description guidelines.

While the AAFCO is not directly responsible for regulation, the USFDA and the USDA take their recommendations and use these as a standard by which to judge and evaluate pet food, and animal feed.

Many states have even taken the AAFCO recommendations into law.

When it comes to pet food, the AAFCO has created a uniformed model and definition for the ingredients which provides a common understanding of what is in each serving, including a common labeling procedure.

That way there is no confusion and no contradictions between differing brands and types of pet food. This information is provided in an annual publication: the AAFCO Manual.

The AAFCO Manual contains the set of standards that all pet food manufacturers need to follow in order to have approval from this organization.

The AAFCO Statement, also referred to as Nutritional Adequacy, is given to those pet foods that have passed the requirements found in the AAFCO Manual.

This statement is required on all pet foods and helps to ensure that the pet food is safe. Of course, many manufacturers such as those common to the Premium foods will make strides to go above and beyond the standards set forth by AAFCO.

Pet foods with a statement such as “Tested…” have seen an actual trial with cats or dogs eating the product and receiving positive results.

Those foods with a “Formulated” statement have not seen an actual trial but the product has been manufactured to meet the recommendations and the guideline set forth by AAFCO.


To meet the AAFCO guidelines and to receive the AAFCO Statement, pet foods sold on the market have to be graded and judged before distribution.

With AAFCO being the only body to grade and judge the quality of the pet food, it is important to look for the AAFCO statement located on the label.

There are two nutritional profiles used to grade dog food; Adult maintenance and Growth (used for puppies). With these profiles in mind, AAFCO determines the nutrients that are needed for each category.

The nutrients must meet standards above the minimum requirement and below the maximum requirement as to avoid deficiencies and over-nutrition respectively.

These profiles must be defined on the bag. There is a third profile “Fit for all life stages” which meets stricter requirements and are suitable for both puppies and adults.

The testing protocol that is used by AAFCO has come under fire recently, but the tests used have proven adequate when it comes to determining safe products and products fit for the different nutritional profiles.

Dog food manufacturers follow the findings of these tests in order to deliver quality products to the consumer and, of course, to the dogs which benefit from the information and diet that is provided. AAFCO’s tests are among the most trusted and one of the only tests performed on dog food and pet food overall.

They have been followed and used as guidelines since the organization’s formation in 1909.

These protocols are enough to determine which foods go to the market and which foods are unfit to feed to our dogs.

The protocols for testing dog food is as follows: Eight healthy adult dogs participate in a 26 week feeding trial.

Six of those eights are required to complete this trial. So, for half of a year, at least six dogs need to stick to the trial foods.

During the trial, dogs are only fed the product being tested and water. This ensures that no other items such as chews or treats interfere with the final result.



At the end of the testing duration, a veterinarian performs a battery of medical tests to assess the dog’s health status.

To pass, a dog must have no clinical signs of nutritional deficiencies or over-nutrition, loss of body weight no greater than 15%, and blood tests meet a specified range for packed cell volume, serum alkaline phosphatase, hemoglobin, and serum albumin.

If these requirements are met, with six of the eight passing, then the food is allowed on the market with the AAFCO Statement.

Now, the AAFCO tests are for a relatively short amount of time compared to the length of the dog’s lifespan. With this in mind, it is important that other factors are taken into account when deciding the best diet for your pet.

While the AAFCO tests are important and even vital when choosing dog food, also keep in mind that your dog may have specialized requirements and circumstances that will affect the results.

Trial testing in home is also recommended to make certain that your dog is receiving the needed nutrients without the adverse results

The AAFCO tests do show us the performance of the food being tested, the digestibility of the nutrients in the food and how willing the dogs are to accept the food.

When deficiencies are detected in the AAFCO trials, they are able to be corrected and improved, creating a superior product. It is important to look for the AAFCO statement when purchasing dog food along with quality ingredients which can be found in Premium foods.

While lower quality foods, those containing corn based feed, or items like bone and meat meal, may pass these tests, owners must understand that AAFCO needs to make sure lower quality and higher quality dog food are suitable for purchase.

Using the AAFCO statement along with better ingredients is a great way of providing the best diet for your dog.

I apologize for this long newsletter but I really believe that learning about the AAFCO standard can help you a lot in choosing a healthy dog food for your dog.

I really hope that you learned something from today’s pet food labels newsletter.

All the best and take care

Warmly,