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AAFCO’S Pet Food Label Modernization Initiative Promotes Smart Pet Food Choices

By Pet Food Institute//June 26, 2023//

AAFCO’S Pet Food Label Modernization Initiative Promotes Smart Pet Food Choices

By: Pet Food Institute//June 26, 2023//

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The priority of U.S. pet food makers is to provide pet owners and pets with high-quality, safe, and nutritious pet food to promote long and healthy lives for our beloved pets. Every pet is different; therefore, what meets the needs for one dog or cat may be different than what benefits another dog or cat.

If you peruse store shelves stocked with pet food, you will see pet food makers provide pet owners with lots of choices. It can be overwhelming for the shopper, especially first-time pet owners. So, how does a consumer make a decision on what food is best for their four-legged family member?

That’s where the American Association of Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO) initiative to update pet food labels comes in. Supported by Pet Food Institute (PFI) and its members, the project — called Pet Food Label Modernization (PFLM) — will more closely align pet food labels with those found on human food packages. This will increase consumer understanding of the label and make the information more useful when deciding on the right food for your pet.

Since 2015, PFI has worked alongside AAFCO to develop updated label requirements. AAFCO’s membership will vote on whether to adopt PFLM into its Official Publication (OP) and make it part of their model bill at their annual meeting in August.

Should PFLM be approved by AAFCO’s board, there are several key label changes that pet food makers and consumers can expect.

  1. A prominently displayed intended use statement is required on the front of the package where consumers can easily locate it. This statement will help pet owners quickly identify the species, life stage, and size and weight of pet the food is intended for. Life stages for pets include puppy, kitten, adult, senior, or the lactation/gestation stage.
  2. A pet nutrition facts box has been included to more closely resemble human food nutrition labels. This box will generally be found on the back or side of the package. Using this clear and concise label, pet owners will be able to compare one product to another. Nutrient quantities are listed using common household measurements, like a cup, weight in grams, or per can or pouch.
  3. Total carbohydrates and dietary fiber replace the previous crude fiber measurement.
  4. The Nutritional Adequacy Statement will now appear at the bottom of the Pet Nutrition Facts box, allowing consumers to quickly find the information on the package. The Nutritional Adequacy Statement states what species and life stage a pet food is for and discloses whether the food is complete and balanced, which means it contains all the nutrients a pet needs to be its sole source of nutrition.
  5. Pet food makers can also choose to include handling instructions for the pet food. This information is voluntary, but if pet food makers choose to include them and use graphics, they must use graphics developed by AAFCO.

 

Once AAFCO votes to approve the new label guidelines, pet food makers will have several years to implement the changes. One of the challenges with the implementation of PFLM is with the current pet food regulatory structure in the U.S. Despite AAFCO’s good work to create model regulations to update the label, there is no guarantee that all states will adopt these regulations or agree to the timing by which the labels will come into compliance.

AAFCO will do its best to harmonize this process; however, AAFCO has no regulatory authority over the states. Meaning each individual state will choose whether to adopt PFLM and when the new requirements would go into effect. Implementation of PFLM, which is good for pet owners and pets, would be far more straightforward with a central hub with authority over pet food products.  These changes could and should be codified at the federal level.

Providing more information to consumers to support them making informed decisions regarding the food they feed their pets is a worthwhile outcome from PFLM. Knowledge is power, and America’s pet owners deserve to have all this information in a clear and easy to understand format. AAFCO’S PFLM initiative does that.