AAFCO: A Key Acronym for All Pet Owners

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While perusing the pet aisle at your local grocery store or favorite pet boutique, you may find yourself looking at the nutritional label of your pet’s regular food, and think, “What does AAFCO stand for?”

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides you, the pet owner, essential information regarding your pet’s welfare and well-being as it pertains to the nutritional content of their food. While not solely responsible for regulating the pet food industry, the AAFCO helps the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), who is responsible for this oversight in many other instances, such as products to be used for and by humans.

The main goals of this volunteer association are to ensure consumer protection, safeguard the health of humans and animals, and to provide fair ground of orderly commerce for the animal feed industry. Because they are a volunteer association, no employee can profit from their contributions: these people work because they are truly passionate about the health and safety of animals and their owners.

The AAFCO’s members consist of trade and industry groups, as well as advisories from pet food companies, such as Nestle Purina, Hills Pet Nutrition, Nutro Products, and Cargill Animal Nutrition. While they are not a government regulatory agency, the AAFCO is comprised of representatives from the State Department of Agriculture, which allows them to create and enforce standards.

The AAFCO has the following powers:

  • Establishing nutritional requirements: AAFCO’s specific nutritional regulations must be met by manufacturers who claim their food is “nutritionally complete”
  • Create pet food labeling
  • Test product at will
  • Remove products from stores

Even though the AAFCO has the power to enact specific regulations, each state can accept or reject their guidelines. Most states accept these conditions, however, in accordance to other laws, specific states may alter or reject the guidelines accordingly. A state where labeling on all print, graphics, television, and radio is defined as law may not adhere to another state’s definition, and therefore certain information displayed on certain media could be unauthorized and banned.

Having knowledge accessible and provided to every customer is key to understanding what goes into your pet’s food, and with the help and regulations of the AAFCO, choosing quality food and ingredients has never been easier!

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