What role does the AAFCO play in the commercial cat food industry?

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Cat foods labeled as ‘complete and balanced’ must meet standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) either by meeting a nutrient profile, or by passing a feeding trial.

Although many cat (and dog) food labels will bear the AFFCO label, the organization does not regulate the pet food industry. That technically falls under the responsibility of the FDA; due to the FDA’s limited resources, however, it relies on the AAFCO to be the organization that sets standards and requirements.

The AAFCO is:

  • A volunteer association who has three main goals: To ensure consumer protection, to safeguard the health of animals and humans, and to provide a level playing field of orderly commerce for the animal feed industry.  All directors and advisors work on a volunteer basis, meaning no individual is paid for their contribution.
  • A private organization, not a government regulatory agency. The AAFCO’s membership, however, is largely comprised of representatives from the State Department of Agriculture, and they can, and do, create standards and enforce them.

The AAFCO’s membership is also comprised of trade and industry groups as well as advisors from various pet food companies such as Nestle Purina, (Fancy Feast, Deli-Cat, Friskies, Pro-Plan and Kit & Kaboodle) and Hill’s Pet Nutrition (Science Diet, Prescription Diet).

The AAFCO can, through its State Department of Agriculture:

  • Establish nutritional requirements. Any manufacturer who makes the claim that their food is ‘nutritionally complete’ must meet AAFCO’s nutritional regulations.
  • Create pet food labeling.
  • Test product at will.
  • Remove product from stores.

There are now two separate nutrient profiles for cats – one for growth (kittens) and one for adult maintenance. Because over-nutrition is a bigger concern than under-nutrition, maximum levels of intake of some nutrients have now been established. The standards include recommendations on protein, fat, fat soluble vitamins, water soluble vitamins and mineral content of foods.

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