AAFCO adopts consumer-friendly pet food labeling guidelines

Pet owners may in the near future find updated packaging and labels when shopping for pet food and specialty pet food products, including treats and supplements—the first major update in more than 40 years.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recently approved new labeling guidelines for pet food manufacturers and distributors. AAFCO says the Pet and Specialty Pet Nutrition Facts were created to align with current human food labeling more closely and to provide nutrition information in one consistent format.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has approved new labeling guidelines for pet food manufacturers and distributors that include standardized nutrition information, clear ingredient statements, and storage and handling instructions. The updated design and information are meant to ensure consistency and transparency to help consumers make more informed decisions when buying pet food.

AAFCO is a nonprofit association that sets standards for animal feeds and pet foods. The association guides its members—state, federal, and international feed regulators—on ingredient definitions, label standards, and laboratory standards while also supporting the health and safety of people and animals. AAFCO members are responsible for regulating the manufacture, sale, and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.

AAFCO's Model Regulations for Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food were developed by feed regulatory professionals across the United States and Canada as part of the association's Pet Food Label Modernization (PFLM) project.

They consulted with consumers and professionals within the pet food industry to ensure pet food labels provide a more comprehensive view of the product. Following are highlights of revisions in four key areas:

  • Nutrition Facts Box: Now more closely resembles human-food labeling.
  • Intended Use Statement: New location on the lower-third of the front display panel helps consumers easily identify the purpose of the pet food.
  • Ingredient Statement: Clarifies the use of consistent terminology and allow parentheticals and common or usual names for vitamins.
  • Handling and Storage Instructions (optional): Wording has been updated and standardized with optional icons for greater consistency.

Now that states will begin the rulemaking process of adopting and enforcing the Model Regulations for Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food, AAFCO is encouraging uniform and timely adoption to ensure alignment and consistency.

The association also recommends that state feed regulatory programs use enforcement discretion in the review of pet food labels for six years after availability of the printed version of the 2024 Official Publication.

AAFCO began the Pet Food Label Modernization project eight years ago to modernize and update the model regulations that set the requirements for pet food labeling.

The four areas of major changes for pet food and specialty pet food labeling guidelines are with the Nutrition Facts Box, Intended Use Statement, Ingredient Statement, and Handling and Storage Instructions. (Images courtesy of AAFCO)

AFCO Executive Director Austin Therrell said in a July 31 press release, "We sought public comment to learn more about how pet food label changes would enhance transparency and provide clearer information in a consumer-friendly format. New packaging and labels will be well-defined and easy to understand."

A version of this story appears in the November 2023 print issue of JAVMA