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whoa! I had a few questions about who establishes canine health food standards. I thought that would be a simple inquiry with a simple answer... Not so, as I found out very quickly. In the process of getting this one question answered, I stumbled into a whole new complicated world of dog food regulation and standards. But that I will leave for another article. 

Who decided what the canine food standards are? How do we know they are being met?

This was my basic two questions. I am learning to take nothing for granted so this seemed like an important questions to ask... I noticed that the same comments keep coming up "Dog foods labeled as 'complete and balanced' must meet standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)." Okay so who or what is the AAFCO? Do they even exist? Who put them in charge of knowing what is healthy for our dogs? It turns out that this is a  voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.

 So that raised more questions. What is their purpose? Just what do they do?60390 Kibbles bowl 260

And the answer I got from their website was....
"Although AAFCO has no regulatory authority, The Association provides a forum for the membership and industry representation to achieve three main goals: Ensure consumer protection, Safeguarding the health of animals and humans, Providing a level playing field of orderly commerce for the animal feed industry." the site went on to state,  "These goals are achieved by developing and implementing uniform and equitable laws, regulations, standards, definitions and enforcement policies for regulating the manufacture, distribution and sale of animal feeds (pet food is a subset of animal feeds), resulting in safe, effective and useful feeds by promoting uniformity amongst member agencies."

According to their site, the AAFCO does not regulate, test or approve pet foods they just establish nutritional standards for pet foods. " it is the pet food company's responsibility to formulate their products according to the appropriate AAFCO standard." They make suggestions as to what the laws or regulations should contain. (They probably write them up and hand them to the appropriate law makers to implement. But I am just guessing).

BT beef bonesI found this interesting. If this group only sets standards then who is providing the regulation if any for what goes into these pet foods?  First I want to state that I do not know enough about dog nutritional standards to question what these "experts" have decided should be the standard. Nor have I dug deep enough to understand what the standards are, at least not at this point. So I will have to assume they are correct.

It turns out the the individual states in the USA have  "feed control official', responsibe in regulating pet food, to ensure that the laws and rules established for the protection of companion animals and their custodians are complied with, so that only unadulterated, correctly and uniformly labeled pet food products are distributed in the marketplace and a structure for orderly commerce".  If I am understanding this correctly then there could be different standards, laws, and regulations in each state that a "pet food" or "animal food" manufacturers would be required to follow. This indicates to me some leeway in the "pet food" standard which in some cases might be good or bad for those that depend on commercial dog or cat food to feed their pets.. Something else I have never thought about. I had thought that there would be the same standard across the board when it came to the manufacturing and selling of pet food. The manufacture and sale of pet food is highly regulated by both the federal government and the 50 states.


Backing up, I needed to establish what the definition of 'PET FOOD" is within the regulations. 

Pet food is defined as any commercial (i.e., you offer for sale, sell exchange or barter) feed prepared and distributed for consumption by dogs or cats. Pet food is a subset of animal feed.

Complete and balanced foods are pet foods.

venisonjerkysausageTreats/snacks are pet food.

Nutrient supplements (vitamins, minerals, fatty acids) are pet food.

Nutrient-added waters are pet food.

Edible chews (rawhide, hooves, pizzles) are also pet food under the law, but may be exempt from state registration and labeling requirements under specified conditions.

Non-nutritional supplements (herbs and botanicals, metabolites) are not pet food, but rather may be subject to regulation as drugs. The law that allows these types of ingredients in “dietary supplements” for human consumption does not apply to animal produf63e2dc268428e45a50e60d9944fecb7cts.



- AND -




Pet food sold - in a local farmers market is considered commercial feed.

Pet food sold - over the Internet is considered commercial feed.

Pet food sold - at a veterinarian’s office is considered commercial feed.

Pet food sold - in a local store is considered commercial feed.







I am forever learning... Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments to this article