In a groundbreaking move, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has given the green light to an extensive overhaul of pet food and specialty pet food regulations. This decision is set to transform the way pet owners perceive and choose pet food products, marking a significant shift after more than four decades. With an emphasis on clarity and transparency, these changes aim to offer consumers standardized nutritional information, unequivocal ingredient details, and clear storage instructions.
The revisions come as a result of collaborative efforts between feed regulatory professionals, industry experts, and engaged pet owners from across the United States and Canada. The goal was to create a unified set of guidelines that would guide pet food manufacturers and distributors, ensuring that packaging and labels provide a comprehensive understanding of the product in question.
Austin Therrell, the executive director of AAFCO, emphasized the importance of feedback received during the collaborative process. “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. And that’s good news for all of us, from pet owners and manufacturers to pets themselves,” said Therrell.
The AAFCO has recommended a period of enforcement discretion for states to adopt and enforce the revised Model Regulations for Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food. This approach encourages uniform adoption across states, ensuring consistency in the implementation of the new regulations.
Key highlights of the label changes include:
- Nutrition Facts Box: Resembling human-food labeling more closely for easier comprehension.
- Intended Use Statement: Relocated to the lower third of the front display panel to assist consumers in quickly understanding the purpose of the pet food.
- Ingredient Statement: Clarified with consistent terminology usage and the inclusion of parentheticals and common names for vitamins.
- Handling and Storage Instructions (Optional): Standardized and updated, including the incorporation of optional icons for enhanced consistency.
AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee will evaluate the enforcement discretion recommendation annually, addressing potential challenges that may arise during the transition. The ultimate goal is to ensure a seamless and uniform adoption process that benefits consumers, manufacturers, and pets.
The revisions are a result of the Pet Food Label Modernization (PFLM) initiative that began in 2015. The AAFCO collaborated with stakeholders and conducted multiple rounds of consumer research to create a set of regulations that better communicate essential information. This process highlights the power of collaboration between industry professionals and consumers, ultimately leading to improved pet food labels that empower pet owners to make informed decisions. For more information about PFLM, visit AAFCO’s official page.