What is Pet Food Regulation?
Let's be honest - the pet food industry is pretty confusing. I've personally come across tons of similar products with only a slight difference in packaging and/or brand messaging. Our hope with this and subsequent blog posts is to demystify the industry, so that you can make a more informed decision about what’s best for your pup. In our first post, we'll discuss a commonly misunderstood area: regulation.
The truth is the pet food industry appears regulated, but it really isn’t. Let’s start with the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Founded in 1909, AAFCO is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization that sets standards in defining ingredients, nutrient levels and packaging labeling. Their main goal is to provide uniformity across states, however it's important to note:* Their guidelines are not laws.
* They are not a regulatory body.
* They do not test, recommend, approve or certify pet food in any way.
These statements are directly found on their website here. Therefore, claims that food or treats are 'AAFCO approved' made by certain companies are glorified marketing at best, deceptive at worst.
So what does it really mean when they 'regulate' the pet food industry?
Every year, AAFCO updates official guidance on ingredients to be included in pet food. (You can find historical meeting agendas as well as past attendee lists here). While these meetings are open to the public, the majority of attendees are large pet food companies. Although attendees are not able to vote on any of these guidelines, they can and do voice their preference on ingredients that should be included in pet food.
These 'guidelines' result in low cost, high margin food and treats made by the very same companies that influence them, at the very expense of your pup’s health.
While there is still so much left for us to share on the topic, we strongly recommend going to the FDA recalls page here and searching for 'dog food'. Unfortunately, you’ll find products recalled every month going back years(!!) Be sure to check that your pup's diet is not listed on there.
In our next post, we’ll do a deeper dive on these recalls and our two cents on them. We hope that this was helpful in scratching the surface of a largely opaque industry and we're excited to share more knowledge with you guys.