If you’ve closely studied your dog’s food label, you may have noticed “AAFCO” mentioned somewhere on the bag. What is AAFCO and what does it do, though?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials is a voluntary membership association. It’s a multidisciplinary group comprised of federal and state officials, veterinarians, scientists and more.
They are tasked with identifying safe ingredients, outlining pet food label requirements and building nutrient profiles based on the latest findings in pet nutrition research. States use AAFCO’s guidelines as a baseline when creating their pet food regulations.
Does AAFCO Test Pet Foods or Regulate Pet Food Ingredients?
AAFCO does NOT directly test, regulate, approve, or certify pet foods to make sure that they meet the standard requirements. Instead, they establish guidelines for ingredient definitions, product labels, feeding trials, and laboratory analyses of the nutrients that go into pet foods.
Pet food companies then use third-party testing agencies to analyze their foods according to the AAFCO guidelines.
AAFCO guidelines for pet food labels include:
Pet food companies can display an AAFCO statement if the food is considered “nutritionally adequate.” One way to prove it is complete and balanced is to test the food and compare it to the AAFCO standards. If the pet food meets or exceeds the standards, it will have the following statement:
As a pet parent, you want the best for your pup. That means a complete and balanced diet. A dog food that meets or exceeds the guidelines set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) ensures your dog is getting the right nutrition.
“(Product name) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles.”
According to the FDA pet food specialist William Burkholder, D.V.M., Ph.D, some veterinary nutritionists recommend switching between two or three different dog foods every few months to be on the safe side even though the food is proven complete and balanced. You can switch between them easily either by mixing the two or three dog foods or gradually switch from one to another to avoid tummy troubles.
AAFCO is made up of veterinary nutritionists, veterinarians, state and federal officials, and pet food industry professionals all interested in creating the best possible guidelines for your pets food. However, AAFCO can only recommend, not enforce law. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires labeling whether the food meets AAFCO guidelines or not for nutritional adequacy.
What are AAFCO’s Dog Food Nutrient Profiles?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials developed nutrient profiles to “establish minimum and some maximum nutrient concentrations for dog and cat foods.”*
Although AAFCO has been around since 1906, these profiles were not created until 1991. (Cat food profiles were created in 1992.) According to the FDA, the nutrient profiles are updated as “new, science-based nutritional information becomes available, most recently in 2016.”
These profiles are updated when new findings from research in pet nutrition becomes available. They provide practical guidance for pet food manufacturers.
There are two dog food nutrient profiles: Adult Maintenance and Growth and Reproduction.
You may see variations of these nutrient profiles on dog food packaging. A food that fits into the Growth and Reproduction nutrient profile may state it’s formulated for puppies or gestational mothers.
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