Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) establishes standards for all animal feeds, conducts inspections, and oversees food recalls, it is the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that has established the model regulations, including those regarding food labeling, adopted by most states.
AAFCO is a voluntary membership association comprised primarily of state and federal officials, with advisors and committee members who represent major feed manufacturers and ingredient suppliers such as Nestlé Purina, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and Cargill Animal Nutrition. AAFCO’s regulations cover several areas including product name, ingredients list, guaranteed analysis, nutritional adequacy, feeding directions, and calorie statement.
According to AAFCO their goals are to protect consumers, safeguard the health of animals and humans, and provide a “level playing field of orderly commerce for the animal feed industry.” Additionally, AAFCO establishes guidelines for feeding trials, which in turn determine minimum and maximum nutritional levels required to sustain animal life. It does not test, approve, certify, or regulate pet foods, nor do they regulate where and how food is sourced. Protein can come from a chicken breast, wheat gluten, or melamine. Quality, bioavailability, and digestibility are not considered as part of the nutritional analysis.