Who is AAFCO and why do they Matter?
Who are they: AAFCO is the acronym for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. It has been known since September 1906. AAFCO is a nongovernmental, voluntary membership association containing local, state and federal agencies that act as an advisory for state legislation. AAFCO’s Model Pet Food Regulations, Model Feed Bill, and the Pet Food Nutritional Profiles are instrumental for the commercial pet food industry. AAFCO is instrumental in establishing nutritional standards in animal and pet feed in the United States, and internationally.
What they do:
AAFCO has several functions as the official body representing the food industry. Their members establish categorization for all animal feeds and pet foods; create policies for animal and pet feed; craft feeding trial protocols; construct ingredient definitions and standards; generate labeling guidelines; and are responsible for the nutrient profile requirements and recommendations for both companion animal and livestock feeds.
They create standards on which states base their feed laws and regulations, but these are only guidelines as they uphold no regulatory authority. It is important to note, that AAFCO is an association and not an official regulatory body for pet food; however AAFCO does operate within the guidelines of federal and state legislation – including laws ordered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Individual states then accept and enforce these definitions and labeling regulations (or not), depending on the state. AAFCO has no regulatory authority although individual AAFCO members have the ability to regulate animal feed within their jurisdictions.
Formulating Diet Based on AAFCO Nutrient Profiles:
AAFCO has accepted and adapted some of the NRC’s recommendations. The nutrient profiles for dogs and cats AAFCO established were in 1991, closely followed by in 1992 recognizing the first Cat Food Nutrient Profiles. AAFCO since then has updated the nutrient profiles for both species when new scientific nutritional information becomes available. 2016 is the most recent update, and has not been updated since. These profiles integrate the most current information on good nutrition for canines and felines, while also providing useful information for pet food manufacturers.
The nutrients listed in each profile for both dogs and cats have a “minimum” level, while some (cue copper) also have a “maximum” level that have been shown to have the potential for toxicity or for when overuse is a concern. AAFCO nutrient profiles have 37 nutritional parameters for canines, and 44 for felines.
As not all life stages are alike in terms of nutritional needs, AAFCO established two nutrient profiles for both dogs and cats. These include one for “growth and reproduction” (which includes growing, pregnant, and nursing animals), and one for “adult maintenance”.
AAFCO nutrient profiles are based on ingredients generally incorporated in commercial diets, and nutrient levels are expressed for processed foods at the time of feeding. AAFCO nutrient profiles are based on ratios of nutrients to calories. These are on a “dry matter” (DM) basis, or moisture-free basis, as well as a “per 1000kcal ME” (or energy basis). But, the guaranteed analysis on a pet food label expresses nutrient levels on an “as-fed,” or moisture-included, basis. This is important to note when reading and comparing labels. Depending on the diet, certain nutrient minimums will also change; foods that are extruded versus canned.
AAFCO can certainly be used in formulating a fresh diet, though there are some aspects to consider. AAFCO nutrient profiles on an energy basis is used for foods that are more energy dense – >4,000kcal ME/kg DM for canines, and >4,500kcal ME/kg DM for felines. These dry matter basis profiles make certain that the volume of food the animal will need to eat in order to meet the nutrient requirements is indeed physically possible, if the animal is eating a less energy dense diet. Fresh diets may exceed this energy density, making it difficult to formulate.
To allow for the lower bioavailability of nutrients, AAFCO numbers are higher. When it comes to fresh diets using wholesome food, these inflated numbers could cause an excess in nutrition.
AAFCO Commercial Diets:
AAFCO nutrient profiles or a feeding trial using AAFCO procedures on a pet food label is a valid claim, a guarantee that the diet is “complete and balanced.” Endorsements or seals of approval from other organizations are not assurances of nutritional adequacy and may be misleading.
A manufacturer can choose not to meet AAFCO standards. However, they must put a disclaimer on their product that states, “This product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.”
In Canada, it is not required by law to include an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on pet food products. However, it is required to abide by the rules of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-38); once a claim has been added on the product label, stating that, “No dealer shall apply to any prepackaged product or sell, import into Canada, or advertise any prepackaged product that has applied to it a label containing any false or misleading representation that related to or may reasonably be regarded as relating to that product”.
AAFCO does not approve, certify or endorse pet foods. There is no “AAFCO-approved pet food”. Most state feed laws and regulations reference to the AAFCO Official Publication as part of the nutritional adequacy labeling for pet foods. This is a reference to an AAFCO-established, science-based, nutritional standard. The pet food consumer should refer to the nutritional adequacy statement located on the pet food label to see if their product conforms to one of the AAFCO Dog or Cat Food Nutrient Profiles or to an AAFCO Dog or Cat Food Feeding Protocol.
Now that we have introduced you to who AAFCO is and their important role in the pet industry
- Does AAFCO’s role play in dog’s diagnosed with copper associated hepatopathy?
- What is AAFCO’s agenda at the last meeting/what are they going to do about this?
- Do you have questions about your dog’s nutrient requirements?
Danielle & Sheepdog Riggs
Did you find this information helpful? Do you enjoy my content or learn something new? Consider showing your support by buying me a coffee.
Are you in need of a Veterinarian right now? Vetster is 24/7 on demand online veterinary virtual appointments. Search by location, availability, species, vet profile, treatment and more. Connect with a licensed veterinarian in minutes from the comfort of your own home.