Pet Food Labels in Canada, Eh
The dog food label is a legal document. The influence or regulating of what is contained on a dog food label comprises of several organizations both in the United States and Canada. Most pet owners reference what must be on an American pet food label; being taught that the “AAFCO statement” is one of the most important things to look for on a pet food label. However, in Canada, this can be confusing for consumers when looking at the label because there may be a lot of information on one label where as the next may not have as much information. If Canadian products are being exported, there is even more surveillance and rules.
What is required on a pet food label in Canada
There are only three things required on the label if the product is made in Canada, and only going to be sold in Canada. These rules come from the Consumer and Packaging Labeling Act.
Product Identity Declaration
i.e. stating whether this is dog or cat food
The amount of food that is in the package
The product manufacturer
The main address of place of business
The name of the manufacturer
The only other requirement that is needed on the pet food bag in addition to the above three is that the identity of the product must be in English and French, Canada’s national languages.
The challenge is that these Canadian requirements do not leave much [nutritional] information about the product. Because these requirements stem from the Consumer and Packaging Labeling Act, the nutritional adequacy statement (for example the AAFCO statement) is not included, though very important. There is no life stage element nor does it declare if the product is complete and balanced.
Is Pet Food Regulated in Canada?
Often pet owners claim that there is no pet food regulation in Canada. However, this is not the case.
The Consumer and Packaging Labeling Act is used and has very strict rules regarding meat regulations, for example. Although, there is no nutritional standard, like AAFCO that Canada has adopted.
Canadian pet food manufacturers are held to a high standard that ensures the pet food is safe, healthy, and meeting all regulations in Canada and abroad.
Most Canadian companies export to the US and other countries around the world, so they have to meet various regulations and export policies from many other countries and are inspected by the CFIA regularly.
Additionally, in Canada, the regulations that pet food companies have to meet are those related to labelling and consumer protection, Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations, consumer product safety, and Canada Consumer Product Safety Act in addition to all the export requirements.
In the past, PFAC worked with the Competition Bureau and other stakeholders to create a set of pet food labelling guidelines.
This document is updated when new labelling requirements are developed in North America that will provide more information to the consumer in an easier to understand format.
Pet food that is imported into Canada has to also meet strict requirements as outlined by the CFIA.
While roughly 50% of pet food that is sold in Canada is imported, most (97%) comes from the US, and they are regulated by the FDA and USDA.
How Does Canadian Pet Food Compare to the US?
In the United States, there is AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials). The mistake made by many is thinking AAFCO regulates pet food. AAFCO does not regulate pet food. AAFCO is a set of nutritional standards published every year by experts based on the current nutritional science. The state feed officials and the food and drug administration can choose whether or not to adopt as state feed law. AAFCO is a set of standards or recommendations, and not a law. AAFCO only becomes an official law in an American State if the state chooses to accept and adopt the manual for their State Feed plan. AAFCO is a baseline and not a standard. Therefore, it is misleading to put “AAFCO approved” or “AAFCO certified” as they do not.
This is a baseline. This is what AAFCO is recommending that pet food labels should have on them. There are 8 required items for a pet food label in the AAFCO manual.
Generally, pet food and treat label requirements are:
Name (& purpose) of the brand/product
“[These rules address the use of ingredient names in the product name. How ingredients may be included in the product name depends on the percentage of that ingredient in the product, and the use of certain descriptors. For example, there are different rules for “Beef Dog Food”, “Beef Recipe Dog Food”, “Dog Food with Beef” and “Beef Flavor Dog Food”. You should also specify the purpose of the product (nutrition, supplement, treat)]”
Name of the animal species the product is for
“[This must be conspicuously designated in words on the principal display panel, but may be included in the product name, such as “Beef Dog Food” or “Salmon Treats for Cats”]”
Net Quantity Statement
“[The net quantity statement tells the consumer how much product is in the container. It is the net weight or net volume, and it must be expressed in the correct units and placed on the lower third of the principal display panel. For net weight or volume, both avoirdupois (“pound/ounce”) and metric units must be used.]”
The Guaranteed Analysis (on an “as fed” basis)
“[This lists the percentage of each of the nutrients in the food. The minimum percent of crude protein and crude fat, and the maximum percent of crude fiber and moisture are always required. Note that “crude” refers to the analysis method, rather than the quality of the nutrient. Guarantees for other nutrients may be required to support claims made in labeling (such as “High in calcium and vitamin A”), and you may include voluntary guarantees for other nutrients. The guarantees must be given in a particular order, in specified units and as a minimum or maximum, depending on the nutrient.]”
“[Ingredients must be listed in order of predominance by weight, on an “as formulated basis”. The ingredient that makes up the highest percentage of the total weight as it goes into the product is listed first. The ingredients used must be GRAS (“Generally Recognized As Safe), approved food additives, or otherwise sanctioned for use in animal feeds (for example, defined by AAFCO). Ingredients must be declared by the correct AAFCO-defined name, where one exists, or the “common or usual” name.]”
Nutritional Adequacy Statement, if required
“[If you call your product a complete and balanced food, the claim must be substantiated. The Nutritional Adequacy Statement will also state for which life stage(s) the product is suitable for, such as for maintenance or for growth. This is a statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance or a combination of these, or intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only. Products conspicuously identified on the principal display panel as a snack, treat, or supplement are exempt.]”
Feeding directions, if required
“[All pet foods labeled as complete and balanced for any or all life stages must include feeding directions that, at a minimum, state “Feed (amount of product) per (weight) of dog/cat”. Feeding frequency must also be stated. Feeding directions are optional for treats, as long as they are not complete and balanced and labeled as snacks or treats.]”
Manufacturer’s Name and Address
“[This names you or your company as guarantor of the product, and gives your or your company’s location. The street address may be omitted the named entity is listed in the local telephone directory, but the city, state and zip code must be shown. If someone else makes the product for you, you must show that relationship by using the words “manufactured for:” or “distributed by:” in front of your address.]”
Learn more about Labeling & Labeling Requirements according to AAFCO.
The Pet Food Association of Canada (PFAC)
The Pet Food Association of Canada (PFAC) is the national voice of the pet food industry in Canada. Canada is self regulating to achieve high standards.
Canadian pet food manufacturers are subject to several Canadian and international regulations. These include the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) enhanced animal health safeguards. This makes it illegal for specified risk materials (SRMs) to be fed to any animal. Pet Food manufacturers must comply with the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Competition Act, administered by the Competition Bureau.
These government regulations specify how a pet food may be marketed to consumers; how food is named and what information must be included on pet food labels. Members of PFAC also manufacture to the nutritional standards set out by AAFCO and follow AAFCO’s labelling guidelines.
All PFAC members follow a strict, robust food safety program. PFAC members also either import pet food from the US and have to meet Canadian import requirements, or export to several countries around the world and have to meet those country regulations and requirements.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regularly inspects pet food facilities to ensure they meet regulatory and export requirements. As most Canadian companies also export to the US, they must meet the regulations and oversight of the Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture in the US.
As Canadian pet food is also sold around the world to other countries that have strict regulations for animal health and food safety, pet owners can rest assured that Canadian pet food is safe.
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