Dog Nutrition
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Dog Food Regulations

The FDA regulates that can of cat food, bag of dog food, or box of dog treats or snacks in your pantry. The FDA's regulation of pet food is similar to that for other animal feeds. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires that pet foods, like human foods, be pure and wholesome, safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled. In addition, canned pet foods must be processed in conformance with the low acid canned food regulations to ensure the pet food is free of viable microorganisms (see Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 113).

There is no requirement that pet food products have premarket approval by the FDA. However, FDA ensures that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and have an appropriate function in the pet food. Many ingredients such as meat, poultry, grains, and their byproducts are considered safe “foods” and do not require premarket approval. Other substances such as mineral and vitamin sources, colorings, flavorings, and preservatives may be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) or must have approval as food additives. (See Title 21 CFR, Parts 73, 74, 81, 573 and 582). For more information about pet foods and marketing a pet food, see FDA’s Regulation of Pet Food and Information on Marketing A Pet Food Product.

Pet food labeling is regulated at two levels. The FDA regulations require proper identification of the product, net quantity statement, name and place of business of the manufacturer or distributor, and a proper listing of all the ingredients in order from most to least, based on weight. Some states also enforce their own labeling regulations. Many of these regulations are based on a model provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For more information about AAFCO, please visit its website. There are two informational documents on CVM’s web site that provide more details about labeling requirements: Interpreting Pet Food Labels and Interpreting Pet Food Labels -- Special Use Foods.

FDA also has put into place policies for making health claims on pet food, such as “maintains health of urinary tract,” “low magnesium,” “reduces plaque and tartar,” and “reduces hairballs in cats.” Guidance for collecting data to make a urinary tract health claim is available in Guideline 55 on the CVM internet site.

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