CHAMPAIGN, ILL. — At its 2023 Annual Meeting, membership of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) approved new dog and cat food label guidelines. The vote marks the culmination of a yearslong initiative, dubbed pet food label modernization or PFLM, to provide consistency and transparency for consumers.
The revised Model Regulations for Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food will include new standards for nutrition information, ingredient statements, and storage and handling instructions.
Major changes include the introduction of a new Pet Nutrition Facts Box, which has been restructured to more closely resemble human food labels, as well as a new standard for the intended use statement, which will require brands to declare the intended use in the lower-third area of the front display panel. Both changes will provide consistency across product categories and benefit consumers’ understanding of how a product should be used.
“The feedback we received from both consumers and industry advisors throughout this process was an important part of our collaboration to make improvements,” said Austin Therrell, executive director of AAFCO. “We sought public comment to learn more about how pet food label changes would enhance transparency and provide clearer information in a consumer-friendly format. New packaging and labels will be well-defined and easy to understand. And that’s good news for all of us, from pet owners and manufacturers to pets themselves.”
Other changes that PFLM will usher in include new guidelines for the ingredient statement, which allows parentheticals and common names for vitamins and otherwise aims to make ingredients more clear and recognizable to consumers.
Additionally, new safe handling and storage instructions have been approved as an optional measure for brands going forward. The new guidelines have been standardized and updated for clarity and consistency.
To come to these new label regulations, AAFCO worked with feed and pet food regulatory professionals, industry members and consumers to develop, collect feedback and finalize strategic updates “to ensure pet food labels provide a more comprehensive view of the product,” according to AAFCO.
The association is advocating for a six-year implementation period, during which time pet food and treat brands will have the opportunity to make updates to their packaging and regulators will use discretion when reviewing labels against the new Model Regulations.
AAFCO will continue to provide support to industry members and consumers as they embark on implementing the new standards, including creating fact sheets for each category. These resources and others related to PFLM can be found on AAFCO’s website here.