The AAFCO and the ingredients for animal nutrition

The AAFCO and the ingredients for animal nutrition

The AAFCO (Association of American Food Control Officials) is an association formed on a voluntary basis by local, state and federal agencies responsible for regulating the sale and distribution of animal feed and medicine.

The AAFCO has no regulatory authority, instead they have created a forum where the representatives of the members that compose it and the industry so that:

  • They provide a space for the commercial regulations of the animal nutrition industry.
  • They guarantee consumer protection.
  • They protect the health of animals and humans.

These functions are achieved through the development and implementation of laws, regulations, standards, definitions and application policies to regulate the manufacturing, labeling, distribution and sale of food for animal nutrition. It is intended to obtain effective and safe food, promoting uniformity among member organizations.

Thus, the Association of American Food Control Officials has become the meeting place and floor for debate for the regulatory officials in which they contribute their experience in animal science and nutrition, food labeling, field operations for the personnel of inspection and administration of the program. The ultimate goal is to create a model guide to ensure that the regulation of animal feed is as uniform as possible from one state to another.

AAFCO members include not only state and federal US regulatory officials, but also officials from Canada and Costa Rica. The recommendations of the association have become a benchmark worldwide. In addition, products that meet the AAFCO Recommendations include the minimum nutritional requirements that an animal nutrition food must have.

Regulation of ingredients for animal nutrition

The AAFCO defines ingredient as one of the components or the main constituent of any mixture or combination that forms a commercial food.
According to the regulations of the Association of American Food Control Officers, all the ingredients used in the preparation of feed for animal nutrition must be listed. It will be made based on the initial weight at the time of manufacturing them in descending order. In this case, the main ingredients will go first and with recognizable names of animals or plants.

Products of animal origin are very common main ingredients that are used in dog and cat foods. Their names cannot be modified, and each ingredient must meet the definition set by the AAFCO.

Meatand poultry by-products are considered raw products, even though they are cooked in the pet food manufacturing process. It is a necessary process to destroy harmful bacteria.

Processed products (meat meal, bone meal, poultry meal and animal by-product meal) are cooked before being used as feed material, with the intention of destroying any harmful bacteria. During processing, heat and pressure remove most of the water and fat, leaving mainly proteins and minerals.

The minor ingredients mostly contain minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. You can also find, although in small quantities, preservatives, conditioning agents, emulsifiers, stabilizers and dyes or flavoring agents.

These minor ingredients cannot be grouped into a percentage (such as 1% or 2%). Also, in pet food it is not allowed to use a collective term to replace individual ingredient names for a group term, such as combining wheat, corn and oats in an ingredient name, “grain products”.

Definition of ingredients according to the AAFCO for animal nutrition

As mentioned above, the ingredients used must be those officially defined by the AAFCO, they must be common or usual names of the ingredients of the feed, they must be food additives approved in the Code of Federal Regulations 21 CFR 573 (food additives allowed in feed and drinking water of animals) or be considered GRAS additives (generally recognized as safe) for feed.


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Although an ingredient is used in human food, that does not mean that it is acceptable for use in animal feed. It is important to note that if there is a name defined by AAFCO for an ingredient, it must be used in the corresponding ingredient declaration.

Some ingredients defined by the AAFCO and some listed in the Code of Federal Regulations have restrictions due to which they cannot be consumed in full or the amount of ingredient allowed to be used is regulated. Therefore, feed manufacturers must be up to date in choosing the right ingredients since product registration requests can not be accepted if they find ingredients not approved on their label.

In addition, dietary supplements for animals are not allowed. The DSHEA (“Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994”) does not apply in these cases. Therefore, any substance ingested by animals is classified as a food or medication. Some ingredients used in dietary supplements for humans cannot be used as ingredients in pet food either.

In summary, any animal feed that is marketed must be safe and suitable for each species. The AAFCO has developed a standard called Good Manufacturing Practices for Food and Feed Ingredients. This regulation provides guidance for the production of feed intended for animal feed.

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