The guidance is to ensure standardized nutrition information, explicit ingredient statements, and clear storage and handling instructions.
The design and updated information will ensure consistency and transparency, so consumers can easily make more informed buying decisions for their pets, said the organization.
AAFCO and its key stakeholders have worked together since 2015, to develop the revised Pet Food Model Regulations.
The orginal aim of the exercise was provide consumers with easy-to-understand information on their pets’ food packaging so that they could comprehend the nutritional benefits for their pets and how to best feed companion animals and then store the remaining food.
Feed regulatory professionals across the US and Canada collaborated cooperatively with consumers and professionals within the pet food industry to ensure those goals were met, that pet food labels would provide a more comprehensive view of the product. Multiple rounds of consumer research were conducted.
“The feedback we received from both consumers and industry advisors throughout this process was an important part of our collaboration to make improvements. 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,” said Austin Therrell, executive director of AAFCO.
AAFCO recommends a transition period of six years for manufacturers to fully incorporate the label and packaging changes to their products.
Pet owners will see some changes before that date, but all packaging should be consistent by the end of the six-year period, it confirmed.
According to a March 2023 blog by Louise Calderwood, director of regulatory affairs at the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), some of the revisions will cover the nutrition fact boxes, which will be similar in format to what are used on human foods; they will state the number of calories per common household unit.
The updated facts box format will also include the actual amounts of protein, fat, dietary fiber, and carbohydrates incorporated in the pet food instead of the previously used minimum guarantees for protein, fat, and crude fiber. “These changes will support consumer selection of pet foods to best meet the needs of individual pets.”
Pet food manufacturers will also have the opportunity to voluntarily use standardized icons to provide information about best practices for storing pet foods and common handling steps, such as hand washing and separating utensils for serving pet foods.
They will also be asked to provide plain language on the lower third of the front of pet food packages to clearly state the intended uses of the food with statements, such as ‘Complete food for adult dogs’ or ‘Cat and kitten treats.’
“By the end of 2024, we expect that some pet food labels may start to include the changes brought about by this herculean effort, but it will take many years before all manufacturers are able to be in full compliance with the required changes,” said Calderwood.
Educational materials are being developed to assist manufacturers, regulators, retailers, and veterinarians in their different roles for the promotion and regulation of the new label formats.