The Food and Drug Administration (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 foods. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires that all animal foods, like human foods, be 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, Part 113 (21 CFR 113).
FDA Regulation of Pet Food
There is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market 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 and grains are considered safe and do not require pre-market approval. Other substances such as sources of minerals, vitamins or other nutrients, flavorings, preservatives, or processing aids may be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for an intended use (21 CFR 582 and 584) or must have approval as food additives (21 CFR 570, 571 and 573). Colorings must have approvals for that use as specified in 21 CFR 70 and be listed in Parts 73, 74, or 81. 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 current FDA regulations require proper identification of the product, net quantity statement, name and place of business of the manufacturer or distributor, and proper listing of all the ingredients in the product in order from most to least, based on weight. Recent legislation in the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 requires FDA to establish by regulation – (1) ingredient standards and definitions with respect to pet food; (2) processing standards for pet food; and, (3) updated standards for the labeling of pet food that include nutritional and ingredient information. FDA is working on this legislative mandate. Comments concerning this initiative can be made at http://www.regulations.gov to Docket No. FDA-2007-N-0442. 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. For more information about labeling requirements, see Pet Food Labels - General.
FDA also reviews specific claims on pet food, such as “maintains urinary tract health,” “low magnesium,” “tartar control,” “hairball control,” and “improved digestibility.” Guidance for collecting data to make a urinary tract health claim is available in Guideline 55 on the CVM portion of the FDA internet site.
CVM DOES NOT recommend one product over another or offer guidance on individual pet health issues that are normally provided by the pet’s veterinarian. Questions regarding your pets' health and/or the specific use of any veterinary drug, pet food, or other product should always be referred to your veterinarian.
Federal Register Notices
Irradiation in the Production, Processing, and Handling of Animal Feed and Pet Food; Irradiation
Docket No. 99F-2799, CVM 2000108. Pages 18539-18540 [FR Doc. 01-088719] April 10, 2001.
Industry Reminder: Labeling of Ethoxyquin in Animal Feed FDA Continues to Caution Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products[ARCHIVED] Food and Drug Administration/Center for Veterinary Medicine Report on the Risk from Pentobarbital in Dog Food FDA Tips for Preventing Foodborne Illness Associated with Pet Food and Pet Treats[ARCHIVED]
July 27, 2007
Target Animal Safety Review Memorandum: Trace Metal Analysis of Commercial Pet Food for Toxic Metals(PDF - 470KB)