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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates pet food similar to that for other animal foods. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) 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). For more information about low-acid canned foods, see Acidified & Low-Acid Canned Foods Guidance Documents & Regulatory Information.

FDA Regulation of Pet Food


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 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 such 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.


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 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.

FDA also reviews specific claims on pet food, such as “maintains urinary tract health,” “low magnesium,” and “hairball control.” Guidance for collecting data to make a urinary tract health claim is available in Guideline 55 and Guideline 284, depending on which claim is being made, 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.

Inspections and Compliance

FDA and state regulatory partners perform risk-based inspections to ensure that animal food, including pet food, is manufactured, processed, packed, and held in a manner that prevents contamination or adulteration of the pet food.  FDA follows a comprehensive inspection approach that implements a systems-based strategy to evaluate whether a facility is implementing practices necessary to meet all the animal food regulatory requirements that apply at their facility.  FDA prioritizes inspections by risk using factors such as whether there is an ongoing compliance concern, the nature of the animal food, nature of the hazards associated with the animal food, and the time since last inspection to prioritize which animal food facilities to visit.  

When a pet food facility is not in compliance with regulatory requirements, FDA uses a regulatory strategy that encourages voluntary corrective actions.  Voluntary corrective actions are often the most effective and expedient means to protect public health and obtain compliance.  However, when voluntary compliance cannot be achieved, FDA uses a progressive enforcement strategy, utilizing compliance enforcement tools such as: advisory actions (e.g., regulatory meetings, untitled letters, and warning letters); and administrative or judicial actions (e.g., FDA-requested recall, mandatory recall, administrative detention, suspension of food facility registration, withdrawal of qualified facility exemption, seizure, injunction, and criminal prosecution).  

Recalls & Reporting Problems

Guidance Documents

Federal Register Notices

Additional Information


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