What is AAFCO?
In a previous article, we talked about commercial diets and we try to give you some tips on how to choose the diet of your pet. In it, we talked about AAFCO. Today we give you some clarification on its nature and standards governing the food industry and the importance of its seal.
So what is AAFCO?
It is the Association of American Feed Control Official
The AAFCO used to establish uniform standards for the industry of pet food. AAFCO also regulate terminology in labeling. This is not an official government agency, but its standards are based on guidelines from the Food and Drugs Administration in the United States. If AAFCO does not enforce these standards, several states or governments, including Canada, follow these guidelines or have adopted it as their laws. To receive the seal of the AAFCO, a food must meet its standards and one of two dietary protocols.
It is good to know that company participation is voluntary, but it will be found on the packaging if it has passed tests. The tests will be conducted by the companies themselves at their own costs. Food without the acronym usually means that it does not meet the standards of the AAFCO or the company simply did not make their food pass the test.
As it is voluntary process, there are no follow up. AAFCO criteria are met in good faith by the company following the laboratory testing or food testing. So unfortunately it does not guarantee that the bag you buy today is the same recipe that was tested initially by AAFCO. Sometimes when there's recall or when health problems are reported, many small companies are proving to fail quality tests.
- What protocol was used
- Which stage of life it targets: growth, adult or all life stages
- If for continuous or intermittent feeding, or for specific problem.
- The guaranteed analysis, which is the minimum and maximum amounts of certain ingredients.
Here are what these details can reveal to you.
Laboratory analysis/ formulated to: This protocol is based only on the guarantee of food analysis by minimum and maximum standards of nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, etc). It does not guarantee in any way the digestibility or the impact on live animals. This is the easiest method, fast and cheaper for companies to receive the acronym AAFCO. It also means that its palatability and digestibility has not been tested on a large scale before being marketed.
Feeding trials: When this protocol is used, it means that the company nurtures a predetermined number of animals for several months with the diet in question as the only feeding source. This method is more expensive and takes longer, and is at the expense of the company. This is the best protocols, as the company was able to assess the palatability and digestibility of those foods in animals before arriving in the bowl of your companion.
In a future article, we will enlighten you more about the terminology used on the bags of food and what the labels actually reveal or not.
Marie-Christine Hamelin, Veterinary Technician