Mechanical malfunction, human error and unethical action can lead to adulterated or misbranded products, and the regulatory community safeguards consumer interests.
While AAFCO has no regulatory authority, it does set standards that states and dominions adopt. Those entities have regulatory authority over animal-feed and pet-food commerce only within their jurisdictions.
The FDA also has regulatory authority over pet-food products, and that authority is generally limited to products in interstate commerce, including imports. Given how pet-food ingredients are sourced and distribution practices, most pet foods involve interstate commerce.
The states and FDA cooperate and consult with one another. AAFCO facilitates this link member involvement.
Financial, political and cultural differences contribute to varying feed programs from one region to another.
State feed programs most often service both feeds for livestock that humans eat and pet foods. If a state feed program has more to accomplish than resources allow, priorities usually shift toward feed for animals raised for human consumption.
State Regulation of Pet-Food Manufacturing, Distribution and Sales
Most state feed control programs have a licensing system. This system requires a company apply for, pay for and obtain a state commercial feed license before they can make, distribute or sell feed ingredients, feeds or pet foods in that state.
The licensing system clearly identifies each person and business in a particular jurisdiction involved with pet food and related ingredients and feed. From the state regulator’s perspective, if they know who the players are, they know where to go to inspect—one of the reasons for licensing.
Lack of a commercial feed license, where required, is prohibited.
Violators incur financial penalties and enforcement actions. In many states, the violator’s products can be removed from the market.
License fees (as well as registration and inspection fees) help fund state feed and pet-food inspection activities.
Not all states are the same; however, most have a similar protocol.
Listing, Registration and Product Fees:
Many states have requirements concerning small-package pet-food product listing or registration.
These typically require guarantors to identify all small-package pet-food products, as well as provide the state feed-control program with product labels and pay fees.
If regulators know what products are being distributed in their state, they know what to look for.
Because labels are submitted with registration, a regulator can review those labels for feed-law compliance and if they match the actual products on the market.
Large-Package Inspection Fees
Large-package pet-food products—the “big bags” of dog and cat food—don’t normally require registration. But states can demand labels at their discretion.
Companies distributing these pet-food products must pay fees based on tonnage distributed.
If state regulators know how much product of this type is being distributed in their jurisdiction, they understand how important it is to perform field inspections of these products.
Product Sampling and Testing
Most states have authority to go into any place where pet-food products are manufactured, distributed or sold to secure products for their own laboratory analysis.
Active product control/analysis programs know whether guarantors are consistent about stated ingredients vs. actual ingredients. Competent sample collection and analysis can detect adulterants and contaminants.
Manufacturing, Distribution and Point-of-Sale Inspection
Most states have authority to go into any place where pet food products are manufactured, distributed or sold to determine:
- the source of ingredients
- whether the manufacturing process is correct
- if good manufacturing practices are being adhered to
- if products are handled and stored in a safe manner
This action protects consumers from purchasing adulterated or damaged pet-food products. Actual site inspection is essential in determining feed-law compliance and to be certain products are manufactured, transported and distributed safely.
States also have the authority to stop sale or remove feed-law violators’ products from distribution. Civil penalties of varying amounts can be assessed by some states for non-compliance.
FDA Regulation of Pet-Food Manufacturing, Distribution and Sales
The FDA’s authority primarily applies to products in interstate commerce. This authority extends across all state lines. Most pet-food products are linked to interstate commerce because of how ingredients are received and finished products are distributed. The FDA also inspects imported products.
Because the FDA is a huge agency responsible for a variety of programs, it’s structured differently than state feed programs. The FDA has district offices that conduct regional field activities.
The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM)
The agency also has centers, or subject-specific program administrative offices. The Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), located in Rockville, MD, administers the animal-feed and pet-food programs.
The CVM, in general terms:
- monitors and establishes standards for feed contaminants
- approves safe food additives
- manages the FDA’s medicated-feed and pet-food programs
For information about how to file a complaint concerning pet food with the FDA, click here.
Other Regulatory Agencies
When animal products will enter the animal-feed market as feed or pet-food ingredients, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the processing of animals for slaughter and meat. (Animals and meat are under USDA authority until the products become pet-food ingredients. At that tipping point, the products are then considered feed, and the FDA and state feed-control programs regulate them.
The USDA also administers the National Organic Program (NOP). Pet-food products claiming to be organic must comply with NOP standards, as well as FDA and state regulations. For more, read about organic pet foods.