Government Regulations for Dog Food

Pet foods are among the most highly regulated products on the market. They are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations. Not only are they subject to most of the same laws which regulate the distribution of human foods, they are also subject to the rules and regulations governing the sale of animal feeds.

Federal Laws and Agencies

Pet foods are subject to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, voluntary USDA inspection and regulations promulgated by the U.S. FDA, USDA and state agencies.

Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act

The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act regulates the distribution of food in interstate commerce (food shipped between states). Although it may not be applicable to foods shipping only in intrastate commerce (foods shipped within a state), the Food and Drug Administration considers a food subject to its jurisdiction (in interstate commerce) if the food itself or any of its components have been in interstate commerce. It is highly unlikely that all of the ingredients of a pet food would be produced within the state in which the pet food is manufactured and consumed. A safe assumption is, therefore, that the pet food is subject to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because either it or some of its components have been introduced into interstate commerce.

Food is defined by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to mean articles used for food or drink for man or other animals and articles used for components of any such article. Because the term "other animals" appears in the definition, it is obvious that the act applies to pet foods. The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act is a rather comprehensive act which prohibits, among other things, the shipment of adulterated or misbranded pet foods, provides for proper clearances of drugs and food additives and provides for manufacturing plant inspections.

The adulteration section of the Act provides that a food may be adulterated if it contains any poisonous or deleterious substances which may render it injurious to health, or if it contains any added poisonous or deleterious substance, except as provided by Food or Color Additive, Pesticide or Drug regulations; if it contains any filthy, putrid or decomposed substance; if it has been prepared, packed or held under unsanitary conditions whereby it may have been contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health; if it contains any part or product of a diseased animal; or if its container is composed of any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render its contents injurious to health. It may also be adulterated if any valuable constituent has been omitted or substituted therefore. It should be noted also that a pet food may be adulterated if it is manufactured under conditions whereby it may be come contaminated. The requirements for sanitation within a pet food plant are governed by the same regulations which govern human food, although there is some difference in application.

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A pet food may be misbranded and, therefore, in violation of the Act, if it: contains any statement on the label or labeling which is false or misleading; does not contain an ingredient statement; does not contain the name of the food, the net weight or the distributor's name and address. The Food and Drug Act requires that the ingredients be listed in order of their predominance by weight. A pet food may also be misbranded because of the failure to provide necessary information. For example, if a pet food is to be used only under certain conditions or only with other foods, it could be misbranded unless the label so states.

Pet food manufacturing plants are subject to inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state regulatory agencies. These inspections may be conducted either by a federal employee or a state employee commissioned by the FDA or by a state employee. Inspectors may examine all phases of production and plant records. Their primary aim is to determine that the pet foods are being manufactured in compliance with the Act and are not misbranded or adulterated when shipped.

Any use of a drug in a pet food must be specifically cleared by the Food and Drug Administration prior to its addition to the product. The clearance requirements are very comprehensive. It is necessary to prove that the drug is efficacious (produces the desired effect) and to establish the level at which it will be used. These criteria are met through extensive testing. All of the data from these experiments must be assembled and submitted to the FDA for approval prior to marketing the medicated pet food.

The FDA may invoke a variety of sanctions for non-compliance with the Act and regulations ranging from a letter to management requesting voluntary correction, to product seizures, or injunctions to prison and fines for the individuals involved and/or the company. The severity of the penalty depends upon the seriousness of the violation and, to some extent, the response of the firm to making corrections.

Federal Trade Commission

While the FDA regulates misleading statements on labels or labeling, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising. This includes statements made on radio or television, in newspaper and magazine ads as well as statements made by a firm's own salespersons. The primary thrust of the FTC regulations is to prevent false and misleading statements. The summation's guidelines for the advertising of pet food products are included in the publication Guides for the Dog and Cat Food Industry.

Fair Packaging and Labeling Act

The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, and the regulations used thereunder, specify the kind, location and type size of certain information required to appear on the label. The product identity, for example, must appear on the principal display panel. The net weight statement must also appear on the principal display panel and must appear in the lower one third of the principal display panel in certain minimum type sizes and in specified words. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act also requires the company name and address, including zip code, to be prominently displayed on the package, although it does not require it to be on the principal display panel. It also requires the listing of ingredients in order of predominance.

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USDA Voluntary Inspection

The United States Department of Agriculture provides for a voluntary inspection of canned pet foods. The regulations contain certain specifications for the amounts of meat ingredients and minimum nutrient specifications. They also provide label clearance and inspection of the product to be sure that it meets the specifications of the Voluntary Inspection Regulations. In return for the inspection, the manufacturer is permitted to apply an inspection seal to the label. This provision of the Act is not widely used.

USDA Meat and Poultry Inspection Regulations

The USDA Meat and Poultry Inspection Regulations do not relate directly to the manufacturing of pet food. However, they relate indirectly in that certain condemned carcasses or parts of carcasses may be used in pet foods provided they are handled in such a manner that they will not be delivered to human food use. This usually involves either the denaturing of the product by use of charcoal or a dye of some type or shipment under seal from the slaughter establishment to the pet food plant.

In addition, the USDA specifies certain label restrictions on meat/poultry containing pet foods to distinguish the pet food from a human food.

State Regulations

The most important state and local laws governing the distribution of pet foods are the state Feed Control Laws and Regulations, the state Food and Drug Acts, and Weights and Measures Acts.

Feed Control Laws

Most states have Feed Control Laws governing the labeling and sale of livestock feed and pet foods. Although many of the state laws are patterned after the Uniform State Feed Bill and Regulations developed cooperatively between industry and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) they are administered by the individual regulatory officials in each state. There are obviously some differences in interpretation among the state regulatory officials, but there is a surprising amount of uniformity so that it is currently possible for a manufacturer to develop one label which may be used in all states. This is due in large part to the excellent working relationship and cooperation between the industry, often represented by the Pet Food Institute, and the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

It is important to note that the state feed laws regulate the distribution of a pet food within the state. Pet foods are subject to the same regulations whether they are sold by a feed store, grocery store or veterinarian.

Most states require registration of each product and a label review or registration of the company prior to placing the product on the market.

The label is reviewed to determine whether or not it meets the specific requirements of the state laws in terms of necessary information and to assure that there are no false or misleading statements on the label.

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The information the state law requires on a pet food label is comparable to that required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. However, in addition to these requirements, the state law requires the pet food manufacturer to provide guarantees of the minimum percentage amounts of crude protein and crude fat, the maximum amount of crude fiber and, in most cases, the maximum amount of moisture. States expend considerable effort in sampling pet foods which are offered for sale at retail and then analyzing them to determine whether or not they meet the label specifications.

All states also have plant inspection authority in their laws.

State Food and Drug Acts

Many of the states have Food and Drug Acts. For the most part, they are parallel to the federal Act in respect to their labeling requirements. Because most states have Feed Control Laws governing the distribution of pet foods, the state Food and Drug Acts are not invoked to any great extent.

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