packaging update 1

Pet Food Label Modernization

May 20, 2024 Dr. Emily Taylor

In 2015, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) volunteer committees began a project to modernize and update the model regulations for pet food labeling. As the industry moved towards a more transparent approach, changes were developed to provide a label that would be more familiar to pet parents.

The new Pet Food Label Modernization was released in the early months of 2024. This process took many years and required insights from both regulators and pet food industry leaders. While most of AAFCO’s official publication remained unchanged, there were a few significant changes that will heavily impact pet food labels. Due to the foreseeable challenges with all pet food companies changing labels to meet the new requirements, including all new packaging being printed, AAFCO has allotted a grace period of 6 years for all companies to become compliant.

In the past, companies were allowed to decide how a species was called out on the label; however, with the new changes, companies will need to utilize specific terminology required on the bottom third of the principal display panel (PDP). For instance, complete and balanced dog food, including large breeds, must now read, ‘Complete Dog Food’ on the PDP. However, if it is only for adult dogs, it should now read, ‘Complete Food for Adult Dogs.’ These changes will include food toppers, now known as mixers, treats, supplements, and veterinary diets for all pet and specialty pet species.

In place of the guaranteed analysis (GA) and the nutritional adequacy statement, AAFCO has developed a nutrition facts box. Similar to what is seen in human food, this box will include a calorie statement, GA, and nutritional adequacy. While GA will still be listed in percentages, an additional column will include weight in grams per common household unit (i.e., cup, treat, scoop if provided, etc.). In addition, two new required GA have been introduced (total carbohydrate (max) and dietary fiber (max), which will replace crude fiber).

While handling and storage instructions have always been and continue to be optional, how they are presented now falls under the new regulations. Unless on a small package with a total printable area of less than 40 square inches, a bold header must state 'Handling and Storage Instructions'. Additionally, AAFCO has provided new graphics for ease of understanding. If these graphics are used, the referenced text must also accompany them.

Though the industry expects consumer perception of these changes to be favorable, they may still cause some confusion until the 6-year mark is up. To help mitigate confusion, states are requiring companies to keep labels the same to match the pre-2024 official publication or change over completely. Labels that contain components from the 2023 model regulation mixed with components of the 2024 Pet Food Label Modernization are not allowed and will be denied. They must comply with only one format during the 6-year implementation phase.

The BSM FSQAR team is at the forefront of these changes and is ready to help your company make this transition as effortless as possible. Contact us today for more information on how we can provide this service!

About the author: Dr. Emily Taylor is a Senior Analyst part of the BSM-FSQAR Team. Dr. Taylor is a nutritionist with over 14 years in the animal industry. She resides in Lafayette, Indiana, with her family, showing dressage horses.

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