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What to expect from AAFCO's new pet food label modernization plan

What to expect from AAFCO's new pet food label modernization plan

In the pet food industry, manufacturers are required to label their products with certain information that gives consumers insight into details of the product. Unfortunately, for many pet owners the way that this information is displayed and reported can be confusing and difficult to understand. This has been an issue for quite some time. 

The Association of American Feed Controls Organization or AAFCO, the organization that sets standards and regulatory guidelines for pet food in the United States, has recognized this issue and has proposed a change to be made for pet food labeling in the industry. The pet food label modernization (PFLM) proposed by AAFCO will be put to vote this fall. If the proposal goes through, pet owners will see some changes in the way information is displayed on their pet food packaging. 

Ideally PFLM will help make product information more standardized across different food types and help break down critical information like nutritional details and storage instructions, in a clear way for consumers. So what changes can pet owners expect to see if PFLM is approved?

Handling and food storage

Improper pet food handling and storage can lead to a variety of problems that can affect the quality and safety of the food, as well as the health of the pets that consume. When pet food is improperly handled or stored, it can result in microbial contamination, nutrient degradation, pest infestation, and spoilage, all of which can be potentially harmful to your pet’s health.

Pet food comes in a variety of product types. Depending on if you purchase raw, fresh cooked, kibble or canned, it may require a different storage and handling procedure. Currently, pet food manufacturers are required to label storage instructions on their packaging. However the new PFLM guideline would require manufacturers to label their storage and handling instructions in a slightly different format. Manufacturers would be required to provide a standard appearance and set of graphics for including these types of instructions. Specific instructions would be based on product type, and the size of fonts depends on the size of the packaging panel. This change would benefit both manufacturers and consumers as brands can benefit from a range of streamlined optional icons that depict common safe handling guidelines, while also making it clearer for consumers to understand and find.

Nutritional information

One of the most important pieces of information on a pet food label is the nutritional information. At present, pet food manufacturers are required to present nutritional information in a guaranteed analysis table. A guaranteed analysis is a statement on a pet food label that lists the minimum or maximum levels of certain nutrients that the food contains. 

The nutrients listed in a guaranteed analysis may include protein, fat, fiber, moisture, and ash (minerals). Some manufacturers may also include other nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, in their guaranteed analysis. The nutrient levels listed in the guaranteed analysis are typically expressed as a percentage of the total weight of the food.

With the new PFLM, a new “Pet Nutrition Facts” box will replace the existing guaranteed analysis on pet food packaging. The Pet Nutrition Facts box is designed to look more familiar to consumers as it is modeled after the nutrition facts box seen on human foods. 

The required nutritional guarantees are similar to the existing guaranteed analysis; calories, crude protein, and crude fat. However instead of crude fiber, total carbohydrates, including dietary fiber and moisture, will be listed instead.

In addition to the suggested weight in grams per serving, the Pet Nutrition Facts box has been updated to include a common household unit of measurement (for example, “cups/day”). This will help owners ensure that they are not over or under feeding their pets.


The target PFLM changes to the ingredient statement on pet food labels is simply to improve clarity for consumers. At present, certain ingredients like vitamins and minerals may be confusing for consumers to read and understand as they are listed by their chemical name. For example, ingredients like Thiamine Hydrochloride may be concerning to some pet owners as it is read and may be misconstrued as a chemical additive when it is simply a vitamin supplement. New PFLM would require manufacturers to label vitamin and mineral supplements with their common name, followed by the scientific names parenthesis. For the example used above, instead of being listed as “Thiamine Hydrochloride”, the ingredient would be listed as “Vitamin B1 (Thiamine Hydrochloride)”. Additionally, vitamin and mineral premixes may be declared as ‘vitamin’ or ‘minerals,’ followed by a parenthetical listing of those vitamins and minerals in the order of predominance by weight inclusion as they occur in the premix.

Fish-based ingredient listings will also change according to PFLM. For ingredients consisting of fish, fish meal, or fish by-products, the name of the ingredient may include “fish” without further specification of the type of the fish. Manufacturers may optionally decide to include the species of fish used in the product (for example, salmon, cod, whitefish, etc.).

The last change to ingredients proposed by PFLM is to the listing of organic ingredients. This change allows brands to specify if organic ingredients (ex. “organic chicken”, “organic sweet potatoes”, etc.) are used, as long as they are in fact certified by the USDA National Organic Program (or the CFIA in Canada).

Intended use statement

According to PFLM, the intended use statement will be displayed on the principal display panel (front-of-pack. This will help consumers more easily identify the product’s intended use (for example, “adult dog food”, “dog treats”, etc.). This statement will be required in the bottom 30% of the PDP, unless the PDP measures 5 square inches or less.

When should pet owners expect to see these changes?

In August of 2023, AAFCO will put PFLM up for a membership vote. If the vote goes in favor, it will then be implemented on a state-by-state basis. In Canada however, there is no governing body that sets requirements for pet food sold and distributed in the great white north. Most Canadian pet food brands choose to follow AAFCO guidelines as a result but not all. Therefore in Canada consumers may or may not see changes in the labeling of their favorite pet food products. 

AAFCO has noted that this may be one of their largest undertakings and expects the implementation period for PFLM will be between five to seven years.

Couple, with their small dog, examines pet food packaging in the pet food aisle of a store
Couple, with their small dog, examines pet food packaging in the pet food aisle of a store

View Sources

Pet Food Processing. (2023). “The Scoop on Pet Food Labeling Modernization”.

AAFCO. (2023). “Pet Food Label Modernization Webinar”

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February 20, 2024
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