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International Requirements / Guidelines / Regulations for Dry Cat Foods

9 min read

Introduction #

Ensuring pet foods’ safety and nutritional adequacy is a global concern, as our feline and canine companions have become integral members of our families. To protect the well-being of these beloved animals, various international organizations have established guidelines and regulations for pet food manufacturers.

These guidelines cover ingredient sources, nutrient profiles, labeling requirements, and product safety. This article will delve into the key international requirements for dry cat foods, providing cat owners with valuable insights into the standards their furry friends’ diets should meet.

AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) #

Background and Role #

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership organization that sets standards for animal feeds and pet foods in the United States. AAFCO’s guidelines serve as a benchmark for pet food manufacturers, ensuring that their products meet the nutritional needs of various animal species, including cats.

Nutrient Profiles for Cat Foods #

AAFCO has established nutrient profiles that specify the minimum and maximum levels of essential nutrients required for complete and balanced cat foods. These profiles cover macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as essential vitamins and minerals.

Kittens/Growth and Reproduction:

  • Minimum 30% crude protein
  • Minimum 9% crude fat
  • Specific minimums for amino acids like arginine (1.04%), tryptophan (0.25%), etc.
  • Minimum levels for vitamins like vitamin A (5,000 IU/kg), vitamin D (500 IU/kg), etc.
  • Minimum levels for minerals like calcium (1%), phosphorus (0.8%), etc.

Adult Maintenance:

  • Minimum 26% crude protein
  • Minimum 9% crude fat
  • Lower minimums for some amino acids, vitamins and minerals compared to kitten profile

AAFCO does not have separate nutrient profiles for senior/mature cats or differentiate based on activity levels.

Feeding Trial Protocols #

  1. AAFCO has developed feeding trial protocols to substantiate claims of nutritional adequacy for pet foods. These protocols involve feeding the product to a specific number of animals over a predetermined period and monitoring their health and performance.
  2. The feeding trial protocols aim to ensure that the pet food provides complete and balanced nutrition when fed as the sole source of nourishment. For cat foods, the trials typically involve feeding a group of cats the product for a minimum of 26 weeks, while monitoring their weight, body condition, and overall health.

Labeling Requirements #

AAFCO has established labeling guidelines to ensure that pet food labels provide accurate and transparent information to consumers.
For dry cat foods, AAFCO requires the inclusion of a guaranteed analysis statement, which lists the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, as well as the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. Additionally, the labels must include an ingredient list in descending order by weight, and a statement of nutritional adequacy, such as “complete and balanced for adult maintenance.”


FEDIAF (European Pet Food Industry Federation) #

Background and Scope #

The European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF) represents the interests of pet food manufacturers in the European Union (EU). FEDIAF has developed nutritional guidelines and labeling regulations to ensure the safety and quality of pet foods sold within the EU market.

Nutritional Guidelines #

FEDIAF’s nutritional guidelines cover various aspects of pet food formulation, including ingredient sources and analytical methods for nutrient analysis.

FEDIAF provides guidance on the types of ingredients that can be used in dry cat foods, such as animal-derived proteins (e.g., meat, fish, and by-products), plant-based proteins (e.g., soybean meal, corn gluten meal), and carbohydrate sources (e.g., grains, vegetables).

FEDIAF has established standardized analytical methods for determining the nutrient content of pet foods, ensuring consistency and accuracy in nutrient labeling.

FEDIAF Nutrient Profiles for Cats #

Kittens/Growth and Reproduction:

  • Minimum 30% crude protein
  • Minimum 9% crude fat
  • Specific minimums for amino acids like arginine (1.25g/kg BW^0.67), tryptophan (0.25g/kg BW^0.67)
  • Minimum vitamin A 833 IU/kg BW^0.67, vitamin D 75 IU/kg BW^0.67

Adult Maintenance – Inactive (75 kcal/kg BW):

  • Minimum 28% crude protein
  • Minimum 9% crude fat
  • Lower minimums for some nutrients compared to kitten profile

Adult Maintenance – Active (100 kcal/kg BW):

  • Minimum 30% crude protein
  • Minimum 9% crude fat
  • Higher minimums for some nutrients compared to inactive adult profile

FEDIAF has separate nutrient profiles based on activity levels, recognizing the different caloric needs of cats.

    Labeling Regulations #

    FEDIAF has set specific labeling requirements for pet foods sold in the EU market.
    According to FEDIAF guidelines, pet food labels in the EU must include the following information: a list of ingredients in descending order by weight, an analytical constituents statement (e.g., crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber), a statement of nutritional adequacy, and feeding instructions.


    Canadian Regulations #

    CVMA (Canadian Veterinary Medical Association) #

    The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) plays a crucial role in establishing guidelines for pet food safety in Canada.
    The CVMA has developed guidelines for the safe production, handling, and storage of pet foods, including recommendations for ingredient sourcing, manufacturing processes, and quality control measures.

    PFAC (Pet Food Association of Canada) #

    The Pet Food Association of Canada (PFAC) is a national trade association representing pet food manufacturers’ interests in Canada.

    1. PFAC has established nutritional adequacy standards for pet foods, which are based on AAFCO’s nutrient profiles and feeding trial protocols. These standards ensure that pet foods sold in Canada provide complete and balanced nutrition for various life stages and species, including cats.
    2. PFAC has set labeling rules for pet foods sold in Canada, which are similar to AAFCO’s requirements. These rules mandate the inclusion of an ingredient list, guaranteed analysis statement, and a statement of nutritional adequacy on pet food labels.


    GAPFA (Global Alliance of Pet Food Associations) #

    Mission and Objectives #

    The Global Alliance of Pet Food Associations (GAPFA) is an international organization that aims to harmonize pet food regulations and standards across different regions. GAPFA’s mission is to promote the production of safe and nutritious pet foods worldwide.

    Guidance on Product Safety #

    GAPFA has developed guidance on various aspects of pet food safety, including good manufacturing practices, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), and traceability systems.
    For dry cat foods, GAPFA recommends implementing strict quality control measures during the manufacturing process, such as monitoring moisture levels, preventing cross-contamination, and ensuring proper storage conditions to maintain product freshness and safety.

    Nutritional Requirements #

    GAPFA has also provided guidance on nutritional requirements for various pet species, including cats.

    1. While specific nutrient requirements may vary across species, GAPFA emphasizes the importance of providing complete and balanced nutrition tailored to each animal’s unique needs. For cats, GAPFA recommends following AAFCO or FEDIAF guidelines for nutrient profiles and feeding trial protocols.
    2. GAPFA aims to harmonize pet food regulations worldwide, but it does not appear to have its own set of comprehensive nutrient profiles.
    3. GAPFA guides nutritional requirements across species but recommends following established profiles from organizations like AAFCO or FEDIAF for cats.


    JPFA (Japan Pet Food Association) #

    Background and Role #

    The Japan Pet Food Association (JPFA) is a non-profit organization representing pet food manufacturers’ interests in Japan. JPFA plays a crucial role in establishing standards and guidelines for pet food safety, nutrition, and labeling in the Japanese market.B. Nutrient Profiles for Cat Foods
    JPFA has adopted nutrient profiles for cat foods largely based on the guidelines set by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials).

    Feeding Trial Protocols #

    1. JPFA follows feeding trial protocols similar to those established by AAFCO to substantiate claims of nutritional adequacy for pet foods.
    2. The feeding trial protocols involve feeding the pet food product to a specific number of cats over a predetermined period, typically 26 weeks or longer, and monitoring their health, body weight, and overall performance. These trials aim to ensure that the pet food provides complete and balanced nutrition when fed as the sole source of nourishment.

    JPFA Nutrient Profiles for Cats #

    The JPFA follows similar nutrient profile guidelines as AAFCO, with a few variations:

    Kittens/Growth:

    • Minimum 28% crude protein
    • Minimum 8% crude fat

    Adult Maintenance:

    • Minimum 26% crude protein
    • Minimum 8% crude fat

    The JPFA does not have separate profiles for senior cats or differentiate by activity level.

    Labeling Requirements #

    JPFA has set specific labeling requirements for pet foods sold in the Japanese market, ensuring transparency and accurate information for consumers.
    For dry cat foods, JPFA requires the inclusion of an ingredient list in descending order by weight, a guaranteed analysis statement with the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and a statement of nutritional adequacy. Additionally, pet food labels in Japan must be in Japanese language.


    PFIAA (Pet Food Industry Association of Australia) #

    Background and Role #

    The Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA) is a national trade association representing pet food manufacturers’ interests in Australia. PFIAA plays a vital role in promoting the production of safe and nutritious pet foods and advocating for industry standards and regulations.

    Nutrient Profiles for Cat Foods #

    PFIAA largely adopts the nutrient profiles established by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) for cat foods.

    Kittens/Growth and Reproduction:

    • Minimum 30% crude protein
    • Minimum 9% crude fat

    Adult Maintenance:

    • Minimum 26% crude protein
    • Minimum 9% crude fat

    Like AAFCO, the PFIAA does not have separate profiles for senior cats or different activity levels.

    Feeding Trial Protocols #

    1. PFIAA follows feeding trial protocols similar to those outlined by AAFCO to substantiate pet foods’ nutritional adequacy claims.
    2. The feeding trial protocols involve feeding the pet food product to a specific number of cats over a predetermined period, typically 26 weeks or longer, and monitoring their health, body weight, and overall performance. These trials aim to ensure that the pet food provides complete and balanced nutrition when fed as the sole source of nourishment.

    Labeling Requirements #

    PFIAA has established labeling guidelines for pet foods sold in the Australian market, ensuring that consumers can access accurate and transparent information.

    For dry cat foods, PFIAA requires the inclusion of an ingredient list in descending order by weight, a guaranteed analysis statement with the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and a statement of nutritional adequacy. Additionally, pet food labels in Australia must comply with relevant food labeling regulations, such as providing clear and legible information.


    Import Regulations #

    When importing pet foods into different countries, manufacturers must comply with various import regulations to ensure the safety and quality of their products.

    1. Import Permits – Many countries require pet food importers to obtain specific import permits or licenses before bringing their products into the country.
    2. Health Certificates – Importers may also need to provide health certificates issued by the competent authorities in the country of origin, certifying that the pet food meets the importing country’s safety and quality standards.
    3. Language Labeling – Some countries mandate that pet food labels be printed in the local language, ensuring that consumers can easily understand the product information.

    Here are some examples of import regulations for major pet food markets:

    1. European Union (EU) – To import pet foods into the EU, manufacturers must comply with the EU’s regulations on animal by-products, which govern the use of certain animal-derived ingredients in pet foods. Additionally, pet food labels must be in the EU member state’s official language(s) where the product will be marketed.
    2. Japan has strict import regulations for pet foods. Importers must obtain an import notification and provide detailed product information, including ingredient lists and manufacturing processes. Pet food labels must also be in Japanese.
    3. China – has implemented a registration system for imported pet foods, requiring manufacturers to submit product samples, labels, and other documentation for review and approval by the relevant authorities. Pet food labels must be in Chinese, and certain animal-derived ingredients may be subject to additional import requirements.

    Bottom Line #

    When selecting dry cat foods, cat owners are advised to look for products that comply with AAFCO standards and bear the “complete and balanced” statement on the label. Additionally, it is advisable to choose reputable brands that follow international guidelines and prioritize transparency in their ingredient sourcing and manufacturing processes.

    As the pet food industry continues to evolve, there is an increasing focus on harmonizing regulations and standards across different regions. Organizations like GAPFA are working towards aligning guidelines and promoting best practices in pet food production, labeling, and safety. This harmonization effort aims to provide consistent quality and transparency for pet owners worldwide.

    Sources:
    [1] https://murmeo.com/en/what-international-requirements-for-pet-foods-exist/
    [2] https://oehtv.at/fileadmin/pdf-Dateien/2019_FEDIAF_Nutritional_Guidelines.pdf
    [3] https://truthaboutpetfood.com/complete-and-balanced-maybe-maybe-not/
    [4] https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/complete-and-balanced-pet-food
    [5] https://europeanpetfood.org/self-regulation/nutritional-guidelines/

    Updated on June 4, 2024
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    How the score is calculated?

    The actual calculation of the score is based on sophisticated and advanced algorithm that takes into account multiple parameters.

    To simplify the explanation, the calculation is based on three main criteria:

    (1) Amount of protein (more is better)

    (2) Amount of carbohydrates (less is better)

    (3) Quality and source of ingredients.

    Based on that 3 main criteria, 9 score calculation rules are used to compare the different foods.

    One major assumption is that the closer an ingredient is to the top of the ingredient list, the greater its relative weight and contribution to the food.

    In general, cat food is composed of protein, fats, carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins, and minerals.

    Protein is the most important component in a cat’s diet, and cats primarily get their protein from animal meat.

    Fat is a primary source of energy and essential fatty acids.

    Carbohydrates are controversial in a cat’s diet, as cats are obligate carnivores and typically consume very few carbohydrates.

    Fibers play an important role in digestion and food absorption, and vitamins and minerals are essential for different organism functions.

    Dry matter values are used to compare the amount of nutrients in different cat foods.
    This means that moisture is excluded from the equation to provide a more accurate comparison.

    Putting all of these and more into a formula results in a product score.

    The maximum score a cat food can receive is 100.
    Points are added or removed based on the score calculation rules.