History and Regulation of Pet Foods

Chapter 14. History and Regulation of Pet Foods

Pet owners generally have two options available when choosing the type of food to feed their companion animals. They may either prepare a homemade diet or purchase a commercially prepared dog or cat food. Today the majority of pet owners in the United States feed their companion animals commercially prepared foods. 1. and 2. The popularity of commercial products is evidenced by the growth of the pet food industry over the past 50 years. In 1958 total pet food sales in the United States were estimated to be $350 million. This amount increased to $1.43 billion in 1972, $5.1 billion in 1986, and almost $12 billion by 1996. 3 In recent years, as pet owners have become increasingly interested in the quality and safety of the foods that they feed their pets, pet supply growth has continued to reflect the importance that pets have in our lives. Between 2002 and 2007, the U.S. market for pet foods and supplies grew by more than 34% and saw the introduction of a wide variety of new types of foods that are formulated for different life stages, activity levels, and health conditions. 4


Prior to the middle of the nineteenth century, foods for dogs and cats were not commercially prepared. Owners fed their pets table scraps or homemade formulas made from human foods and leftovers. The first commercial dog food to be marketed was in the form of a biscuit. It was produced and sold in 1860 by James Spratt, an American living in London. 5 Following success in England, Spratt began selling his product in the United States. In the early 1900s, several other groups observed Spratt’s success and began to develop and sell pet foods. Milk-Bone, originally called “Maltoid” biscuits, was created by the F.H. Bennett Biscuit Company in 1908 as a convenient way to provide nutrition to dogs of varying sizes. Canned dog food was first introduced by the Chappel brothers of Rockford, Illinois in 1922. The Chappels named their product Ken-L-Ration and followed it with the introduction of a dry product several years later. Around the same time, Samuel Gaines broke into the market with a new type of dog food called a “meal.” The meal consisted of a number of dried, ground ingredients that were mixed together and sold in 100-pound (lb) bags. Pet owners enjoyed the convenience of this new product because they were able to buy fairly large quantities at one time and because the food required little preparation before feeding.

In the early 1900s, pet foods were marketed only through feed stores. The National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), which purchased Milk Bone in 1931, was the first group to attempt to sell its product in grocery stores. Selling pet food in human food markets initially met with much resistance. Because most pet foods were made from byproducts of human foods, customers and store owners considered it unsanitary to sell such products next to foods that were meant for human consumption. However, Nabisco persisted, and Milk Bones finally made it into the supermarket. The convenience and economy of purchasing pet foods at grocery stores rapidly overcame customer concerns. Improved distribution and availability resulted in increased sales and popularity of commercial pet foods. By the mid-1930s, many brands of dog food were sold in grocery stores. At this time, although some dry biscuits and meal products were available, canned pet foods were still the most popular type of pet food product sold in the United States.

Its popularity continued to grow and by 1941, canned dog food comprised 90% of the pet food market. 6 However, with the onset of World War II, government meat-rationing and the shortage of metal resulted in fewer resources being available for the processing of pet food. The pet food industry responded by producing and selling a larger proportion of dry foods. However, once the war was over, canned foods again became more popular with pet owners. It was not until the development of the extrusion process that dry pet foods increased in popularity. The extrusion process and expanded pet foods (foods produced through the extrusion process) were first developed by researchers at Purina laboratories in the 1950s. Extrusion involves first mixing all of the pet food ingredients together and then rapidly cooking the mixture and forcing it through an extruder (specialized pressure-cooker). This process causes a rapid expansion of the bite-sized food particles, resulting in increased digestibility and palatability of the food. After extrusion and drying, a coating of fat or other palatability enhancer is usually sprayed onto the outside of the food pieces. In 1957, Purina Dog Chow, an expanded product, was first introduced to grocery stores. Within 1 year, this new product had become the best-selling dog food in the United States. Today the majority of dry pet foods sold in the United States are extruded products, and dry pet foods make up the largest proportion of the U.S. market. 2. and 4.

Because little was known about the nutrient requirements of dogs and cats when pet foods were first manufactured, the same food was commonly marketed for both species. Manufacturers merely labeled the cans or bags differently. However, as more knowledge was acquired about the different nutrient needs of dogs and cats, and as cats became increasingly popular as pets, separate pet foods were formulated for each. Some of the first cat foods were comprised almost entirely of fish products and were sold in 1-lb cans. However, as pet food manufacturers learned more about the preferences of cats (and of their owners), they created more palatable products and sold the new “gourmet” products in smaller cans. Starting in the mid-1970s, in response to the growing interest in quality pet care, some companies created “premium” brands of foods that were marketed and sold exclusively through pet supply stores, feed stores, and veterinarians. These were the first products to target different stages of life in dogs and cats. During the same period, some manufacturers created breeder programs to encourage brand loyalty among purebred breeders. These breeders would then recommend the products to their puppy and kitten buyers.

During the new millennium, companies have continued to develop foods that are designed for specific stages of life, physiological states, and disease states. 6 Some of the most recent niche products include those produced from organic ingredients, various types of raw or grain-free diets, foods that target the health of specific body systems, and even foods that are patterned after popular human diet plans. These trends represent a response to the pet-owning public’s desire to supply their companion animals with the best nutrition possible during all stages of life (see Chapter 17, pp. 167-173 for a complete discussion). The public’s increased interest in nutrition and health, coupled with the large number of commercial products available, has led many pet owners, hobbyists, and professionals to critically evaluate the type and the safety of the foods they select for their animals. An increasing number of pet owners are now interested in learning more about the regulation of the foods they buy and the formulation and nutrient content of these foods.

Pet foods designed for specific stages of life, physiological states, and disease states are available today. Some of the most recent niche products include those produced from organic ingredients, various types of raw or grain-free diets, foods that target the health of specific body systems, and even foods that are patterned after popular human diet plans. These trends represent a response to the pet-owning public’s desire to supply their companion animals with the best nutrition possible during all stages of life.


A number of agencies and organizations regulate the production, marketing, safety, and sales of commercial pet foods in the United States. Each agency has unique and sometimes overlapping responsibilities and varying degrees of authority. Although some regulations are mandatory, others are optional suggestions. The following discussion identifies the major agencies and their roles in pet food regulation and provides an overview of the current regulations that govern the production and sale of pet foods in the United States (Table 14-1).

A gency F unction
Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Sets standards for substantiation claims and provides an advisory committee for state legislation; produces the AAFCO Official Publication annually; most important regulations are the Model Pet Food Regulations and Model Feed Bill, and the Pet Food Nutritional Profiles
National Research Council (NRC) Collects and evaluates research and makes nutrient recommendations; prepared the publication “2006 NRC Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats”
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Has authority over approval of new ingredients; enforces the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and oversees the Animal Feed Safety System to ensure the safety of pet foods; works with AAFCO during approval process for new ingredients and with state regulators regarding safety and contamination issues; regulates the inclusion of health claims on pet food labels
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Regulates pet food labels and research facilities
Pet Food Institute (PFI) Trade organization that represents pet food manufacturers; has no direct regulatory powers
State Feed Control Offices Enforces the Commercial Feed Law within states
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regulates the use of pesticides in raw material and feeds; regulates processing plant discharges
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Regulates trade and advertising

Association of American Feed Control Officials

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the most instrumental agency in the regulation of commercial pet foods. AAFCO was first formed in 1909 and is an association of state and federal feed control officials that acts in an advisory capacity to provide models for state legislation. AAFCO produces its Official Publication (OP) each year, and this publication is the basis for pet food regulations in the United States and internationally. Most important for pet foods are AAFCO’s Model Pet Food Regulations and Model Feed Bill, and the Pet Food Nutritional Profiles (see below). These regulations specify labeling procedures, ingredient definitions, and nomenclature for all animal feeds and pet foods. AAFCO is an association and not an official regulatory body but does operate within the guidelines of federal and state legislation including laws administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Although a common misconception is that AAFCO is a trade association made up of industry representatives, members of AAFCO are required to be either state, federal, or foreign government employees. Members include representatives of each state’s feed regulatory agencies, the FDA, and the USDA. All of AAFCO’s policies must be voluntarily accepted by state feed control officials for actual implementation; many state governments have mandated AAFCO regulations into state law. Because pet food regulations can vary somewhat between states, AAFCO’s policy statements and regulations serve to promote uniformity in feed regulations throughout the United States.

The Pet Food Committee of AAFCO acts as the liaison between AAFCO and the pet food industry, and has produced a manual entitled AAFCO Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food Labeling Guide to help explain the Model Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food Regulations and to facilitate compliance with regulations. AAFCO regulations help to ensure that nationally marketed pet foods are uniformly labeled and nutritionally adequate. Their services include providing interpretations of AAFCO’s pet food regulations and suggestions to regulating agencies for uniform enforcement. A large proportion of AAFCO’s regulations specify the type of information that manufacturers are allowed to include on their pet food labels (see Chapter 15 for a complete discussion of the pet food label). An important accomplishment of AAFCO during the 1990s was the development of practical Nutrient Profiles to be used as standards for the formulation of dog and cat foods. Committees consisting of canine and feline nutritionists from universities, government, and the pet food industry worked together to establish two sets of standard nutrient profiles: one for dogs and one for cats. The profiles are based on ingredients commonly included in commercial foods, and nutrient levels are expressed for processed foods at the time of feeding. Minimum nutrient levels to be included in the pet food are provided for two categories: (1) growth and reproduction and (2) adult maintenance. Maximum levels are suggested for nutrients that have been shown to have the potential for toxicity or for when overuse is a concern.
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Jul 31, 2016 | Posted by in INTERNAL MEDICINE | Comments Off on History and Regulation of Pet Foods

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