Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs
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What Pet Food Labels Tell You
Pet food labels give basic information as to the ingredient content, nutrient guaranteed analysis, feeding information, net weight, the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor and, many times, other facts about the product. The guaranteed analysis, the list of ingredients and a statement of nutritional adequacy and feeding directions are required on all pet food packages. Packaging information is based on Model Pet Food Regulations established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) composed of feed officials from each state. These regulations have been endorsed by the Pet Food Institute and the American Feed Industry Association. Most states have elected to use the Model Pet Food Regulations or informally use them as guidelines.
A pet food company that sells a product which does not meet a label guarantee can be subject to a warning, a fine, removal of the product from the sales shelf, or cancellation of product registration. This latter regulatory action can prohibit marketing the product in that particular state until the violation has been corrected.
Certain nutrient guarantees are required on the labels of all pet foods. They are:
- Crude protein (minimum percentage)
- Crude fat (minimum percentage)
- Crude fiber (maximum percentage)
- Moisture (maximum percentage)
The reason for the word "crude" is that the minimum and maximum amounts shown are determined by laboratory assay and not by feeding studies conducted with dogs and cats. Additional nutrient guarantees can be listed if the manufacturer desires.
All ingredients used in the manufacture of a pet food must be listed in the ingredient list on the label in descending order of predominance by weight.
The guaranteed analysis and the list of ingredients become the manufacturer’s assurance that the product has the nutrient assay and ingredient contents declared on the label.
While laboratory assay of the guaranteed analysis can verify that these nutritional values are in the diet, these components may not be readily available to the pet. The nutritional performance of a pet food can accurately be determined only by feeding studies with a large number of dogs or cats conducted by the manufacturer in accordance with recognized testing procedures such as those established by AAFCO. To be certain that the pet food you feed has undergone actual feeding tests, look for a statement on the label that the food has been tested according to AAFCO feeding standards.
Two types of additives are included in pet foods - those that are nutritional and those that add other benefits to the food. Nutritional additives include vitamin supplements such as A, Dye and B-complex; essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, salt, iron, and other trace minerals; and amino acids such as lysine. These are added to supplement and/or provide nutrients in addition to those provided by the primary ingredients in order to help achieve the high degree of nutritional balance found in good quality pet foods.
Ingredients such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin or mixed tocopherols are added at extremely low levels as anti-oxidants to help prevent fat rancidity. Fat in the process of going rancid can cause an unpleasant odor and may cause the pet to refuse to eat the food.
Rancidity may also destroy the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K. These anti-oxidants have been approved for use in pet foods by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Preservatives such as sorbic acid, and potassium sorbate are added to semi-moist foods to prevent spoilage. Ingredients of this type are approved for pet foods as well as human foods. Certain flavorings are added to help make foods more appetizing to dogs and cats. Some may be listed as artificial flavor or natural flavor and others, such as garlic and onion, are also used.
Artificial color at very low levels is used in some pet foods to give the product a more desirable and consistent appearance or to differentiate between flavors used in the same product. Colors used in pet foods are the same as those used in human foods and have been approved by the FDA.
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