Posted by: Green Knight | January 10, 2011

Pet Food Update

Well, I was wrong about who regulates what.  The FDA is involved after all, but you’d never know it. From their website: “There is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market approval by the FDA. However, FDA ensures that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and have an appropriate function in the pet food.”  General ingredients like meat, grains, and vegetables are GRAS or “generally regarded as safe,” and additives and colorings have to be approved for the purposes used.  Again, going by predetermined definitions.  “Corn? GRAS.”  Moldy corn?  Well, that contains a harmful or deleterious substance and can’t be used.  Inspections to keep moldy corn out of the product?  Nonexistent.  It’s telling that when Diamond recalled their stuff in 2005, after 76 dogs had already died, it was done voluntarily, nobody made them do it.  There are enforcement options for violators, but without inspections, it’s all after the fact. FDA’s other concern is truth in labeling.

How about the USDA?  It’s involved with approving pet food ingredients.  Sounds familiar, eh?   According to, “USDA regulations also provide for a voluntary inspection of canned pet foods. These Voluntary Inspection Regulations specify the amount of meat ingredients which must be used in the product, along with minimum nutrient requirements and label specifications. Manufacturers that undergo this inspection may apply an inspection seal to the label. This option is not widely used.”  Big surprise there (and notice, only canned food, when it’s dry food that’s been causing the Aflatoxin problem).  USDA is also involved in labeling issues.  Then there’s the Federal Trade Commission, also involved with truth in advertising matters.  Seems as if they care more about what the bag or can says than about what’s in it.  Get out the magnifying glass sometime; you won’t see FDA, USDA, or FTC anywhere on your pet food containers, only the AAFCO, a voluntary standards outfit (which some states have adopted as regulations).

So there you have it, three agencies, plus the ones at the state level (which may or not be “more stringent.”)  How they justify their budgets is beyond me, since nothing happens until Fido is already dead or permanently damaged, and even then, responsible parties get to do voluntary recalls with no fines.  If I could afford to make my own pet food, I would.  Dr. Becker, the vet on, has some good tips on how to do it.



  1. As a humorous aside, before the AAFCO info started showing up on my cat food cans, they used to reference nutritional recommendations from the National Research Council, or NRC. Back in the early ’80s there was a book called “The Solar Cat,” recently reissued, that was a primer on solar energy, using cats as examples of passive absorption units…think of kitty following the sunbeam around the house over a day, and sleeping in it. Since the NRC also stands for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, I used to joke that I had “The Nuclear Cat” at home.

  2. This is so sad! I’m sure it’s not a priority of the federal gov’t to change this, either, but then stranger things have happened.

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