Understanding Pet Food Labels--Product Name, Pet Nutrition Part 4

Pawsitively Helpful Pet Tips

with DR. DEB

"Understanding Pet Food Labels

--Product Name--

Pet Nutrition Part 4"

PRODUCT NAME: The pet food's name may be a key factor to draw a consumer to buy the product.  Consumers often buy a product based on a specific ingredient, so product names often incorporate the name of an ingredient to highlight its inclusion.  However, seeing the name of an ingredient in a product name must be interpreted carefully.  The AFFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) has developed four specifc rules regarding how ingredients must be listed on a dog or cat food's product name.


BEEF (or another MEAT)          At least 95% BEEF (minus water for processing) removing the added water, the named ingredient still must comprise 70% of the product

BEEF (or other ingredient) DINNER ENTREE, PLATTER, FORMULA OR NUGGETS                         At least 25% BEEF, (or other ingredient) but less than 95% (not counting water) removing the added water, the named ingredients still must comprise 10% of the product

WITH BEEF (or other ingredient) At least 3% BEEF (or other ingredient)

BEEF (or other ingredient) FLAVOR A specific percentage is not required and must contain only an amount less than 3% that is sufficient to be detected.  The corresponding ingredient may be beef, but often it is substance that will give the characterizing flavor, such as beef meal or beef by-products

Considerations when interpreting the above pet food naming rules:

1) The 95% RULE... Because ingredient list must be declared in the proper order of predominance by weight, the named ingredient, i.e. BEEF, should be the first listed, often followed by water, and then other components.  If the name includes a combination of ingredients, such as "CHICKEN 'N' LIVER DOG FOOD", the two named ingredients together must comprise 95% of the total weight.  The first ingredient named in the product name must be the one of higher predominance in the product.  Because THIS RULE APPLIES TO PRODUCTS OF ANIMAL ORIGIN ONLY, ingredients that are not from a meat, poultry, or fish source, such as grains and vegetables, cannot be used as a component of the 95% total.

2) The 25% or DINNER RULE... In the example "BEEF DINNER FOR DOGS", the product contains at least 25% of the named ingredient but less than 95%.  Beef would most likely be the third or fourth ingredient on the ingredient list.  If more than one ingredient is included in a "DINNER" name, the combination of the named ingredient must be at least 3% of the total.  Also, unlike the 95% rule, THIS RULE APPLIES TO ALL INGREDIENTS, whether of animal origin or not.

3)  The 3% or "WITH" RULE... Don't confuse "BEEF DOG FOOD" (contains 95% beef) with a food labeled "DOG FOOD WITH BEEF" (contains only 3% beef).

4)  The "FLAVOR" RULE... With respect to flavors, pet foods often contain "digests", which are materials treated with heat, enzymes, and/or acids to form concentrated natural flavors.  Only a small amount of a "chicken digest" is needed to produce a "CHICKEN FLAVORED CAT FOOD", even though no actual chicken is added to the food.  Stocks or broths are also occasionally added.  Whey is often used to add a milk flavor.  One of the test methods used to "detect" a "flavor", is to use animals trained to prefer specific flavors to test and confirm a pet food's claim.  Often labels will bear a claim of "no artificial flavors" when in fact, artificial flavors are rarely used in pet foods.  The major exception to that would be smoke or bacon flavors, which are added to some treats.

5) MOISTURE CONTENT... Percentage rules also apply to product names regarding MOISTURE CONTENT OF PET FOODS.  In the US, the MAXIMUM MOISTURE CONTENT IN ALL PET FOODS SHOULD NOT EXCEED 78%.  However, pet foods can have moisture contents higher than 78% if they are labeled as a STEW, GRAVY, BROTH, JUICE, or MILK REPLACER.  High moisture pet foods in cans, pouches or tins will contain terms such as "IN SAUCE", "IN JELLY", "IN GRAVY", or some similar designation in the product name.


95% RULE

"LOBSTER & SALMON FOR CATS" There must be more lobster than salmon in the product as shown on the ingredient list and the lobster and salmon together must comprise 95% of the food's weight.

"LAMB & RICE DOG FOOD" The rice doesn't figure into the 95% weight and would be misbranded unless the product was comprised of at least95% lamb.

"BEST FRIEND TUNE FOR CATS" Tuna is at least 70% of total product with water removed

25% RULE

"CHICKEN FORMULA CAT FOOD" Only 25% chicken is required in the food.  This label doesn't guarantee that other proteins such as fish might be in food and might even be in a greater amount than the chicken.

"CHICKEN 'N FISH DINNER CAT FOOD" Must have 25% chicken and fish combined and at least 3% fish.

"LAMB AND RICE PLATTER FOR DOGS" Would be acceptable name as long as there was more lamb in the product than rice and the amounts of lamb and rice combined totaled 25%


"BEST FRIEND PRIME FILLETS WITH BEEF" There only needs to be 3% beef in the product.

"BEST FRIEND DOG FOOD CHICKEN AND EGG FLAVOR" Chicken and egg ingredients are used in the product, but are probably less than 3% of total product.


"BEST FRIEND CAT FOOD WITH SHRIMP IN JELLY" Shrimp is at least 3% of total product.  Moisture content is greater than 78% in the food since the descriptor "in jelly" is used.

Our next topic will discuss the PRINCIPAL DISPLAY PANEL of a pet food label as part of our education series in nutrition.  Our goal is to help our clients have basic nutrition knowledge when faced with interpreting pet food trends, fads, and marketing tactics.

Thanks to Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Nebraska--Lincoln Extension and US Food and Drug Administration for the above information.


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