In the USA, the name of the pet food provides a hidden message to the consumer about the quality of the product. I say ‘hidden message’ because you have to swot up the pages on “Brand and Product Names” in the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) book of animal feed/pet food regulations to understand the relationship between the product name and the quality of the product. A daunting task and one that almost everyone will never carry out. Here are some examples:
One ingredient listed in product name
If an ingredient is specified in the product name with no other ingredient stated there has to be 70% of the specified ingredient in the product. “Chicken Adult Dog Food” must have 70% chicken. This would appear to be a product name describing a high quality pet food.
“Descriptor” and ingredient in the name
Words such as ‘formula, dinner and recipe’ are examples of descriptors. Therefore the name: “Chicken Adult Formula Dog Food” contains the ingredient (chicken) and a descriptor (the word ‘formula’). Under these circumstances, the product has to contain a minimum of 10% by weight of the stated ingredient: chicken.
Two or more ingredients in the name
When two or more ingredients are in the product name, 3% minimum of the stated ingredients, by weight, needs to be in the product. So, “Chicken & Rice Dog Food Adult Recipe” contains 3% chicken.
The word ‘with’ is in the name
The word ‘with’ must be of the same size, et cetera, as the other words in the name. In this instance, there must be 3% of the stated ingredient. Therefore “Adult Dog Food with Chicken” contains a minimum by weight of 3% chicken.
The word ‘flavor’ is in the name
I think you can guess that when the word ‘flavor’ is in the name of the product there is no requirement that the ingredient stated is in the product. So, “Adult Chicken Flavor Dog Food” contains no chicken, just flavor. The same rules apply as to the size et cetera of the word ‘flavor’ in the name as for the word ‘with’. If other words are used in the name such as ‘herbed’ or ‘crafted’ the AAFCO regulations don’t appear to govern these words and therefore I understand that the general law applies on misdescription. Product names can’t mislead or misrepresent what it actually is. This will be the law of contract and misrepresentation.
Putting these rules into practice
I tried putting these guidelines into practice. I checked out Blue Wilderness. The name has the word ‘with’ in it: “Chicken recipe with Lifesource bits”. It also has the word ‘recipe’ in it. Therefore, there should be a minimum of 3% chicken in the product as the primary ingredient. This goes against the impression you get from the product packaging, which implies that it contains much more chicken. The word ‘wilderness’ for example hints a raw diet with 70% meat. No doubt this has been judged to be acceptable and not misleading.
The online specification did not specify the percentages of the ingredients.
Note: enforcement of these AAFCO regulations is poor. Therefore we cannot totally rely on them. Or can we rely on them at all?
Another product I checked out was Purina “Omega Tasty with Chicken” for dogs. This contains the word ‘with’ and therefore has a minimum of 3% of chicken in it. I couldn’t find out if the ingredient list specified 3% chicken.
I hope this helps and the information comes from the Truth About Pet Food website. My thanks too to Sandy for showing me this.