The Major Players in the Pet Food Industry

At Wags we don't feel like it's important to know about our industry - it's necessary.  While we are not a food manufacturer, we stay up to date on what regulatory bodies let us sell the foods we want our pets to eat.  



The Food and Drug Administration is the main regulatory authority of pet food and enforces federal law. They are responsible for:

  • Inspection of manufacturing facilities and supplier (excluding those regulated by the USDA)
  • Random testing
  • Investigations based on consumer/ veterinary complaints
  • Approves or denies pet food additives or processing aids not defined by AAFCO (more on that later)


The State Department of Agriculture is the secondary regulatory authority. and can basically be summarized as the local arm of the FDA.  They enforce state laws, most of which require manufacturers to register each food/treat sold within its boundaries on a yearly basis.  This includes:

  • Inspection of labels and adherence to labeling laws
  • Inspections of facilities 
  • Random testing
  • Investigations passed on from FDA to local level enforcement


The American Association of Feed Control Officials is an organization that actually has no regulatory authority over pet food. It is an independent organization made up of FDA and State Department of Agriculture members. However, they write model laws in cooperation with the FDA and State DA that are typically adopted as state law, and therefore we see them as an important network of influencers in the pet food industry.  They are generally responsible for: 

  • Defining nutritional requirements for cats and dogs (“complete and balanced”)
  • Establishing  legal definitions for all pet food/animal feed ingredients
  • Creating labeling laws



The United States Department of Agriculture has no regulatory authority over pet food, but they do have a voluntary pet food certification - which is not acknowledged by the FDA or State DA.  However, that doesn't mean they aren't important! 

  • They regulate meat for human consumption as well as the meat destined to be pet food coming from a USDA inspected facility.  It can be either approved for human consumption (human grade) or condemned and rejected. 
  • Once it becomes "pet food," it is no longer under USDA responsibility.

So there you have it.  Lots of acronyms, lots of knowledge!