Animal feed and pet food or treat products

There are many regulations that may affect your business.

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A manufacturer of animal and pet feed, as well as pet treats, must follow all state and federal rules that apply to the product.

Federal rules and registrations

On the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency that regulates these products. See FDA’s pet food and regulations pages for more details. The FDA recommends the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guide, “The Business of Pet Food” as the best source of information on state rules.

What do companies need to file at the federal level? First, facilities that manufacture, pack, or hold food for human and animal consumption must register their facility with the FDA here. This is not a license, but instead a registration with the FDA. All such facilities must also follow the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CG) regulations, Subpart B. Second, small start-ups must file an attestation if they find they are exempt from having a food safety plan due to their low level of sales, which is explained here. Facilities that do not do this must have a food safety plan and meet the requirements above.

Michigan manufacturing and distribution licensing

At the state level, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) oversees and issues licensing for animal and pet food products in the state of Michigan. The Michigan Feed Law outlined here provides the rules that companies must follow for processing, labeling and selling of animal and pet food, as well as pet treats. All of these products are considered commercial feed at the state level. Licensing for both animal feed and pet food companies is on the MDARD Feed Manufacturer/Distributor License page. See the actual Manufacturer/Distributor License Application and the page that defines who needs a license based on distribution and sales.

An Inspection and Tonnage Fee Report form must be filed annually at the end of July. This includes animal and pet food, as well as pet treats. The Feed Law outlines rules around the inspection fee for distribution. The weight of total animal feed distributed needs to be tracked and records kept for two years.             

Michigan labeling rules

Visit MDARD’s Animal Label Requirements page to learn about labeling requirements. As the page states, “labels of your products must be submitted with any first-time application for a license.” You will be required to cite the ingredients for your commercial feed product. MDARD also directs companies to read the labeling information given by the AAFCO which publishes guidance documents for both animals and pets. The official publication of the AAFCO contains the most complete list of animal food ingredients with their definitions. The FDA references the AAFCO, yet also states some differences which can be learned more about on the FDA website. As you create your ingredient formula, recognize that animal palates are much different than humans. To learn more, read this article by Pet Food Processing titled “Understanding the Science Behind Pet Food Palatability.”

Regarding the Guaranteed Analysis, the FDA states that “according to the AAFCO model regulations, all pet food products should have a section of the label titled Guaranteed Analysis. For most products, guarantees should be given for the minimum percentage of crude protein, the minimum percentage of crude fat, the maximum percentage of crude fiber and the maximum percentage of moisture.” MDARD provides a Michigan Commercial Feed Testing Laboratories List for such analyses.

See the “Animal Feed Labeling Guide” by AAFCO for more information on such labeling. Visit the Animal Feed Safety page for a current list of who to contact for feed, feed labels, regulatory program standards, licensing and tonnage questions.

Canned pet food

Canned pet foods have requirements that processors must ensure they are following. The FDA states that “canned pet foods must be processed in conformance with low-acid canned food regulations to ensure the pet food is free of viable microorganisms.” Since the manufacturing of low-acid food requires expensive retort equipment, start-up businesses tend to utilize a contract manufacturer to produce their product.

Supplement rules

Regarding supplements for animals and pets, the Pet Nutrition Alliance explains that “federal laws and regulations do NOT recognize a category of products for animals called dietary supplements. Depending on the stated intended use, the product is either a food or a drug, regulated by FDA.” Learn more here on the FDA website and visit the National Animal Supplement Council website for more information.

The Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Product Center provides business counseling and helps entrepreneurs launch new food products. One specialized service provided is the development of Nutrition Facts labels. Food businesses may contact the Product Center for assistance with labeling.

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