Along with the federal guidelines, New York State has laws and rules and regulations regarding the manufacture and distribution of pet food and pet treats. Article 8 of the Agriculture and Markets Law Relating to the Manufacture and Distribution of Commercial Feed regulates the sale of pet food and treats and large animal feed in New York State.
Making Pet Food or Treats
Pet food can only be produced from certain ingredients, and food that is sold as a "complete and balanced meal" must meet certain nutritional requirements. Please visit the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) website for more information.
Certain pet treats can be produced in a home kitchen. This includes non-perishable snack items, such as biscuits and cookies. The finished product must be shelf-stable (no refrigeration or freezing required), and not processed by specialized method such as dehydration, freeze-drying, canning, acidification, etc. Keep in mind that a home processed pet treat cannot claim on the label, website, or other advertisement to be “human grade” or “made with human grade ingredients.” To make such a claim, a product must be produced in a commercial facility that is in compliance with federal regulations 21 CFR part 117 CGMPs.
Livestock feed has its own licensing and registration requirements.
Horse feed and treats are covered under the commercial feed registration or feed manufacturing license when produced in-state.
New York's commercial feed laws references and permits those ingredients that are defined by the AAFCO.
The FDA also has a list of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) substances which are permitted to be used in pet foods, because they have a long history of safe use in foods.
Note: not all human GRAS ingredients are safe for pet consumption. Please contact us if you are unsure of an ingredient. Keep in mind there are many ingredients for which there may be a concern depending on the intended use or the availability of data to verify its safe use in pet food.
Jerky and Dehydrated or Freeze-dried Treats
In-state manufacturers of jerky or dehydrated/freeze-dried meat or poultry treats are required to obtain and follow a scheduled process, obtained from a recognized process authority. The scheduled process must be submitted along with the pet food registration application paperwork. A scheduled process includes a recipe that has specific instructions on the processing steps, the critical factors a product must meet to be considered safe, and record-keeping requirements.
The Department's Commercial Feed Laws and the Model Pet Food Regulations of the Association of American Feed Control Officials require each package of food, snacks, or treats for pets (dogs and cats) or specialty pets (animals normally kept in a cage or tank such as hamsters, parakeets, reptiles, or fish) to have a label printed on or affixed to the package.
This includes pet foods and treats produced by a home-based business.
The minimum information that is required either on your labels or in a handout available for purchasers should include:
- Brand/Product name
- For example, "Sally’s Dog Treats"
- Species name
- You must specify the species of animal that the product is formulated for.
- For example, “dog treats” or “cat treats.”
- A picture does not meet this requirement.
- Quantity Statement
- This must be expressed as weight in US measures, followed by the metric equivalent.
- For example, "Net weight 8 oz. (227g)."
- You may also use a count.
- Ingredient Statement
- This is a continuous list of each approved ingredient using the name of the ingredient adopted by AAFCO.
- The ingredients shall be listed in descending order by predominance, separated by a comma.
- Guaranteed Analysis
- Both meals and treats require a guaranteed analysis. This should include the correct heading, consist of at least the following, and be stated in the order listed below:
Crude Protein (min.) XX%
Crude Fat (min.) XX%
Crude Fiber (Max.) XX%
Moisture (Max.) XX%
Ash (Max.) XX%*
*Ash is not a required guarantee
Note that certain label claims such as "low fat," "contains omega fatty acids," or "contains probiotics," require guarantees declaring that the content is in the product.
- Statement of Calorie Content
- The statement shall be measured in terms of metabolizable energy (ME) on an “as fed” or “calculated” basis. It shall be expressed both in terms of kcal/kg and kcal per familiar household measure or unit (such as cups, cans, treats, or pieces). The statement must be listed under the header “Calorie Content.”
- For example: Calorie Content (ME) calculated: 2500 kcal/kg; 20 kcal/treat.
- Nutritional Adequacy Statement
- A nutritional adequacy statement is required for complete and balanced meals only.
- If the product is clearly identified on the front label as a snack or treat, a nutritional adequacy statement is not required. We recommend that a statement such as “feed as a snack or treat” or “for intermittent or supplemental feeding only” be included for information purposes on the label.
- If you are making a pet food for complete nutrition of a specific life stage, or special nutritional or dietary needs, you will need to reference the AAFCO publication or the National Research Council for all of the necessary nutritional levels that must be met to make these claims.
- Manufacturer/Guarantor Information
- As the manufacturer or guarantor of the product your name and mailing address is required to be on the label. You do not need to include the street address if it can be found in a local telephone directory or internet search.
- A web address alone will not suffice.
Anyone who would like to label their product as "Made in the USA" must comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s “Made in the USA” policy.
Anyone who would like to label their product as "organic" must consult the United States Department of Agriculture, which regulates organic products. The Association of American Feed Control Officials also gives guidance.
When having your products analyzed for guaranteed analysis, you may use any lab that can perform a "crude analysis."
Common Labeling Mistakes
Here are some common labeling issues that may cause denial of an application.
Use of Ingredients That Are Not Approved or Allowed
Not all ingredients suitable for human consumption are safe to feed your pet. Ingredients like onions, raisins, grapes, chocolate, and others are not approved. Other ingredients may not be allowed due to a lack of adequate research to determine the benefits or severity of the ingredient.
Claims that indicate a product (or ingredient) can be used to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent disease, or alter the structure or function of the body, in a manner or extent that exceeds its nutritive value, are not permitted on pet food labels, websites, or other product advertisements.
We often come across websites where statements promoting the health benefits of an ingredient or ingredients are listed. Regardless of the legitimacy of such claims, your product is being registered only for the nutrition it provides. Applications for products making drug claims will be denied. Registered products that are found to be making drug claims will be subject to a Stop Sale Order. Any reference to the health benefits of a feed product or ingredient is not permitted. Feed products making drug claims are regulated by the FDA and must go through their approval process.
"Parsley is commonly used in pet food as a flavoring. There is a wealth of information available on the internet which promotes the health benefits of parsley as an antioxidant and blood pressure regulator, and in cancer prevention." Statements such as this are considered drug claims and cannot be approved by our Department. Drugs are regulated by the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Human Grade Claims
Home processed pet products cannot be marketed as human grade. Manufacturers claiming that items are human grade must be able to substantiate that:
- Each ingredient used in the product is suitable for human consumption.
- Each ingredient and the resulting product are stored, handled, processed, and transported under current good manufacturing practices specified in 21 CFR Part 117 Subpart B.
- The product manufacturing facility is licensed to produce human food by the appropriate authority. Home processed pet products cannot be marketed as human grade.
- All documentation verifying each ingredient is human-edible, validation that the location where the food is received, stored, and distributed operates under 21 CFR Part 117 Subpart B, and evidence the manufacturing facility is licensed by the proper authority must accompany the application.
- Any statement, including on the label, website, or other advertisement, cannot make a human grade claim unless approved to do so. A human grade claim includes statements such as “Human-edible”, Human-Tested”, “Good enough for Humans” etc.
Written documentation verifying claims such as organic or non-GMO must be provided. Applications missing this documentation will be denied.
Federal regulation prohibits the use of any reference or suggestion that an animal food product may be USDA inspected, or that the ingredients are from USDA inspected product. Applications with these references will be denied.
Product Name or Description Does Not Match ingredient(s) Used
The product is called “Lamb and Sweet Potato Dog Treat,” but the ingredient is lamb meal. The product must be called “Lamb Meal and Sweet Potato Dog Treat."
The product is called “Beef Dog Treat,” but the beef ingredient is actually beef broth. In this case, the product can either be called “Beef Broth Dog Treat,” or “Beef Flavored Dog Treat.”
All pet food and pet treat products must be registered prior to selling them in New York State. All products must be registered prior to distribution in the state, whether they are being sold at farmers' markets or at big box stores.
There is a $100 annual registration fee per product.
Registrations are per calendar year. All registrations, regardless of when registered, will expire December 31 of each year. Renewal applications are sent out the third week of October and are expected to be received by our office by December 1. Registration fees are not pro-rated.
Any time the composition, guaranteed analysis, descriptive designation or name, or formula of the product changes, it is considered a new product and will require a new product registration.
A legible copy of the label for each product must be submitted along with the application. It is strongly recommended that you do not print label stock until your application has been approved. If corrections to your labels are necessary, it can be costly to reprint revised labeling.
Registering Multiple Products
Each separate food or treat must be registered individually. The fee is $100 per product. Multiple products can be submitted on the same application. A legible label for each product and the appropriate fee must be included.
Selling the same product in different quantities does not require separate registration.
A product requires separate registration if:
- it has a different product name or formulation (ingredients, guaranteed analysis, etc.), or
- if it is a product that has a distinct label statement marketed for a specific breed or size of a pet
"ABC Dog Treats for Medium Dogs" and "ABC Dog Treats for Large Dogs" are considered two separate products, thus registration is required for each.
The following items may be exempt from registration:
- All chews, bones, toys, and exercisers made of animal skin, wood, or man-made material (such as hooves, ears, snouts, and bones) that make no nutritional claims
- Raw unprocessed whole loin meat products that do not go through further processing and have nothing added to them
Adding Products Mid-year
If you need to add brands or products after your registration is approved, you may complete a supplemental registration at any time during the license period. The label and payment must accompany the supplemental registration.
To register, submit the completed application form, appropriate payment ($100 per brand/product), and a legible label for each product you are registering for review. Applications must be submitted via traditional mail to the address listed on the application. Electronically-submitted applications are not accepted.
Please note that you may need to submit additional documentation if certain claims are made. In addition, multiple products can be submitted on the same application. A legible label for each product and the appropriate fee must be included.
In addition, please do not submit a commercial feed license or registration for pet food, as those applications are for livestock feed only.
Once approved, the registration will be mailed to you.
Sell Pet Food or Treats
Whether you are selling your products at a big box store or a farmers' market, all of your products must be registered prior to distribution in the state.
You may sell your products on the Internet. Note that all states have their own registration requirements regarding the sale and distribution of pet food in their state. Visit the AAFCO website to find contact information for information about all of the states where you plan to sell your products. All products should be registered prior to distribution in those states.
Pet food recalls may be conducted on a firm's own initiative, by FDA request, or by FDA order under statutory authority.