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A pet food that is intended as a complete and balanced diet must be established as such in one of two ways:
1) By formulation to meet the levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) or
2) by feeding trials.
A diet that is only formulated contains nutrients in amounts that meet AAFCO profiles but the diet has not gone through feeding trials. Therefore, unforeseen problems with bioavailability or nutrient interactions could arise. Feeding trials provide better assurance that the food meets a dog's or a cat's requirements.
Although AAFCO feeding trials have their limitations, they should be a minimum level of assurance. When feeding trials have been performed, the label should read, "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that Brand X provides complete and balanced nutrition for growth (or maintenance)." If the food is only formulated to meet requirements, the label must read, "Brand Y is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog (or Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles." Therefore, the nutritional adequacy statement provides two important pieces of information: 1) Which life stage profile the food meets and 2) how this statement was substantiated.
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