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Product Handling Safety

Food Safety for Consumer Who Purchase Pet Food and Treats

Purchasing, Handling and Storage

When purchasing pet treats and foods:

  • Be sure the packaging has not been compromised
  • Purchase only products in good condition

When storing pet treats and foods:

  • Refrigerate or discard unused, leftover, wet pet food
  • Keep dry pet food in a cool, dry place (less than 80 degrees F)
  • If possible, store in original container inside a clean, dedicated plastic container with a lid
  • Keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas
  • Keep pets away from garbage and household trash

When feeding or handling raw pet foods:

Raw pet foods present the greatest risk of transmitting illness to humans and pets
  • Keep raw meat and poultry products frozen until use, then thaw raw meat in the refrigerator or microwave
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods and food surfaces
  • Cover and refrigerate excess food
  • Throw food away after two (2) hours if not eaten
  • Rinse preparation surfaces well with bleach
  • A safe handling label is required on raw or partially precooked meat and poultry packages --This tells the consumer how to safety store, prepare and handle raw meat and poultry products in the home



Preparation of pet foods and pet treats:

  • Wash hands for 20 seconds with hot water and soap after handling pet food, pets or pet waste
  • Wash pet food bowls, dishes and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after use
  • Do not use a pet dish as a food scoop
  • Dispose of old or spoiled pet food products in a safe manner
  • Rinse preparation surfaces well with bleach

Beef and Seafood derived pet treats require special handling:

  • The manufacturer packages the product promptly after heat treatments or irradiation during the final step in manufacturing

Homemade pet foods:

  • These are not recommended because of the difficulty in balancing vitamins and minerals required by different species
  • Onions, chocolate and other common "human food" are unsafe for dogs
  • Dogs and cats have different nutritional needs and preferences
  • Mismanaged calcium can cause skin and bone problems
  • Mismanaged fat intake can lead to obesity problems
  • What is "complete and balanced" food depends on the age, breed, size and level of activity of the animal


Standards for pet foods and pet treats:

  • The food product must be safe for the animal to eat
  • The food product must be produced under sanitary conditions
  • The food product must contain no harmful substances
  • The food product must be truthfully labeled
  • Canned foods must be canned according to low acid canned food regulations (Title 12 CFR Part 113)


Standards for food:


  • Keep surfaces and hands clean by washing often
  • Separate food types (meat, poultry, grains) to prevent cross-contamination
  • Cook any prepared food to the proper temperature
  • Chill by refrigerating promptly

Fact sheet: "Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics"


Fact sheet: "Quick Guide on Processing Jerky and Compliance Guideline for Meat and Poultry Jerky Produced by Small and Very Small Plants"

Fact sheet: "FSIS Food Recalls"

The following are more human food issues than pet food issues:

Inspection - there are four primary ways unsafe or improperly labeled meat and poultry products come to the attention of FSIS:

  1. Company that manufactured or distributed product informs FSIS of potential hazard
  2. Test results received by FSIS as part of its sampling program indicate that the products are adulterated or misbranded
  3. FSIS field inspection program show a product as unsafe or improperly labeled
  4. Epidemiological data submitted by State or local public health departments or other Federal Agencies such as FDA or Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates a problem with the food


An inspected Commercial Kitchen is not required for making pet foods. Local County Health Departments regulate commercial (for human food) kitchens.

Also, commercial kitchens fall under zoning laws, Health Department laws, and state ordinances which require that the following be met:

  • Must comply with regulations for state and local health districts
  • Must be inspected
  • Daily requirements for cleaning surfaces
  • Clean and sanitary storage of foods at safe temperatures
  • Avoiding direct hand contact with ready-to-eat foods
  • Adhere to fire safety regulations
  • Clean kitchen exhaust systems regularly
  • Comply with plumbing codes
  • Other requirements include adequate floor space, cooking hoods, fire suppression systems, sinks and electrical systems


The information contained in this website is designed to provide advice to small petfood and treat manufacturers on regulatory requirements and to assist them in the development of proper labeling for these products.

AAFCO has no statutory authority to regulate pet products.

Rather, enforcement of violations is the purview of the state feed control officials, so companies must comply with each state's requirements.  While most states follow AAFCO model regulations, exact language and interpretation may differ between states. While these documents offer guidance that are helpful in the vast majority of states, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure compliance with individual state requirements.

Did you know?

AAFCO does not regulate, test, approve or certify pet foods in any way.

AAFCO establishes the nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods, and it is the pet food company's responsibility to formulate their products according to the appropriate AAFCO standard.

It is the state feed control official's responsibility in regulating pet food to ensure that the laws and rules established for the protection of companion animals and their custodians are complied with so that only unadulterated, correctly and uniformly labeled pet food products are distributed in the marketplace and a structure for orderly commerce.