There are numerous varieties of pet food on the market today. Some claim they are premium, while others say they are organic; and knowing which is best can be confusing. Because European laws governing the pet food are much stricter than the United States, one of the best ways to know which brand is superior is to make sure your pet food has the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) European certification. The APHIS European certification is a program of the USDA that tests pet food to determine if it can be exported to Europe. Because this certification sets high standards for pet food, manufacturers must take extra steps to obtain certification.
Manufacture pet food that is fit for human consumption. According to European requirements, this is a defining factor for quality pet food. All human grade food must meet guidelines set by the USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By contrast, pet food without the APHIS European certification may contain by-products that are declared unfit for human consumption and have little or no nutrition. Ingredients not fit for human consumption often contain bacteria, chemical residue and carcinogens.2
Obtain a health certificate. Pet food manufacturers must obtain a health certificate that is signed by APHIS after pet food manufacturing facilities have been inspected and officially approved by APHIS veterinary services. A health certificate must accompany each individual pet food shipment.3
Meet labeling requirements. Pet food manufacturers who want APHIS European certification must meet strict labeling requirements that include listing all additives, preservatives, antioxidants and color. Labels must include a description of the pet food (complete or complementary) and describe the species for which it is intended (dog, cat or other animal) If the label indicates "complete," the food must be nutritionally complete for one daily serving. The label must be written in the official language of the country in which it's sold.4
Pass quality controls. Suppliers of cereals, meat or fish must be approved by APHIS. Approval is based upon freshness, nutritional quality and digestibility. Quality control at the manufacturing site measure levels of protein and the percentage of fat. Additional quality controls cover hygiene, packaging and storage.