What Are AAFCO’s Safe Food Handling Procedures And Practices?

While it’s essential to know how nutritious your dog’s food is, it is also crucial to make the extra effort to learn the proper procedures and practices of safe food handling. In this article, let’s take a closer look at product handling safety and why it’s important.

What is AAFCO?

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a non-profit organisation made up of municipal, state, and federal organisations responsible for regulating the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal medicine treatments. 

The organisation creates and specifies pet food standards and feed ingredients, as well as nutritional adequacy requirements.

Learn all about AAFCO and what it does for your dog here.

AAFCO product handling safety

When handling any food, including your pet's food, it's critical to observe proper food handling procedures. 

Since virtually any food has the chance of being contaminated with germs like Salmonella or Listeria monocytogenes, it’s wise to follow these practices when feeding your dog.

For storing

Even if you have nutritious food for your dog, you need to understand how to store it correctly to preserve its nutritional content.

Not only is correctly kept dog food healthy for your dog, poorly stored dog food may quickly deteriorate and become rancid, making your dog sick. Here’s AAFCO guideline on storing dog food:

  • Dry pet food should be stored in a cool, dry location in less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 27oC.
  • If feasible, you should try to store the dry food in the original packaging in a clean, dedicated plastic container with a cover.
  • Wet pet food that hasn't been utilised should be refrigerated, or discarded, if not fully eaten up
  • Pets should not be allowed near food storage or processing facilities.
  • Keep the pet food storage away from your dog to ensure it doesn’t snoop and overeat its meals.
dog eating

Photo by Chewy on Unsplash

AAFCO does not have recommendations for storing fresh pet food safely, however they don’t need to. Using the same common sense and hygienic standards as you would use for human food will be appropriate for fresh pet food. 

  • Ensuring product is always frozen and never thaws and refreezes. 
  • A slow thawing from freezer to chiller overnight is always preferred over any rapid thawing techniques. 
  • After food has been out for 30-40 minutes, discard immediately. Never try to refeed fresh pet food that has sat out at room temperature. 
  • Absolutely never refreeze thawed fresh pet food. 

For purchasing

When you’re browsing through pet food to buy for your canine, check to see whether the package has been tampered with. Moreover, you should only buy items that are in good condition. Check that the expiration date is at least 6 months from the date of purchase. This guarantees that your pet's food is fresh and will stay that way as it eats.

For preparation

Here are some tips you can follow when you are preparing your dog’s meal:

  • After handling pet food, pets, or pet excrement, wash hands for 20 seconds with hot water and soap.
  • After each usage, wash pet food bowls, plates, and scoop tools with hot water and soap.
  • Avoid using a pet dish as a food scoop as it is not a good idea.
  • Safely dispose of any old or spoiled pet food items in a tightly sealed plastic bag in a covered garbage bin.
  • Clean your preparation surfaces well. You can do so with bleach.

For feeding

When it comes to feeding or preparing raw meals, it’s more essential to learn how to safely handle them, as cross-contamination can be a headache not only for your dog but for you too.

So, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Frozen raw meat and poultry items should be kept frozen until ready to use, then thawed in the refrigerator or microwave.
  • Raw foods should be kept apart from other foods and food surfaces.
  • Excess food should be covered and refrigerated.
  • If food is not consumed within two hours, it should be discarded.
  • Clean the preparation surfaces well.

Regarding raw or partly cooked meat and poultry retail products, do check for the safe handling label. This explains how to store, prepare, and handle raw meat and poultry items safely at home.

What should you avoid when buying dog food?

Firstly, you should avoid making purchases of salvage or broken-bag items. This is because the original guarantor is no longer liable for what occurs if a pet food bag is broken open. 

Additionally, opened bags may include a mixture of substances that may not meet the nutritional standards of the original components.

You should also try not to overlook the expiration date, especially if the items are on sale. By taking note of the expiration date, you can avoid feeding your canine rancid food.

Besides, it's a good idea to write down the expiration date on your calendar or set a reminder on your phone, so you remember when to stop feeding your dog from that bag.

Lastly, you should always avoid buying items that do not have the proper labelling on them. This is important because you usually get essential information from the packaging, such as the nutrition label. 

Why is product handling safety important?


Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Germs and bacteria can be found in some of these dog meals, even those purchased in shops. These viruses have the potential to make your pets ill. In addition, your family may become sick through handling the contaminated raw food or caring for your pet as germs can spread.

Therefore, it will help both you and your dog be safe and healthy if you learn the proper ways to handle their food.

Proper storage is also right up there with preparation safety in terms of importance. 

We wouldn't leave our leftover food out for any old germs or hands to get into, and we surely wouldn't do the same with our pets' food. So, you can keep your pups’ food fresh and nutritious by correctly storing and caring for it.


By following these easy and safe handling recommendations by AAFCO, you may reduce the chance of your dog getting sick from contaminated food.

Reviewed by: 

Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.