Since 1990, the State of California has listed BHA as a possible carcinogen. BHT is also banned in many countries. There are several other preservatives that are still added to different pet food and in this post, I have listed all the toxic preservatives that you should know.
A study found that sales of dog food increased by 5.1% between 2015 and 2020. The increase was attributed to rising in raw-frozen and freeze-dried foods being introduced to the market which utilize preservatives to increase the shelf life.
What are pet food preservatives?
Preservatives are added to pet food for different reasons. The most common reason is to extend the shelf-life of the product from around 1 month to over 6 months. Other reasons include preventing spoilage, rancidity, and discoloration.
The shelf life of pet food can be extended by using different preservatives. The most common preservatives used in pet food are BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin.
BHA and BHT are the most commonly used preservatives in pet food. They have been used for decades and are known to be effective at extending the shelf life of products.
BHA and BHT are banned in many countries because they are considered to be carcinogenic. However, they are still allowed in the United States.
Understanding oxidation and the role of antioxidants/preservatives
Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen reacts with other molecules. This reaction can cause changes in the structure of the molecule, which can lead to the formation of free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to disease. Antioxidants are compounds that can prevent or slow the oxidation of other molecules.
Common synthetic preservatives such as BHA and BHT are antioxidants. They work by preventing the oxidation of fats and oils. This process can extend the shelf life of products by preventing rancidity.
When BHA and BHT are used in pet food, they can cause health problems in dogs. These compounds have been linked to cancer, liver disease, and thyroid problems.
6 Toxic pet food preservatives to be aware of
There are two main types of preservatives: natural and synthetic. Natural preservatives include antioxidants like Vitamin E and C. Synthetic preservatives include BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin.
BHA is a synthetic preservative that is used to extend the shelf life of pet food. It is considered to be carcinogenic and is banned in many countries. The Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed (FEEDAP) considered BHA up to 150 mg/kg complete feed as safe for all animal species except for cats.
According to this report, Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a waxy solid consisting for > 98.5% of the active substance. It is insoluble in water but soluble in alcohols and oils.
Abbreviation for butylated hydroxytoluene, a synthetic compound used as a food preservative and antioxidant. It is insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents. BHT is used to prevent oxidation of fats and oils and to extend the shelf life of products.
Propylene glycol is another controversial additive used in some commercial dog foods to help maintain their moisture content. It’s a synthetic liquid that is used as a food additive and also found in some medicines, cosmetics, and tobacco products.
While the FDA has classified propylene glycol as “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food, it is considered toxic to dogs. Ingesting large amounts of propylene glycol can cause liver damage, kidney failure, and seizures.
Ethoxyquin is a synthetic fat preservative/antioxidant that is used to extend the shelf life of pet food. In a 2002 memo, FDA described ethoxyquin as”may be safely used in animal feeds, when incorporated therein in accordance with the prescribed conditions” listed here.
Feeding trials in dogs have shown that ethoxyquin is bioavailable and accumulates in tissues.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set the maximum level of ethoxyquin in pet food at 150 ppm.
Tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is a synthetic antioxidant that is used to extend the shelf life of pet food. It is considered to be safe for human consumption, but it can be toxic to dogs.
Ingesting large amounts of TBHQ can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. It can also cause liver and kidney damage.
The FDA has set the maximum level of TBHQ in pet food at 0.1%.
Propyl gallate is a synthetic antioxidant that has been linked to xenoestrogens, a type of hormone that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.
Xenoestrogens are known to cause cancer and other health problems. Propyl gallate has also been linked to liver damage and skin irritation.
Benefits of preservatives
The most common benefit of preservatives is that they extend the shelf life of products. This is especially important for pet food because it helps to ensure that the food remains fresh and nutritious for longer periods of time.
Another benefit of preservatives is that they can prevent spoilage. This is important for products that are exposed to air, light, or heat.
Finally, preservatives can prevent rancidity. Rancidity is the process of fats and oils going bad. This can happen when products are stored for long periods of time or exposed to air, light, or heat.
Drawbacks of preservatives
The most common drawback of preservatives is that they can be toxic. BHA and BHT are banned in many countries because they are considered to be carcinogenic.
Another drawback of preservatives is that they can cause allergic reactions. This is especially true for synthetic preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin.
What to be aware of
When buying pet food, it is important to check the label for preservatives. BHA and BHT are banned in many countries, so it is important to make sure that the pet food you are buying does not contain these preservatives.
It is also important to be aware of the potential side effects of preservatives. Allergic reactions are the most common side effect, so it is important to make sure that you are not allergic to any of the preservatives used in the pet food you are buying.
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Hi there! My name is Ben Domb, an owner of two pets and I am one of the co-founders of OurPets HQ. I have several years of experience as a pet care professional in the New England region having spent time in various roles including a stint at a veterinary hospital in Upstate New York, Syracuse area. I am a certified pet care professional and mostly spend my time researching pet nutrition and sharing my thoughts in various blogs and columns. With quarantine and COVID restrictions, I have been spending a lot of time a lot with my dogs and cat and loving it! I also run a small consulting business providing advice to parents on pet nutrition, and especially safe homemade options to try. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org