How often do we read the sides of a package? Not often enough, really. Even when we do, can we figure out what some of those ingredients are, or why they are even in the item we’re purchasing?
The science of food processing allows companies to create products that are more attractive to us, making them more commercially successful. Whether it is taste, appearance, texture or smell that is affected, food scientists are there to provide the tools to get us to buy products.
Unfortunately, while these ingredients may make the product more attractive, they don’t necessarily make it better for us, or in the cases I’m about to discuss, better for our pets.
The FDA has a website that lists recalls, both voluntary and enforced. These list out affected products, identifying specific brands/flavours and batches that are at issue. Many times, the dangerous ingredient is not one that is even listed on the package. Or, it can be present in either too high or too low a concentration. There are also websites you can subscribe to that will alert you to recalls as well.
One of the most recent recalls regards propylene glycol in cat treats. Propylene glycol is used in environmentally friendly anti freeze, aircraft de-icing fluid, and is an approved additive for dogs food and treats, where it is used to either carry flavour or preserve moisture content. It is banned for use in cat food and treats because even a small amount can cause a serious condition known as Heinz body anemia. How this banned substance got into the treat, and how the contamination was discovered, we don’t know. Hopefully no pets were lost or harmed.
Propylene glycol is allowed to be used in dog food, though. While dogs can handle this product in small, infrequent doses, the constant exposure from its use in the dogs daily food intake and its treats is worrisome. PG is not the only chemical that is GRAS (generally regarded as safe) for pet foods that you will find listed on the side panel of a food, there are hundreds of others that can be and are used every day. Most of these are not there to make the food more nutritious or safe, but to influence our initial or continued purchase of the product.
There is a simple way to avoid these questionable ingredients. Read the side panel. If there is an ingredient you don’t recognize or that you can’t pronounce, it might not be a product you want to buy. There are so many foods and treats out there that do not contain complex chemical additives, it is easy to make a healthier choice.
Single ingredient treats, like freeze dried beef liver have a simple ingredient panel: “100% beef liver”. There are treats that are air dried, dehydrated, freeze dried, smoked or frozen that do not contain any chemicals, preservatives or added “natural” flavours (you really don’t want to know what can be used under the definition of “natural flavour”, most are far from what you or I would consider natural).
No nutritionist would ever tell you to eat processed, chemically preserved foods. With so many natural options available, lets get past the marketing hype, and “treat” our pets the best we can.