Do Chemicals and Additives Provide Nutritional Value to Pet Food?
Common ingredients such as salt, vinegar, sugar & spices, garlic, rosemary, etc., are all preservatives (anti-oxidants & bactericides / fungicides). We also extend the shelf life of human foods through common techniques like cooking, drying, salting & syruping (sugar & brine). We use Colourants extensively in our homes including annatto for yellow cheese; curcumin; cochineal etc. and our foods are enhanced with flavours such as mint; lemon; lime; vanilla; cocoa; coffee; etc. With such a rich heritage of preserved and flavoured human foods, it is no wonder we seek to enrich the lives of our companion animals in the same way!
Processed food needs to be protected and stabilised to maintain its freshness and nutrition profile. Stabilisers and emulsifiers abound in biscuits, bread and tinned foods. Preservatives are used in everything from chocolates to processed meats, in fresh and frozen. Flavourants are contained in healthy foods like yoghurt as well as in snack foods. When mould inhibitors such as citric acid and sodium ascorbate, which act as preservatives, fail or have been left out by the manufacturer, your cheese or bread may become mouldy. Most foods have a best-before-date, so the manufacturer cannot be held responsible for these factors or failures, if you eat the food after this date. Stabilisers, emulsifiers, preservatives and flavourants are added at levels calculated to keep processed food fresh and uncompromised until the expected time of consumption. This is true in manufacturing for people and pets.
Pet foods need protection to ensure they taste fresh and remain nutritious before the best-before-date. As with bread, biscuits and cakes, dry dog food is a mix of vegetable products, animal products and fat all of which require various stabilisers, preservatives and flavourants.
Consider the ingredients list on a packet of biscuits: Raising Agents (Acid Sodium Pyrophosphate, Sodium bicarbonate), Colourants (E150c, E160a, E127, E163), Emulsifiers (E32 Soya), E476), Citric Acid (a preservative and mould inhibitor), Flavourant (Artificial, Nature Identical), Vegetable oil (with Antioxidant (no indication of which one)), Sodium Ascorbate (also a preservative and mould inhibitor), Flour Improver (Sodium Metabisulphite, another preservative). And we have not even considered the MSG, Sodium Sulphite, Sodium benzoate or Benxoic Acid, etc included in many processed foods enjoyed by consumers.
As with processed food for humans, dry dog and cat food needs preservatives and additives to retain its goodness until the best-before-date. The difference is that pet food is better!
What processed food purchased by consumers can claim to be balanced and complete so that a measured helping will supply all the nutrition the consumer needs? Dry dog and cat foods can! Certain specialist products such as babies formula milk replacements are balanced and capable of supplying complete nutrition. They are the only labels that come close to a dry pet food label.
Old bread and cheese moulds illustrate that we are in constant contact with moulds and their spores, which are one of the most stable organisms on earth. In fact, moulds (fungi) taken from the mummies in the tombs of the pyramids in Egypt have the same genetic structure as their counterparts in the world today. We eat moulds such as mushrooms! It is not surprising that both human and animal food needs protection against unwanted moulds. Mistakes do happen but responsible companies would withdraw a product and compensate inconvenienced consumers.
Todays hot health topic is the importance of eating anti-oxidant supplying substances to remove free radicals circulating in our systems. Poor eating habits, stress, exposure to pollution and other causes, generate free radicals, and so consumers are encouraged to increase their anti-oxidant intake. The same applies to pets. Some pet foods have anti-oxidising substances added, such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, beta-carotene and selenium to assist in free radical reduction in the pet, thus reducing free radical damage in the pets body. To be effective some substances, such as Vitamin E, require very high levels to be added.
Fats go rancid and become bad tasting when fat is oxidized. Anti-oxidants that are added to human and pet food such as BHA, BHT, mixed tocopherols, ascorbic acid etc. prevent this process. Anti-oxidants are therefore essential in all processed food for both people and pets, specifically where there are large amounts of fat (note the labels for both human and pet food). To protect the fat being used, start by treating the fat source, so it can bring anti-oxidants and their supportive action into the food.
The Registrar of Act 36 has never permitted Ethoxyquinn, an old-fashioned anti-oxidant, to be used as a direct pet food anti-oxidant.
The Technical Advisor to the Registrar, who is responsible for approving pet food formulations, may only approve additives and preservatives that are listed by the Department of Health as suitable for inclusion in processed foods for human consumption. These levels are controlled and limited to below human foods additions, since pets should only be eating dog food, whereas a human will not survive solely on one food containing the additive.
The Registrar of Act 36 also ensures that all pet food sold in South Africa has a minimum level of nutrition (i.e. one that is complete and balanced), and that whatever is claimed on the packaging, is inside the bag, and above all, that the food sold is entirely safe.
By Barry Hundley, Executive Director: Pet Food Industry (PFI) Association