Preservatives used in Pet Foods

Preservatives are used in pet foods to protect the nutrients they contain from oxidative or bacterial damage.

In simple terms, oxidative stress reflects an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the of the body to detoxify their effects.

The extrusion process of dry complete foods helps kill bacteria in the raw ingredients as these foods generally have a low moisture content.

The moisture content in FourFriends is 10%, so as long as the packaging is intact, environmental moisture cannot gain access and so deters most bacteria.

The fat content is the ingredient that requires the most protection. Oxidation of fats in pet foods can cause a loss of caloric concentration, produce off putting odours and change the colour of the kibble. To help prevent oxidation we use natural antioxidants know as tocopherols, Vitamin E and rosemary.

Some pet foods may use artificial preservatives. These are chemical substances that slow down food bacterial contamination and changes in food colour. These could include butylated hydroxyanisole or BHA, butylate hydroxytoluene or BHT, tertiary butylhydroquinone or TBHQ and ethoxyquin. While these substances are much cheaper than natural preservatives, they are questionable alternatives.

  • BHA E320 has been associated with liver diseases and cancer.
  • BHT E321 has been linked to cancer in lab rats.
  • Ethoxyquin E324 is also used in the production of synthetic rubber for tyres. It has been suspended from use by the European Food Safety Authority because it may cause damage to DNA and lead to cell mutation. This is just a suspension and not a ban, so it could return at any time. Ethoxyquin is still widely used outside of the EU so check your brands labels particularly the Typical Analysis. 

Some pet food companies push the boundaries when it come to the terminology used on the ingredients list. Unfortunately, there is room within legislation to add some spin. It is not uncommon to find something like:

  • contains EU permitted antioxidants 

This sounds much better than saying preserved by BHA, BHT or Ethoxyquin

There is no question that a natural preservative is safer and healthier for your pet, but they are more expensive than synthetic antioxidants. It is fascinating when pet food companies advertise their foods are preservative free but fail to give details.                                                       

Extruded foods need preservative to give them the shelf life we require. Check the labels before choosing which brand of food meets your requirements and remember - we only use natural in FourFriends.

We are always happy to discuss this topic at any show we attend, via email or by telephone.

Article by FourFriends Pet Food,