By Stacey J Nelson Ph.D.
For many centuries, specific ingredients have served a beneficial purpose in helping to preserve a variety of food for pets, and people. The use of salt was a very common ingredient to preserve fish, meat, and poultry. Herbs and spices have also been used to improve the flavor of foods. Many people have preserved fruits with sugar, and pickled cucumbers in a vinegar solution.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a list of over 3000 ingredients in it’s data base of numerous ingredients added to various types of food in the USA. You might want to research the names of the numerous ingredients used as fillers, by-products, and bulking agents in various foods and products. I encourage everyone to research and study the names of various synthetic preservatives and additives, so when you go shopping for products, you can quickly identify the undesirable ingredients you wish to avoid. I discovered that there are enough natural alternative ingredients to use in our day to day diets for ourselves, family members including our 4 legged family members.
The most common synthetic preservatives are BHT , BHA and Ethoxyquin. BHT and BHA are also used to stabilize rubber products, like tires, to keep them supple, and as herbicides. These are also effective preservatives and keep dog and cat kibble and treats from spoiling almost indefinitely. Natural preservatives now found in better pet foods are Antioxidents like vitamin E (usually listed as “Mixed Tocopherols”), Vitamin C, and Rosemary extract. I have discovered that other spices and herbs can be used to help preserve foods, such as the use of Cinnamon and Rosemary, Thyme, Tarragon, Cilantro, Dill, Chives, Salt, Anhydrous Citric Acid, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Vanilla, and Yeast.
Ice Cream Lovers have also discovered ingredients used in preserving ice cream can include the same chemical used in Anti-Freeze for our automobiles. I cannot say enough regarding the importance of reading labels, and deciding what ingredients you believe are unhealthy or toxic. Discover alternative ingredients that can produce the same outcome and beneficial results but using healthier preservatives.
BHT and BHA are known carcinogens. However, the FDA allows for low levels of these synthetic preservatives in both pet and human food and they are generally thought of as safe, in small amounts. Ethoxyquin, while widely used, is thought of being unhealthy, but is still being studied.
Some research has shown that it may compromise liver function in dogs and in 1997 the FDA recommended that the allowed limit in pet foods be lowered. Some feel that the standards are still too lax and ethoxyquin should not be used at all. It is in very limited use in human foods.
People do not eat food laced with ethoxyquin, BHT and BHA at every meal, unlike kibble- fed dogs and cats, and this has raised concerns.
Preservatives are necessary in commercial pet foods, primarily to prevent the fats from turning rancid and to inhibit mold growth. Synthetic preservatives have been used for many years, but concerns about the potential harm in feeding chemical preservatives with every meal have encouraged the pet food industry to turn to more natural preservatives. Additionally, many companies use Glycerine as a preservative, which might help to preserve the food or treats, and also softens the item. However, many dogs and cats have been shown to have developed allergic reactions to glycerine.
The term “Preservatives” refers to the functional name for a wide variety of compounds that help slow or prevent bacterial growth in a wide range of products, including foods for pets and people, medicines, and personal care products. These compounds can be natural or synthetic. Preservatives play important roles in many products people use everyday for themselves and for their pets. Preservatives help prevent the growth of harmful microorganisms and protect products from spoilage or contamination. Many products need time and temperature control for safety, to avoid spoilage, contamination and or toxin production.
MOISTURE CONTROL – is very important for Microorganisms need water in an available form to grow in food products for pets and people. The control of the moisture content in foods is one of the oldest exploited preservation strategies, and continues to be studied to avoid contamination and spoilage.