MANUFACTURED DOG & CAT FOODS: IS
THERE POISON IN THE CAN?
Dr. Michael W. Fox*
There is increasing concern over
the inclusion of an
additive called carrageenan, a seaweed-derived natural product that acts as a
binder, thickening agent, and as a
stabilizer in many processed human foods and beverages and canned cat
and dog foods. While manufacturers and government agencies who have approved
this additive still insist that it should be generally regarded as safe, there
is increasing research evidence from controlled studies on laboratory-tested
animals that it is not: and affirming evidence in support of these findings
from the clinical improvement in cats and dogs suffering from various digestive
and intestinal problems when given diets that do not contain carrageenan.
An article in a pet food industry
publication by Greg
Aldrich, PhD (1) noted that “The soluble fiber in canned foods from sources
such as carrageenan may account for part of the reason that cats need more
taurine in canned foods. The theory is that increased taurine degradation by
intestinal flora occurs due to greater fermentation as more soluble fiber (of
which carrageenan would qualify) reaches the colon (Anantharaman-Barr et al,
contains chemicals that may decrease stomach and intestinal secretions. Large
amounts of carrageenan seem to pull water into the intestine, and this may
explain why it has been used as a laxative. J.K.Tobacman MD (3) in her review
of 45 publicly funded studies concludes that "the potential role of
carrageenan in the development of gastrointestinal malignancy and inflammatory
bowel disease requires careful reconsideration of the advisability of its
continued use as a food additive."[
Kanneganti et al (4) note that "the role
of both CGN [carrageenan] and dCGN [degraded carrageenan] as carcinogens still
remains controversial”. Jean Hofve DVM
(5 ) in her review of this issue highlights this research that has shown
induces the body to produce a cytokine (messenger molecule) called tumor
necrosis factor alpha (TNF-⍺).
This molecule stimulates inflammation
and promotes apoptosis (cell death). She emphasizes that “These
counterbalancing functions help maintain the equilibrium of the immune system,
and play an important role in defending an organism's system from invading
pathogenic organisms such as bacteria. However, TNF-⍺ is
thought to be a causal factor in many chronic inflammatory diseases, such as
asthma and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), autoimmune diseases, and—despite
its hopeful-sounding name—cancer”.
Heat, digestive enzymes, acid, and bacteria can convert high-weight
carrageenans to dangerous poligeenans in the human (and presumably animal) gut.
The feline stomach environment is extremely acidic; could this make carrageenan
especially dangerous for the animals? Could carrageenan be a factor in IBD,
food intolerance, and the skyrocketing rates of cancer and diabetes in cats?”
I would say most
probably, and to err on the side of caution, all cat (and dog) food
manufacturers should immediately stop using this and other questionable gums in
their canned pet foods.
Institute’s detailed review, (6) provides sufficient documentation to convince
consumers and government regulatory agencies that for health reasons,
carrageenan should be removed from all consumables.
More and more pet
food manufacturers do not use carrageenan in their formulas. These include
Wysong, Nature's Variety, Verus Foods (for dogs) and Mulligan Stew.
Susan Thixton (personal communication) writes, “ Also there are non-canned but
moist foods like Honest Kitchen, Just Food for Dogs, FreshFetch (not to be
confused with FreshPet), Frenchy's Kitchen, Buddy's Kitchen (Canada), Evermore
and Lucky Dog Cuisine. All of these foods use human quality/grade ingredients
as well - and most are manufactured in human food facilities (following every
letter of the law of food regulations).”
Some companies such as Solid Gold include carrageenan in some but not
all of their canned pet foods.
The relatively low concentration
of carrageenan in canned
pet foods does not mean that it should be regarded as generally safe for most
animals. As I advise avoiding GMO-containing pet foods, (corn, soy, beet,
canola ) as a precautionary measure, I would apply this same principle to all
cat and dog foods containing carrageenan. This additive does not improve
palatability, the inclusion being to make the processed ingredients more
palatable-looking (nice and juicy with gooey gravy) to the pet owner/caregiver.
Until it is phased out by manufacturers, and while acknowledging that many dogs
and cats adapt to such additives, I am concerned that it may cause impaired
nutrient uptake harmful especially to young and old animals and be a
significant factor in the rising incidence of inflammatory bowel disease,
chronic diarrhea, dysbiosis and various digestive and other related health
problems, including allergies and skin disorders in the cat and dog populations
across the U.S., and in other countries where the multinational pet food
industry markets its carrageenan-infused canned cat and dog foods.
- Greg Adlrich
Release Date: 12/8/2008
PETFOODINDUSTRY.COM Carrageenan: for appearance's sake only?
What is this quiet, unassuming ingredient, and should it be there?
- G.Anantharaman-Barr et al (1994) Excretion
and taurine Status in Cats fed Canned and Dry Diets. Journal of Nutrition
- Tobacman JK (2001) Review of harmful gastrointestinal
effects of carrageenan in animal experiments.Environ Health Perspect 109(10):983-9
- Kanneganti, M., Mino-Kenudson, M., &
Mizoguchi, E. (2011). Animal models of colitis-associated carcinogenesis.
BioMed Research International, 2011
- Jean Hofve (2013) (Is This Sneaky Ingredient
Sickening Your Pet?
| Rodale News www.rodalenews.com/carrageenan-pet-food)
- Cornucopia Institute (2013) How a Natural
Food Additive is Making
Us Sick (March )
carrageenan-free cat foods is also available, see Carrageenan-free
cat food list -
Fox BVetMed, PhD, DSc, MRCVS Veterinarian, bioethicist, syndicated newspaper
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