Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chemicals in pet food Part 3: Colorful, yet not so pretty after all

Today’s comment is a further installment on my thoughts about unhealthy pet food ingredients, which I started with Chemicals in pet food can lead to bad behavior, says top vet in part 1 and continued with Chemicals in pet food Part 2: Marketing campaign indicates: Unhealthy, chemically enhanced pet nutrition is here to stay

There are many chemicals added to commercial pet foods to improve taste, stability, characteristics or appearance of the food. Typically they don’t provide any nutritional value at all. They include emulsifiers to prevent water and fat from separating, antioxidants to prevent fat from turning rancid, and artificial colors and flavors to make the product more attractive to consumers and more palatable to their companion animals. Notice that I said “make the food more attractive to consumers”. Reminds me of when I see these great pictures advertising kibble in all kinds of beautiful colors. You know which ones I mean. Just yesterday, while grocery shopping I noticed them again. Kibble in a rainbow mix of yellow, blue, red, green. It’s awesome. And for 22 bucks, can’t beat that, that’s less than half of what the 30 lbs bag runs at our store. Eye catching and attractive too. In addition 50% less in price also comes with only less than 10% of the value compared to the good quality bag. What a bargain! Now if just my dogs and cats would care more about the colors, wouldn’t this be great? However, unfortunately science has already determined: Cats have the ability to distinguish between blues and greens. Their ability to see shades of red is limited. Dogs are able to differentiate between blue and violet. Between reds, yellows, and greens? Forget it. Bottom line is, there is no scientific evidence to prove that dogs or cats prefer a food or treat of any particular color. (See also: “Pets can’t see colors, why dye their foods?” by Susan Thixton). By the way, neither do our pets care too much about whether their kibble is star, bone or heart shaped. Though they are by now a little spoiled: They will refuse any kind of what they perecive as harmful food. So why are dyes being added? To make us people believe we are buying healthy pet food rich in content. To make pet owners believe they are spending there money for something great for their animals. Looking at color enhanced food just will entice us to buy the bag. After all, that is how manufacturers of mass marketed pet food would like to have it (and do have it still at too high of a rate). It works, many consumers don’t know better and fall for the simple trick.
Now, these manufacturers may tell you that their decision is based on research. I can’t help it but the only research I can think of they would be talking about is marketing research and research on how to trick people into making wrong decisions and adding to the profits Wallstreet is expecting. Although, there are indications that even their marketing research may not be up to date: According to the
Feingold Association, an organization dedicated to promote old fashioned nutrition combined with modern convenience but without the dangers of chemical ingredients, claims on its website:
“It is likely that in a very short time, there will be few, if any, "certified" petroleum derived food dyes left. Fortunately, products such as Dannon Yogurt ("No artificial anything"), General Foods' Cheerios (no Yellow 5 as in the past), and many other foods without artificial colors have shown, by their extraordinary success, that we can all do very well without these dyes.”
Scientifc research on dyes clearly tells a not so great story about these dyes being used in food: Many common food dyes are related to behavior problems in children. I could not locate any documented scientific research helping to link food dyes used in many mass marketed pet foods to behavioral problems in pets. However, I would assume that once the results of such research become available they will be not too much different than the ones from 3 decades worth of research on humans and children. Don’t believe me? Just see what
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says on it’s home page:
“Important new research has shown that commonly used food dyes, such as Yellow 5, Red 40, and six others, are linked to hyperactivity, impulsivity, learning difficulties, and Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder in many children. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of these dyes, many of which are already being phased out in Europe.
These dyes, petrochemicals mostly, are often used to simulate the presence of healthy, colorful fruits and vegetables. But considering the adverse impact of these chemicals on children, and considering how easily they can be replaced with colorings derived from real food ingredients, it’s time to get rid of them altogether.”
The Feingold Association asks: “What do strawberry Jello, orange Koolaid, raspberry soda, grape popsicles, much candy and baked goods, most brands of ice cream, maraschino cherries, many snack foods, and most pet food have in common? They are laced with millions of pounds of artificial coal-tar based dyes with names such as Red 3, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40. Each year, Americans eat (as food dyes), swallow (as pill coatings or medicinal syrups) or rub on themselves (as cosmetics) 6.4 million pounds of these 7 dyes, mostly in food. (That was in 1985. In 2005, Americans consumed more than 17.8 million pounds of these dyes.) Four of these food dyes (Red 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 2) which make up over half of the food dyes used each year have been shown to cause cancer as have other dyes which are not used in food but are used in drugs or cosmetics.”
In a press release CSPI also shows that a little governmental pressure could change things, like it did in Europe. Just take a look at this:

In its related article, CSPI writes:
“Brits Get Treats, Americans Get Tricks From Food Companies, Says Nutrition Action HealthletterPumpkin, Annatto, & Strawberry Color Foods There, Synthetic Petrochemicals Fill In Here
WASHINGTON—British consumers enjoy products made by General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft and McDonald's that are free of synthetic food dyes, but American customers lack such royal treatment, according to the
October issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter. Despite evidence linking food dyes to hyperactivity and other behavior problems in children, companies continue to use the controversial dyes in American product lines while substituting natural colorings in the United Kingdom.
In the U.K., Fanta orange soda gets its bright color from pumpkin and carrot extract, but in the U.S. it comes from Red 40 and Yellow 6. Starburst Chews and Skittles, which are both Mars products, also contain synthetic food dyes in the U.S. but not in the U.K. Similarly, in the U.S., McDonald’s strawberry sundaes are colored with Red 40 but, amazing as it might sound, real strawberries in the U.K.
"British candy has all the sugar of American candy, and it’s certainly not health food," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action’s publisher. "But as Halloween approaches, it's a shame that American kids trick-or-treat for candy dyed with discredited chemicals while British families have many of the same foods, minus the dyes."
Americans consume five times as much food dye as they did 30 years ago, according to data from the Food and Drug Administration. But in the wake of
two British studies that found food dyes (and possibly the preservative sodium benzoate) impair the behavior of many children, the British government pressured companies to switch to safer, natural colorings and the European Parliament approved a warning label for foods that still contain the dyes.“

So here we go, I am not the only one who is complaining and concerned. Now many of you readers may say, well, the above said applies to humans and has little to do with animals. Right you are about the fact that above said is based on the impact the harmful stuff has on the human body and well being. Wrong you are with that it has little to do with animals. Our companion animals are affected in the same way we humans are. In pandemic dimensions, more than half of our companion animal population is stricken with one or another disease. Among the experts, there is little doubt that this progressive and degenerative illness has its roots in today’s modern feeding practices involving highly processed, chemically “enhanced” food. Only a fool would believe it to be different. To say:”…after all, it’s just a dog or cat” doesn’t sit to well with me.

And if that still makes you wonder, my friend Sabine Contreras of The Dog Food Project states on her site under “Ingredients to avoid”: “Coloring Agents:
Blue 2 (artificial color)
The color additive FD&C Blue No. 2 is principally the disodium salt of 2-(1,3-dihydro-3-oxo-5-sulfo-2H-indol-2-ylidene)- 2,3-dihydro-3-oxo-1H-indole-5-sulfonic acid with smaller amounts of the disodium salt of 2-(1,3-dihydro-3-oxo-7-sulfo-2H-indol-2-ylidene)-2,3-dihydro-3-oxo-1H-indole-5-sulfonic acid and the sodium salt of 2-(1,3-dihydro-3-oxo-2H-indol-2-ylidene)-2,3-dihydro-3-oxo-1H-indole-5-sulfonic acid. Additionally, FD&C Blue No. 2 is obtained by heating indigo (or indigo paste) in the presence of sulfuric acid. The color additive is isolated and subjected to purification procedures. The indigo (or indigo paste) used above is manufactured by the fusion of N-phenylglycine (prepared from aniline and formaldehyde) in a molten mixture of sodamide and sodium and potassium hydroxides under ammonia pressure. The indigo is isolated and subjected to purification procedures prior to sulfonation.
The largest study suggested, but did not prove, that this dye caused brain tumors in male mice. The FDA concluded that there is "reasonable certainty of no harm", but personally I'd rather avoid this ingredient and err on the side of caution.
Red 40 (artificial color)
The color additive FD&C Red No. 40 is principally the disodium salt of 6-hydroxy-5-[(2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonic acid.
The most widely used food dye. While this is one of the most-tested food dyes, the key mouse tests were flawed and inconclusive. An FDA review committee acknowledged problems, but said evidence of harm was not "consistent" or "substantial." Like other dyes, Red 40 is used mainly in junk foods. Personally I'd rather avoid this ingredient and err on the side of caution.
Titanium Dioxide:

A white powder, TiO2, used as an exceptionally opaque white pigment and dough conditioner.
Non toxic but an unnecessary ingredient that could just as well be left out.
Yellow 5 (artificial color)
The color additive FD&C Yellow No. 5 is principally the trisodium salt of 4,5-dihydro-5-oxo-1-(4-sulfophenyl)-4- [4-sulfophenyl-azo]-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxylic acid (CAS Reg. No. 1934-21- 0). To manufacture the additive, 4-amino-benzenesulfonic acid is diazotized using hydrochloric acid and sodium nitrite. The diazo compound is coupled with 4,5-dihydro-5-oxo-1-(4-sulfophenyl)-1H-pyrazole-3-carboxylic acid or with the methyl ester, the ethyl ester, or a salt of this carboxylic acid. The resulting dye is purified and isolated as the sodium salt.
The second most widely used coloring can cause mild allergic reactions, primarily in aspirin-sensitive persons.
Yellow 6 (artificial color) The color additive FD&C Yellow No. 6 is principally the disodium salt of 6-hydroxy-5-[(4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2-naphthalenesulfonic acid (CAS Reg. No. 2783-94-0). The trisodium salt of 3-hydroxy-4-[(4- sulfophenyl)azo]-2,7-naphthalenedisulfonic acid may be added in small amounts. The color additive is manufactured by diazotizing 4-aminobenzenesulfonic acid using hydrochloric acid and sodium nitrite or sulfuric acid and sodium nitrite. The diazo compound is coupled with 6-hydroxy-2-naphthalene-sulfonic acid. The dye is isolated as the sodium salt and dried. The trisodium salt of 3-hydroxy-4-[(4-sulfophenyl)azo]-2,7-naphthalenedisulfonic acid which may be blended with the principal color is prepared in the same manner except the diazo benzenesulfonic acid is coupled with 3-hydroxy-2,7-naphthalenedisulfonic acid.
Industry-sponsored animal tests indicated that this dye, the third most widely used, causes tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney. In addition, small amounts of several carcinogens contaminate Yellow 6. However, the FDA reviewed those data and found reasons to conclude that Yellow 6 does not pose a significant cancer risk to humans. Yellow 6 may also cause occasional allergic reactions. Another ingredient I would rather avoid and err on the side of caution rather than risking my pet's health. “

I told you so… .Stay tuned for more on the subject of unhealthy pet food ingredients to follow soon.

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