Truth in Pet Food labeling: Whats for dinner? Raw Diets, grain free & food allergy are not the only issues!

TRUTH IN PET-FOOD LABELING: WHAT’S FOR “DINNER” ?  Part 1: raw diets, grain-free & food allergy

 A product’s name, often fanciful and descriptive, can be a key factor in a consumer’s decision to buy a specific product.  Raw diets are trending now among many pet owners.  These diets are surrounded by controversy, including discussions regarding contamination with dangerous bacteria (E.coli, salmonella sp., etc.).  They have no place in the use of elimination diet trials for allergy.  Consider this simple fact.  Uncooked foods will typically have a higher tendency to induce allergies than cooked diets!  There are certainly other trending  food topics as well such as “grain free”.   Oftentimes, pet-food labels can be misleading by conjuring a specific mental image.  Canine Skin Solutions blog highlights some of these terms and names in this 3-part series.

 

1.  Label listing of ingredients: remember, ingredients are listed in order of predominance by weight before processing.

 

2.  Grain- Free

Don’t be fooled.  Many supposed grain-free diets have simply changed the terminology to fool the consumer.  For example, “Zea Mays” is actually corn.  Rice proteins can be detected in diets where no rice is listed on the label.  “Grain-free” is the current trend in dog food discussions.  It is NOT as important as you may have been led to believe! Grain allergies are very uncommon in the dog.  Pet food companies have capitalized on the consumer’s current obsession with grain-free diets.

 

3.  Alert for food allergy patients

Commercial “OTC” diets, including boutique diets, may contain “contamination” from common known food allergens: soy, poultry, or beef even though the ingredients are not listed on the package.  The use of these diets cannot be recommended for elimination diet trials for identification of food allergies in the dog!  ELISA testing for common food antigens in four dry over the counter venison diets for dogs. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. 2010 (Raditic, Remillard, Tater: MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center) Three out of four diets tested had contaminated proteins.

In light of the problem with insuring the avoidance of specific proteins and components in the diet during a food trial to identify allergy, veterinary dermatologist often rely on home-cooked limited ingredient diets or hydrolyzed diets.  Food components must be a certain molecular weight to function as an allergen.  The diets are thus hydrolyzed (broken down to a very small molecular weight) so that they are incapable of causing allergy. These diets are then fed exclusively for a minimum of 2 months.

 

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TRUTH IN PET-FOOD LABELING: WHAT’S FOR “DINNER” ?  Part 2

 

A product’s name, often fanciful and descriptive, can be a key factor in a consumer’s decision to buy a specific product.  Oftentimes, pet-food labels can be misleading by conjuring a specific mental image.  Canine Skin Solutions blog highlights some of these terms and names. 

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DINNERS, ENTREES, PLATTERS, NUGGETS & FORMULAS

The single listed ingredient (typically chicken, beef, lamb, etc.) must comprise at least 25% of the food based on pre-processed weight. Remember, most of the meat proteins are water and will weigh much less after processing.  So…..a Chicken Dinner must have at least 25% chicken in the food before processing. 

The named ingredient (Beef Dinner) may not always be the primary ingredient! For example, a Beef Dinner may also contain chicken and sometimes even more chicken than beef!  The consumer must read the ingredient list rather than front label, especially if trying to avoid a specific food in an allergic pet!!!

If two ingredients are listed, such as Chicken and Rice Dinner, then the sum of the two must reach 25%.  So…..chicken could be 15% and rice could be 10%.

 “WITH” 

If a named ingredient is preceded by the word “with” then that ingredient need only comprise 3% of the food.  For example, Chicken with Salmon Dinner need only have 3% of salmon in the food!

 

“FLAVOR”

If a food lists a specific flavor, there is no % required.  The diet need have only enough to be detectable.  For example, Adult Formula with Beef Flavor may contain no beef at all!  It may get a detectable flavor of beef from animal or beef digest.

 

“Gravies, Sauces, Aspics, Gels”

These terms do not really pertain to an ingredient but more to moisture content. By AAFCO standards, a food cannot contain more than 78% moisture.  But, if the term gravy is added to the label, then the diet can contain 85% or even higher water by weight.  Using the term gravy sounds appetizing but, in fact, it means you might have less nutritional value in the diet.

 

UNLEASH YOUR DOG’S HEALTHY SKIN

TRUTH IN PET-FOOD LABELING: WHAT’S FOR “DINNER” ?   Part 3:  AAFCO

A food product’s name, often fanciful and descriptive, can be a key factor in a consumer’s decision to buy a specific product.  Oftentimes, pet-food labels can be misleading by conjuring a specific mental image that may not hold true.

 *AAFCO’s (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nutritional adequacy seal will assure the buyer that the food has been tested for guaranteed analysis, nutritional adequacy from field testing in animals…not just a laboratory…..feeding directions and caloric statements. 

Check the label for “Animal Feeding Tests” vs “Formulated” (in the laboratory).

With the emergence of many boutique and raw food products on the market, evaluating the diet for nutritional content and safety is more important than ever.  

 

Warning:  AAFCO does not regulate websites or in-store literature. Frequently, claims made on company websites do not follow AAFCO standards.  Many pet food companies have not done the necessary testing to guarantee nutritional support or even safety!

AAFCO Statements to look for on the label …….

Tested by feeding trials:  “AAFCO feeding trials substantiate that this product…” meets all the standards for nutrient levels and further, has been fed to animals and successfully met the criteria for passage of an AAFCO trial.

                              OR

Formulated diets:  Foods that state “product X has been formulated to meet……” have not been fed to animals, but rather, have been formulated in the laboratory based on chemical analysis to meet AAFCO standards.  

Note: Laboratory formulation is not always a problem but animal feeding tests can detect unforeseen problems.  Case in point:  An Australian company, in search of a novel protein for food allergy trials, produced a camel- based diet.  It was “formulated” to meet nutrient guidelines but was not put through feeding trials.  Several pets developed severe liver failure after ingesting the diet.  It was found that the diet contained a hepatotoxic metabolite (indospicine) of the Indigofera plant.  Camels that foraged on that plant had the toxin stored in their muscle tissue.  A feeding trial would have uncovered this toxin and averted tragedy. 

 

Visit www.HealthySkin4Dogs.com for additional information and helpful links on the topic of pet-food labeling.  Stay informed and keep your pet healthy!

 

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