This was a frustrating yet interesting post to write last night.
When I learned that Natura, makers of several respected brands of pet food, were accused of falsely advertising their pet food as “human grade,” I thought, “Why, those liars! Does that mean their food is not good quality afterall?!”
Answer: It doesn’t necessarily mean their food is bad quality. Rather, Natura got in trouble because there is no legal or standardized definition of “human grade” in pet food. So they were sued for false advertising.
And guess what? Many of the other highly respected cat foods have claimed to be human grade as well. (I’m not going to name names–I’m sure they’re scrambling.)
Then my research on this topic led me to other shocking information…Shock #2…
But first, if you’re wondering why I’m so worked up about the contents of cat food, it’s because I lost a feline soul mate to intestinal lymphoma. That’s one cancer that may actually be partially caused by food: The wrong foods for a cat can lead to IBD, which many experts believe may lead to intestinal lymphoma.
And it’s become suspiciously common in cats.
AND I continue to stumble upon new things that could contribute intestinal cancer, including a new one I’ll mention in a moment.
Shock #1 There isn‘t a legal definition of human grade pet food yet
Susan Thixton of TruthAboutPetFood.com has done some great investigating to come to the stunning truth that we don’t really know what foods are human grade because it isn’t defined or regulated for pet food. (Go here to help her petition to change this!)
However, a number of good pet foods, including Natura, have gone ahead claimed “human grade” quality simply because it wasn’t illegal under federal law to do so. In some states though, it is illegal. Hence, Natura was sued in California.
One Happy Exception! Honest Kitchen, makers of dehydrated pet foods, is the one company that can legally claim they are human grade because they were taken to court and fought–they proved themselves good enough for that title. Good for them! Now I just have to try to convince my cats to eat their food again. It didn’t go over well before, but I was more impatient in those days. I didn’t really do my full 6-day switching plan back then. Honest Kitchen cat food has about 9.5% carbs served hydrated. The ideal way to serve it is with some fresh meat, which would lower the carb count.
Shock #2 We should avoid carrageenan now?
Petsumer reports and Susan Thixton led me to this: Carrageenan–long-considered safe and natural because it’s from seaweed–has become suspect in some serious crimes! (It may be that the chemicals used to extract it are the cause.)
Here’s the deal:
- Carrageenan is used in many cat foods and some human ones (hello cheap ice cream!), but it seems the government is mighty slow at heeding the latest research about it.
- Degraded carrageenan, which occurs at high temperatures and acidity, has been associated with ulcerations in the gastro-intestinal tract and gastro-intestinal cancer in animals. Before freaking out about that, do know that we aren’t sure if the carrageenan in pet food has been degraded or not, and one study of various samples of human foods with carrageenan found no degraded carrageenan.
- But, a quick review of several research articles cited by Wikipedia says that, at the very least, even regular (nondegraded) carrageenan looks guilty of suppressing the immune system and inflaming the intestinal lining–which, I might add, is the kind of thing that causes intestinal bowel disease (IBD). Some of my favorite cat food companies don’t seem to have heard about this research on non-degraded carrageenan yet.
And, I’m sorry to say, carrageenan is in most Wellness and Innova Evo canned foods. In fact, it’s in most of the best canned foods!
OK, don’t panic. We don’t know yet exactly what amount in cat food would be scary.
But I, for one, am going to start avoiding it because I don’t want any Bad Stuff ™ in cat food that is eaten regularly over a period of years.
What do we know about how a little affects the gut over time? And may it have been one factor in my Bastet’s intestinal cancer?! (Most of her wet foods had carrageenan and grains, and the dry food had rice.)
So what grain-free canned options do we have without carrageenan?
I am investigating. One great one that doesn’t have carrageenan is Natures Variety Instinct 95%. But then, that has ground flaxseed.
I have been avoiding some good canned brands (like Wellness and Instinct) because they have ground flaxseed and other fussy ingredients. My background as a nutritionist taught me that ground flaxseed oxidizes very quickly. Once flax is oxidized it’s actually bad for you. Plus, I don’t like to see a lot of fussy ingredients, because I believe a cat’s digestion needs simple foods.
Now that I’ve confessed my fear of ground flaxseed to you, I need to get clear about it. Check out both these statements with convincing references currently in Wikipedia:
- “Ground flaxseed can go rancid at room temperature in as little as one week.”
- “Ground flax is remarkably stable to oxidation when stored for nine months at room temperature”
Huh? Well, at this point, I will choose ground flaxseed over carrageenan any day.
Which is exactly why I’m going to try switching to Instinct 95% canned for the canned portion of our cats’ diet.
Note: Just don’t buy the claims that flaxseed gives your animal omega 3s! Cats and dogs cannot convert the alpha-linoleic-acid to EPA and DHA, so they don’t really get omega 3’s from flax oil, as Dr. Jean Hofve explains here. It’s not easy for humans to convert flax oil to EPA/DHA either, so I’m not surprised.
Yes, I’ll be digging deeper, and I’ll be looking at more options, and I’ll be updating my best commercial cat food post, as I intend to do on a regular basis.
What do you think?
I’m interested in your thoughts on all this! I promise to read your comments below this post.