Every cat food or dog food will say it is complete nutrition for your pet. Indeed the standards for pet food nutritional requirements in many countries is quite low, so low in fact that some pet foods use ingredients that would never be allowed into the human food chain. One of these ingredients is Ethoxyquin.
Ethoxyquin may, or may not, be on the label of the pet food that it is used in. It is used to preserve “by-products”, and legally is considered to be part of the by-product, and as such many pet foods do not list Ethoxyquin on their label. In other cases it is used to preserve animal fat, and as the manufacturer did not add the Ethoxyquin they do not have to list it, however pet foods that claim ingredients as Only Human Grade Ingredients, will not contain Ethoxyquin.
Ethoxyquin is a chemical pesticide, in most countries it is not accepted to be used in human foods, and indeed there are many concerns regarding its use in cat and dog foods. It has been shown to cause death in fish, and has been speculated to be linked to health problems in cats and dogs, including liver problems.
In 1997 the United States Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine launched a study. The results were never published or made public, however it did result in a request that pet foods reduce the use of Ethoxyquin from 150 parts per million to 75 ppm. (source – Wikipedia) This is 300 times higher than the permitted residue in beef or pork to be consumed by humans.
In 1956 an Interview took place between Monsanto (makers of Ethoxyquin) and Dr. Lehman of the US FDA, who said if pressed he would have to rule that Ethoxyquin is “harmful and deleterious” and that no amount of retesting would convince him otherwise. This was reported in the January/February issues of Natural Pet Magazine, 1994.
Indeed one study done by Monsanto saw 67 pups born during 5 years, of which 32 puppies died, an extremely high mortality rate.
The Chemical Toxicology of Commercial Products lists Ethoxyquin as a 3 on a scale of on a scale of 1 to 6 where 6 is so toxic that fewer than 7 drops would be fatal. It indicates concerns about depression, convulsions, coma, death, skin, or liver damage.
Many sites list Ethoxyquin as a carcinogen, used commonly as a rubber preservative. Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown, DMV, state in their book “The Holistic Guide to a Healthy Dog” that the addition of Ethoxyquin in dog foods caused a rise in reported incidence of sterility, deformities in pups, periodontal disease, precancerous lesions of the liver, kidney, and bladder, as well as vaccination failure, and an increase in cataracts.
Some American made cat and dog foods continue to use Ethoxyquin, including some formulas of Hill’s Science Diet, Purina, Iams, Royal Canin, Nutro, and Eukanuba (and well as others). As a cheap preservative it is also generally found in the less expensive pet foods.
Ethoxyquin may also be used in some grains and livestock feeds. Of course these animals are typically slaughtered before problems arise from continued eating of this food, but at least one concerned owner, Sibylle Faye, and her veterinarian, had concerns that her lovebird suffered problems and died from the results of eating food preserved with Ethoxyquin.
When we talk about the use of Ethoxyquin in livestock food in the USA, it can be used as a grain preservative, but must not be used for longer than two years. So why is it allowed in pet food?
To find a good pet food one must be willing to read the ingredient list, avoid Ethoxyquin, EQ, or anything that could potentially be preserved with Ethoxyquin. Foods should be listed as containing Human Grade Ingredients Only. Vitamin E, (Tocopherols) is a safe, but expensive preservative. Be aware that BHT and BHA are also low quality preservatives linked to many health problems, however they must be listed on an ingredient bag, where as Ethoxyquin can be hidden.
Article first published on Factoidz/Knoji in 2010