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Sneaking Artificial Ingredients into “Natural” Products

February 6, 2011
Picture of homemade spices and ingredients

Pet Food Ingredients?

Food Label Ingredients

Food Label Requirements

Food labels are required to list the ingredients the company put into the contents, listed in order by volume.  Wheat, corn, soy, chicken, eggs, etc.  If an ingredient, like “cheese,” is composed of several sub-ingredients – like milk, whey, cultures, sugar – the label is not required by law to tell you the component ingredients of an ingredient.  Many companies will just list “cheese” as the ingredient.  Some companies will put the sub-components of the cheese in parenthesis and reveal to the consumer what these component ingredients are.

What Does a Parenthesis Mean?

Other times, parenthesis mean the manufacturer has made the label for an either/or situation, rather than subcomponents.  It is expensive to submit a label for the approval process, and it is expensive to always use the same oils (it’s usually oils) for manufacturing, so the companies are allowed to give the consumer a short list of what might be in the container.

Example: All Natural Salad Dressing Label

Ingredients: Expeller-pressed Vegetable Oil (canola, sunflower, and/or soy), Apple Cider Vinegar, Soy Sauce (water, soybean, wheat, salt), Water, Expeller-pressed Sesame Oil, Sesame Seeds, Shitake Mushroom, Xanthan Gum.

In this example, the first parenthesis indicates different oils that might be in the bottle.  If they are all okay with you, then you can eat this dressing.  If one of the ingredients disagrees with you, for example of you are allergic to sunflower oil, then you should avoid this product because this particular batch might contain sunflower.

The second parenthesis lists the ingredients of the soy sauce.  This product definitely contains those ingredients.

What Are “Natural Flavors?”

The public does not know.  Doc Truli does not know, exactly. VirtuaCat’s food contains “natural flavors” on the label.  No one in the public may know what these ingredients are.  Doc presumes they are distilled, enhanced, selected, extracted, super-amazing versions of flavors found in nature that make your cat want to eat the food.  Who knows?

What Are “Spices?”

We all know about cinnamon, cumin, tarragon and the usual litany of spices.  But “spices” on a food label might mean something different you never considered.

Labels may group certain ingredients into terms like “spices,” for the sake of protecting a secret company recipe or unique taste.  Few people realize, “Spices” may be a cover for hiding “MSG” – monosodium glutamate.  MSG enhances flavors and makes things taste really good.  It also causes headaches, muscle aches, and debilitating symptoms in some people.  Doc Truli personally avoids MSG whenever possible.  There was no example label of anything in the cupboard containing “spices.”

Artificial Preservatives

Many health conscious people know that artificial preservatives cause cancer in laboratory mice and rats.  Many, many of these preservatives that are banned by countries around the world, are legal in the United States. Food companies know that a savvy consumer will not knowingly buy products containing artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin and others.

There’s a glaring loophole that allows food companies to preserve food for longer shelf-lives and therefore, more profitability

Manufacturers may, legally, put the BHA and BHT, and other preservatives in the packaging.  The preservatives migrate and penetrate into the food.  This is legal.  This is how it’s done!  Most breakfast cereal companies and many ice-cream companies use this strategy with their “all natural” products.

Is All Food Bad?

Not at all!  Every decision of what you eat or what your pet eats is a balancing decision.  Pros, cons, availability, palatability.  The more information you have, the more freedom you have.

VirtuaCat eats Prescription food from a huge multinational company. There are natural flavors. There are artificial vitamins. He won’t touch wet food.  He “cat” egorically will not eat fresh food raw, cooked, or otherwise.  So much for the knowledge and information being out into action.  He’s fifteen and healthy (as far as modern medicine can tell.)

Do the best you can.  Re-evaluate as you learn and grow.  This is not a once-and-done kind of project, but on ongoing choice of what you consider healthiest for yourself and your pets.

Next, VirtuaVet tells you about a tour of a US pet food manufacturing plant. Stay tuned!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. angel permalink
    November 5, 2011 7:17 pm

    I worried when I saw “Spices”on a label because that might mean Oregano which I have an allergy to! But I don’t do MSG Either. Thanks for the tip.

    • November 6, 2011 11:06 am

      To be clear- it could mean any spices, including the oregano you avoid. “MSG” is one of the spices they know you do not want, so they hide under the general term.

  2. February 15, 2011 11:35 am

    Thanks for this great information on pet food. One of the things I dislike is when they put artificial color in pet food, especially in cat food. My cat is prone to hairball problems. If she coughed up after eating food with artificial color it would stain the carbet. I doubt the cat cares what color the food is. It would be better for the companies to leave it out.

    • February 16, 2011 8:24 am

      The coloring really proves that the humans buy the food, so the food is designed to have shelf appeal to the humans. You are correct, artificial coloring increases the pet’s risk of disease, and adds nothing to their pleasure.

      We call bright red dog feces (not diarrhea, just very brick red, but normal consistency) “Alpo” poop. It’s that distinctive. (I don’t even know if it is artificial, but it sure makes the poop brick red!)

  3. Mindy permalink
    February 7, 2011 12:45 am

    Thank you so much for writing this series of articles on pet food. You have no idea how much you have put my mind at ease about “doing the right thing” for my cats! My best defense in life has always been gaining as much knowledge as I can so I can make informed decisions. I’m much better equipped to make informed decisions for my girls now, as well as feeling better that those decisions are the right ones for both my girls and myself!


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