Do Vegetables and Grains in Pet Foods Contribute to Cancer?
As if we don’t have enough to worry about, now we have a new concern (sorry) with pet food. Acrylamide; a chemical that can form in some foods during cooking is linked to cancer in laboratory studies of animals. Cooking temperature and cooking time play a role in levels of acrylamide in food.
Several attentive pet owners have alerted me to the warnings a few pet food companies have posted regarding potatoes in pet food. These pet food companies seem to be warning pet owners about the use of potatoes as a pet food ingredient (used by their competitors) and the link to acrylamide in potatoes. So…is this true? Are potatoes a risk ingredient? What is acrylamide?
The FDA states acrylamide is a chemical that can form in some foods during high temperature cooking such as frying, roasting, and baking. The same acrylamide is produced industrially for use in plastics, grouts, and cosmetics. Acrylamide was first detected in foods in April 2002.
Acrylamide caused cancer in animals in studies; the animals were exposed to very high doses. “FDA has not yet determined the exact public health impact, if any, of acrylamide from the much lower levels found in foods.” It does not appear that any research to date gives us a clear understanding of how much acrylamide is too much (for humans or pets).
Acrylamide is found mainly in foods made from plants, such as potato products, grain products, or coffee; it does not form, or forms at much lower levels in dairy, meat, and/or fish. Raw plant based foods or foods cooked by steaming or boiling do not contain acrylamide (or very low levels). The acrylamide levels are not altered by organic farming methods. The key to keeping levels of acrylamide low in foods seems to be the cooking temperature and cooking time.
The FDA states that certain potato products (such as French fries and potato chips), coffee, and foods made of grains are “larger sources of acrylamide in the diet.” However again, the cooking method and/or cooking time causes the highest acrylamide formation. From the FDA website see the pictures below.
Lightly cooked fries and Crispy (browner) cooked fries
Lightly toasted bread and dark toasted bread
The FDA suggest cooking cut potato products such as French fries to a golden color rather than a darker golden brown; and toasting bread to a light brown color rather than a dark brown color. Both of the lighter cooked foods would contain lower amounts of acrylamide. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FoodContaminantsAdulteration/ChemicalContaminants/Acrylamide/ucm151000.htm
Now you know why there could be a concern with pet foods; some are cooked briefly at low temperatures, others are cooked at higher temperatures for longer periods of time. Many (if not all) pet foods contain potatoes, grains, and other vegetable ingredients that could produce acrylamide during cooking. Although we still don’t know how much is too much with acrylamide (with pets or people), I felt it wouldn’t hurt to know the cooking temperature and times of pet foods. Not only would cooking time and temperature effect acrylamide levels, it is proven that the lesser cooked foods provide higher nutritional values. However gaining the cooking time and cooking temperature information from pet food has not been easy; to no surprise, many pet foods companies are not cooperating.
Below are the responses that I have received over the past week from pet food companies (in no particular order). I/we (secret shoppers) have emailed every pet food company reviewed in Petsumer. All of those that responded ‘proprietary’ have been emailed again asking why cooking time and temperature would be considered proprietary information (to no avail).
Can for 50 minutes at 220 degrees internal temp gets to 190
Kibble baked (not extruded) for 15 minutes at 220 degrees F internal temp gets to 190
Kibble 90 degrees for a minimum of ten minutes
Kibble 90 degrees for approximately two minutes
Dry 220 to 250 for a few seconds; canned cooked from raw state for about 45 minutes at 275F
Meats and eggs are dehydrated above 120F and our vegetables, fruits, herbs and grains are dehydrated below 104F.
Blue Seal Pet Food
“some of this information is proprietary”; wet foods are processed at 160 degrees F.
Loyall Pet Food
“We cannot divulge the patent pending information on our Opticook process at this time.”
Kibble is cooked at 212 degrees F for around 15 seconds.
Kibble temperature is a minimum of 180 degrees F for 55 seconds to 1 minute 45 seconds. The product is then transferred to the dryer for 18-23 minutes at temperatures ranging from 200 to 280 degrees.Canning 15-20 minutes at 210F; will vary depending on the product being canned.
Science DietThe dry pet foods are heated to about 194°F (90° C) during the cooking-extrusion process (would not reveal cooking time for dry food) and canned foods are heated to about 248°F (120°C) for at least 20-30 minutes.
The heat varies from 100 degrees Celsius to 138 degrees Celsius (212 F to 280 F) between cooking and drying phases and the time varies from 2 to 4 minutes during cooking and 5 to 15 minutes during drying.
Our dry foods are cooked for 50 seconds at 255 degrees.
Checking on canned
Depending which formula, it is cooked in accordance with USDA-APHIS requirements to reach: 70C for at least 30 minutes; 75C for at least 5 minutes; or 80C for at least 1 minute. These measures are required to insure that the foods are cooked through which aids in preventing the formation of harmful bacteria.
(Innova, California Naturals, Evo)
Thank you for contacting Natura Pet Products. The exact temperature and how long our foods are cooked are proprietary.
Canned diets are cooked at 247 F for 70 minutes. Our dry, extruded diets are cooked at 180 degrees F for seven seconds.
(Kibbles & Bits, Meow Mix, Nature’s Recipe)
Specific cooking times and temperatures is considered proprietary information and we are not able to give it out.
(manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods)
Our dry food is produced by a process called extrusion. The ingredients
are mixed with water and steam in a machine (extruder) that applies enough heat (240-300 degrees) and pressure to cook the ingredients. The pieces (kibble) are sent through a dryer to lower the moisture to between 8 and 10%. The cans are processed for a minimum of 80 minutes at a temperature of 250 degrees “F” (minimum).
Please understand that the information you requested is considered to be confidential and we are unable to share it at this time.
Our dry pet food is extruded around 210 degrees, and the extrusion process takes around 3 to 4 minutes the product is then moved to the drying process where it bakes at an average of 250 degrees for around 30 minutes. Can Pet Food cooking temperature is about 250 degrees, with approximately a 104 minute cook time, to both cook the food within the can and to achieve sterility.
Companies not listed above have not responded.
Canned pet food ingredients are cooked inside the can; there are required cooking times for safety reasons. Thus they are all fairly similar. Kibble is another story.
From the information provided above, the lowest cooking temperature for a kibble is 70 degrees F, the highest is 300 degrees. Cooking time varies from seven seconds to over 20 minutes (including drying).
There is no research providing pet owners the acrylamide levels in pet foods; we do not know how much is too much. The only assumption we can make is the same as with people food, the lower the cooking temperature and the lower the cooking time would lower the acrylamide level and in turn probably lower the risk of cancer. The significant difference between human food and pet food would be, many pets could be subjected to acrylamide every single day with each meal; versus humans with only occasional consumption of foods containing acrylamide.
As for the pet food companies that are warning pet owners of acrylamide in potato ingredient pet foods of their competitors, I’d have to ask them if they have tested their own foods for acrylamide? Because acrylamide forms during SOME cooking processes, simply because a pet food (or treat) contains a potato ingredient does not guarantee high levels of the chemical. I am not protecting or endorsing a potato ingredient in pet foods or treats (or grain ingredients), I simply don’t like cheap tricks used to scare pet owners. Some of these same pet food companies that are warning pet owners of acrylamide with potato ingredients, (some of) their own foods contain grain ingredients which could produce the same levels of the chemical. Not fair.
So, where does this leave you? Just like everything else in pet food (and human food) there are many slight differences that could add up to something significant. Cooking time and cooking temperature of pet foods is one of those ‘slight differences’. Until science gives us more information, my suggestion is to add one more piece of information to your list when deciding on a pet food; the new piece of information to consider is cooking time and temperature. The briefer cooked foods and/or pet foods cooked at lower temperatures not only lowers the acrylamide levels your pet would be subjected to, but it as well provides them with more nutrition. If a pet food company refuses to provide you with this information, well…that’s your decision if you are willing to trust them to properly cook the food.
And as for us pet owners, avoid the dark crispy French fries, cut down on your coffee, and only eat lightly toasted bread!
For more information on acrylamide visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/FoodContaminantsAdulteration/ChemicalContaminants/Acrylamide/ucm151000.htm
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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