Energy Drinks and many Pet Foods share a common ingredient; synthetic taurine. Possibly of added concern, many pet food companies (and energy drink companies) source taurine from China. Adding one more piece to the puzzle of this pet food supplement, why do some pet foods add taurine and others don’t?
Time and time again, when questions of country of origin of ingredients are sent to a pet food manufacturer, their response to the country of origin of taurine supplement is basically the same; China. I’ve been told countless times, China is the only source for pet food taurine supplement.
Taurine is an amino acid that “occurs naturally in food, especially seafood and meat.” Cats unlike dogs and humans, cannot synthesize taurine (manufacture taurine from other amino acids). Without sufficient taurine in a cats diet, a cat suffers from retina degeneration and can eventually go blind. The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nutritional standards require an adult cat food to contain 0.1% of taurine (daily intake) for dry food and 0.2% for can/wet food. Note: AAFCO nutritional standards do not require a taurine supplement. The regulations require a cat food to contain 0.1% daily intake of taurine for dry foods and 0.2% daily intake for wet foods – how that taurine level is obtained is left to the discretion of the manufacturer.
If taurine is found naturally in seafood and meat, why do some pet foods need a taurine supplement?
Not all pet foods add a taurine supplement. Comparing two extruded cat foods (kibble)…
Nature’s Logic Feline Chicken pet food contains no taurine supplement; however the ‘actual analysis’ of this cat food provided on their website states the food contains 0.16% taurine.
Purina One Beyond cat food ‘Chicken & Whole Oat Meal Recipe’ does contain a taurine supplement (that is listed as ‘taurine’ on the ingredient panel).
Both of these kibble cat foods are chicken based, one adds a taurine supplement and the other does not…why?
Though we are not told directly by the pet food industry, we can safely assume the answer to why some pet foods add taurine and others do not has to do with the actual cooking process of the pet food/pet food ingredients and the quality of the meat ingredients. In the study “Taurine concentrations in animal feed ingredients; cooking influences taurine content” by Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis we learn…
“An important property of taurine is its high water solubility. Most of the taurine contained in tissues will be dissolved into water if exposed. Therefore, how a diet is prepared will affect the taurine that is retained in the food ingredient for consumption by the animal. When an ingredient was constantly surrounded by water during the cooking process, such as in boiling or basting, more taurine was lost. Food preparation methods that minimized water loss, such as baking or frying, had higher rates of taurine retention.”
“There was a significant amount of variability, with respect to taurine concentrations, between similar samples. In particular, liver samples, animals found dead, animal meals and animal digests had broad ranges with respect to taurine concentrations.”
“The variability of the taurine content in the animal meals and animal digests most likely stems from the variety of different animal sources used in their preparation. Therefore, it was not unexpected that the taurine concentration will vary widely. Animal carcasses found along the road also contained a wide range of taurine concentrations. This was most likely due to secondary bacterial contamination. Bacteria destroy taurine, so the longer the animal has been dead, the lower the taurine content of the sample. As the exact time of death and extent of bacterial contamination were not determined in the analysed samples, the amount of taurine measured in each carcass may not have been representative of the taurine content of that animal’s tissues when it was alive.”
From this study we can assume that quality of meat/organ meat pet food ingredients and the method used to prepare/cook the pet food ingredient/pet food plays a significant role in if a taurine supplement is required. We can assume that pet foods that use high quality ingredients free of bacteria, and processes the ingredient/pet food to retain natural taurine content have no need to add a taurine supplement.
Speculation of ingredient quality and cooking method effecting the need for a taurine supplement aside, if a pet food contains a taurine supplement – how is the taurine made? Why is China the source for taurine supplement in pet foods?
From Wikipedia.org “Synthetic taurine is obtained from isethionic acid (2-hydroxyethanesulfonic acid), which in turn is obtained from the reaction of ethylene oxide with aqueous sodium bisulfite. Another approach is the reaction of aziridine with sulfurous acid. This leads directly to taurine.
In 1993, approximately 5,000–6,000 tons of taurine were produced for commercial purposes; 50% for pet food manufacture, 50% in pharmaceutical applications. As of 2010, China alone has more than 40 manufacturers of taurine. Most of these enterprises employ the ethanolamine method to produce a total annual production of about 3,000 tons.”
While there is no science to show that synthetic taurine is a risk to pets, the following does give insight to the benefit of natural taurine…(bold added)
“There is very little information available about taurine, said principal investigator Yu Chen, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU School of Medicine, part of NYU Langone Medical Center. While there have been some animal studies that indicate taurine may be beneficial to cardiovascular disease, this is the first published prospective study to look at serum taurine and CHD in humans, she explained. “Our findings were very interesting. Taurine, at least in its natural form, does seem to have a significant protective effect in women with high cholesterol.”
In addition, she explained, it is unclear whether synthetic taurine as an additive in food and drink products will have the same benefit observed in this study, and health effects of these products should be investigated separately. “We studied taurine found in the blood that originated from natural sources,” Dr. Chen said. “The nutrient being added to energy drinks or supplements is man-made and is added in unstudied amounts. These products also often contain not only very high amounts of taurine, but a multitude of other ingredients as well – such as caffeine and ginseng – that may influence CHD risk.”
Though caffeine appears to be the significant risk in energy drinks, the addition of synthetic taurine to these drinks seems to be of concern as well. “After several states made moves to ban Four Loko (energy drink), it was reformulated to remove the caffeine and two other ingredients, guarana and taurine.”
It appears the best source of taurine for your pet is natural – sourced from fish and meat. Check the ingredient list of your pet food, if your pet food lists the ingredient taurine call the manufacturer and ask…
1. What is the country of origin of the taurine supplement?
2. How is the taurine supplement made? Is it synthetic?
As well, if you supplement your home prepared pet food with taurine, ask the same questions above of the supplement manufacturer.
If the answer to question number one is China, we can safely assume the supplement is synthetic. And, more than likely, a pet food customer service representative will have little knowledge if the taurine supplement is natural or synthetic. But please, make the attempt to get the information – be an informed petsumer. Asking questions forces pet food manufacturing to become more transparent.
From the information provided by the manufacturer or if the manufacturer does not properly answer your questions, you can then make an informed decision about the pet food (whether you trust this food to feed your pet).
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
Is your dog or cat eating risk ingredients? Chinese imports? Petsumer Report tells the ‘rest of the story’ on over 2500 cat foods, dog foods, and pet treats. 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee. www.PetsumerReport.com
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