What Is Ethoxyquin and Why Is It Used in Pet Food?

February 8, 2015

Ethoxyquin is a synthetic antioxidant added to food as a preservative.  In human food, it can be found in a few spices and seasonings, such as paprika and chili powder.  The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) controls the amounts of ethoxyquin allowed.

This chemical was created in 1959 by the Monsanto Company.  Ethoxyquin is approved by OSHA and the USDA as a pesticide and is considered a hazardous chemical.  It is also used in making rubber.  Common sense would make one question why it would be used in food.

Manufacturers use Ethoxyquin in pet food to prevent fats from becoming rancid.  Because it is regulated by the FDA, only small amounts are allowed.

How Harmful Is It?

Studies have shown no link between Ethoxyquin and cancer.  However, these studies were funded by Monsanto, its creator, and I wonder how reliable they were.

Ethoxyquin is a controversial ingredient in pet food, because of its link to thyroid and kidney problems.  Even after the animals tested stopped eating Ethoxyquin, the chemical was found in the livers of some of the dogs.

The Environmental Protection Agency said, “Dogs are more susceptible to ethoxyquin toxicity than rats (used in lab testing) with elevated liver enzymes and microscopic findings in the liver occurring at doses as low as 4 mg. of kg per kg (body weight) per day over a 90-day feeding period.  By Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) calculations, 4 mg/kg bodyweight is equivalent to 160 parts per million in food.  It’s possible that long-term ingestion could cause harm.”

Complaints from veterinarians and pet owners included allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure and cancer.

I always caution my readers to avoid fish, fish meal and fish oil in pet food unless it is a named fish.  When fish is caught and processed, it may be preserved with ethoxyquin.  If this occurs before it reaches the manufacturer, the FDA does not require them to list the chemical as an ingredient.  A reputable pet food manufacturer will only use a named fish, fish meal or oil that does not contain ethoxyquin.

The Iams company published a page about ethoxyquin and why they think it is just fine in pet food.  They explain that the chemical “is important in protecting fats and oils from degrading, losing available calories and becoming rancid.”

They state that “the ethoxyquin in Eukanuba Veterinary Diets protects fats, fatty acids, and fat-soluable vitamins, which are necessary for the well-being of dogs and cats.  If these nutrients degraded, the pet’s health may suffer.”   And further add, “the ethoxyquin levels in Eukanuba Veterinary Diets have been proven to be an effective and safe means of preservation.” (www.iams.com/pet-health/dog-article/understanding-ethoxyquin).

That’s all well and good, but there are enough questions about this chemical preservative that warrant caution.  Eukanuba could spend a bit more and use a natural preservative in their pet foods that won’t contain chemicals that could harm a dog or cat.

And that is what it boils down to:  The almighty dollar.  Better pet food companies spend more and cut into their profit margin by using natural preservatives to protect the longevity and shelf life of their products.

Is ethoxyquin safe in pet food?  Because it is approved by the FDA, I’ll let you decide.  I can tell you that my own pets will not be eating a food containing ethoxyquin.


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