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Canned pet foods come in two types; those similar to a stew and those with a meatloaf type texture. Which is safer for your pet to consume, the stew type pet food or the meatloaf type pet food?
The answer to these questions have little to do with the gravy or the meatloaf; the answer lies in a little known pet food (and human food) ingredient used to thicken the pet food (make the meatloaf texture). Carrageenan.
What is carrageenan?
Carrageenan is a seaweed extract used to emulsify or thicken foods. There are two types of carrageenan, degraded and undegraded (or food-grade). Degraded carrageenan has the worst reputation of the two. “The International Agency for Research on Cancer recognizes degraded carrageenan as a possible human carcinogen, based on research showing that it leads to higher rates of colon cancer in lab animals.” Though food-grade or undegraded carrageenan is touted as safe (even approved for use in organic foods), a 2005 study showed no sample of food-grade carrageenan could claim to be entirely free of the cancer risk degraded carrageenan.
The risks of carrageenan don’t stop with cancer. Dr. J.K. Tobacman, College of Medicine, University of Iowa is a leading expert on carrageenan. In a paper she states “Review of these data demonstrated that exposure to undegraded as well as to degraded carrageenan was associated with the occurrence of intestinal ulcerations and neoplasms.” In fact, carrageenan is often used on laboratory animals to produce intestinal inflammation, allowing researchers to study the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory medications.
Pet food manufacturers have choices of thickeners, carrageenan is not their only option. Thank goodness not all canned pet foods (meat loaf type) choose to include carrageenan, though those that recognize the risks of this ingredient are few. Pet Owners have choices too. Closely read the ingredient list of your canned pet foods. If you find the ingredient carrageenan, consider a different canned pet food. Carrageenan could be putting your pet at risk for some serious health concerns.