Preservation Additives in Pet Food

A litter of kittens from the same family eating healthy cat food from a bowl together on the wooden floor of a kitchen

Antimicrobials and antioxidants for safe and healthy pet food

Average read time: 2 minutes

Pet owners rely on pet food companies to provide products that keep their animal friends energized and healthy. Because dry pet food can take weeks or months to get from the processor to the pet bowl companies need to include preservative additives in their products. These additives prevent pet food from spoiling and growing mold, extending its shelf life and improving its safety.

There are two main types of preservatives in the food industry: antimicrobials and antioxidants. Antimicrobials prevent bacteria, molds, and yeasts from growing. Antioxidants, on the other hand, stop or slow the oxidation of fats and lipids, which prevents the food from spoiling. The pet food industry relies on antioxidants more than antimicrobials. Pet food preservatives can also be divided based on whether they are artificial or natural.

Artificial preservatives are synthesized additives used to preserve pet food and other food and nutrition products. Artificial preservatives greatly increase a product's shelf life, making it possible for customers to store it for a time before use. A typical pet food that includes artificial preservatives may last a year or longer.

Some common artificial preservatives used in pet food include:

  • BHT/BHA/TBHQ: Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) are artificial antioxidants used to prevent fats from becoming rancid. They are safe for use up to a maximum concentration of 0.02% in pet foods, cereals, meats, and oils.
  • Ascorbic acid: Ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, finds use as an antioxidant in pet food as well as other food products. This concentration of ascorbic acid and other ascorbate preservatives varies depending on the application.
  • Ethoxyquin: Ethoxyquin is one of the most common artificial preservatives used to prevent spoiling in dry animal food, though many pet owners have started searching for natural alternatives.

Artificial preservatives effectively extend a pet food product's shelf life. However, due to uncertainty about the safety of artificial preservatives, many pet owners have started searching for pet foods that incorporate natural preservatives instead. These additives are derived from organic or naturally occurring ingredients and serve as effective antioxidants, though they do not extend a product's shelf life as much as other preservatives.

Natural preservatives ideal for use in pet foods include the following:

  • Tocopherols: They are heat stable antioxidants used to prevent the rancidity of fats in pet food and oils. Companies can use these natural preservatives up to a 0.06% concentration.
  • Rosemary extract: This plant-based preservative prevents the oxidation of fat in pet food and meat and also serves as an effective measure against bacteria growth.

Contact us to help with choosing the right animal food additives

Preservation additives in pet food help ensure the product is safe and nutritious for the animals your customers care about. You want to choose additives that promote product quality and keep customers happy.

At Brenntag North America Food & Nutrition, we distribute natural and artificial preservatives to customers in the pet food industry.

Simply fill out the form and a Brenntag representative will contact you shortly.