Putrescine and cadaverine are produced as bacteria devour amino acids inputrefied cadavers, spoiled meat or other decaying proteins.

n the BBC article “The hidden reason processed pet foods are so addictive,”the reporter wrote that two chemicals found in rotting flesh are used aspalatants in pet foods. However, dog and cat food ingredient suppliers refutethis. Enhancing transparency and media relations could help dog and cat foodingredient providers avoid similar media situations in the future.

The BBC reporter quoted an emeritus New York University professor who saidthat many animals we keep as pets naturally eat feces and other items humansfind disgusting. As such, pet food companies face a challenge in creating petfoods foul enough to attract a dog or cat, but not so disgusting that petowners will reject it.

This echoes what Kadri Koppel, Ph.D., professor at Kansas State University,said at Petfood Forum 2017. Pet food characteristics, pets’ reactions andowners’ observations make up a triangle of influences on whether a pet foodsucceeds in the market, she said. Smell, texture, taste and other sensationscan determine if dogs and cats accept or reject a pet food. Similarly, thesensory characteristics of the pet food and its packaging influence petowners’ perception of the food.

Some characteristics that pets may love can disgust their owners. For example,while dogs may be attracted to pungent odors, owners may be unwilling totolerate that stink in their homes, Koppel said. This palatant Catch-22 meansmany pet foods smell less intensely than would be ideal to entice dogs or cat,hence lower levels of palatant chemicals often appear on pet foods than couldhypothetically be used to most attract the animals.

Claims of corpse chemicals in pet food

In the BBC article, the reporter moves from this palatant paradox to writethat these compounds include putrescine and cadaverine. Bacteria produceputrescine and cadaverine as the microbes devour amino acids in putrefiedcadavers, spoiled meat or other decaying proteins, according to the AmericanChemical Society.

“They’re largely responsible for the revolting smell of rotting flesh – andcats love them,” the BBC reporter wrote. “While in human food, their levelsare sometimes closely monitored as a way of ensuring the freshness and safetyof meat, they’re often actively added to cat and dog food, either as offalextracts or lab-made additives.”

The R&D director at a global supplier of pet food palatants refuted this.

“Pet food manufacturers do not add putrescine and cadaverine to improvepalatability,” the source, who wished to remain anonymous, told PetfoodIndustry. “Putrescine and cadaverine are biogenic amines and by-products ofmicrobial metabolism. They are part of the natural degradation of proteins.”

Another pet food ingredient company responded similarly.

“At Diana Pet Food, we do not intentionally add biogenic amines to our productto make them palatable,” Cécile Saint-Paul, marketing, research anddevelopment director at Diana Pet Food wrote in an email

Putrescine and cadaverine potentially could be found in low-quality chicken orpork fat, which subsequently may make their way into equally low-end petfoods, Ryan Yamka, Ph.D., founder of Luna Science and Nutrition and founder ofGuardian Pet Food Co., wrote in an email. However, formulators do notintentionally add them. Instead, palatants typically contain viscera or liverthat is hydrolyzed in the presence of enzymes, sugars and other amino acids.

As opposed to adding putrescine and cadaverine, researchers have developedmeans to measure pet food spoilage using the presence of putrescine,cadaverine, spermine, spermidine, tyramine and similar compounds. Theypublished their results in the Journal of Separation Science. All of thesebiogenic amines have potentially toxic effects in dogs and cats, though bothanimals may have inherited some degree of tolerance for the chemicals fromtheir wild and feral ancestors, according to Kemin Nutrisurance.

“There is a shortage of literature evaluating the precise effect of biogenicamines on dogs and cats due to ethical reasons,” Kemin representatives wroteon their website. “However, studies have shown elevated levels of biogenicamines can cause food poisoning and detrimental effects on palatability andnutrition. Pet food manufacturers should control biogenic amine formation inraw materials and finished products to avoid detrimental effects to the foodor pet consuming it.”

Pet food ingredient supplier media relations

Biogenic amines can hurt pets in high doses, regardless of wolf and wild catgenes. Likewise, believing that pet food contains these chemicals may harmconsumer sentiment. The BBC article may have shaped public opinion aboutpalatants. Pet owners likely don’t want chemicals associated with rottingcorpses in their dog and cat food. Palatants receive little business-to-consumer media coverage, giving the BBC story added importance. As pet ownersincreasingly scrutinize ingredients, topics like palatability may appear inmainstream news coverage more frequently.

The BBC reaches a wide audience of pet owners both in the United Kingdom andaround the world. On the other hand, this business-to-business media articlewill not reach many pet owners. The audience for Petfood Industry isintentionally limited to those working in businesses producing, distributingor marketing companion animal foods and treats. To educate consumers, industryprofessionals can head off concerns by making their companies moretransparent, while monitoring media coverage of pet food. Similarly, unlikePetfood Industry’s reporter and editors, most journalists can’t devote alltheir time to companion animals, so they need ready sources of empiricalinformation from pet food ingredient suppliers. Proactively reaching out tomedia helps pet food industry professionals develop amicable relationshipswith journalists.

Source: Tim Wall, Petfood Industry

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