In “Romeo and Juliet” Shakespeare famously wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” indicating that the name of a thing does not alter its essence. While this is a true statement, it is obvious that Shakespeare had not encountered any ingredient or flavoring specialists and witnessed the devious tactics some of them employ. Sadly, attempts to hide ingredients and confuse customers are common practices in the food industry. Today I want to discuss two serious labeling cautions for you to be aware of and avoid.
Where is Xylitol?
Did you know that the fairly common ingredient, xylitol, is a deadly poison to canines? You should never find this ingredient on your dog food label; however, xylitol may be found in other products you use (it is not harmful to humans), and these products should be strictly forbidden for your dogs. Sugar-free foods are often sweetened with xylitol so never give those to Fido, even if he needs to lose a pound or two. Sweetened yogurts may also contain xylitol, so if you include yogurt in your dog’s diet make sure it is plain, whole-milk and organic. Peanut butter and ice cream often include xylitol in their recipes. Check the labels on vitamins you are adding to Fido’s diet. Yes, some contain xylitol. Other sources of this deadly ingredient can be found in toothpaste, mouthwash, nasal sprays, deodorants and some makeup products to name a few. Check personal care items for xylitol and do not leave them accessible for your pets to grab and chew.
Other Names & Hidden Xylitol
Looking for xylitol on food labels sounds simple, right? Sorry to say, it’s not that easy because xylitol has other names that you need to be aware of, and under those names it is just as deadly. Xylitol can also be called: birch sugar, sucre de bouleau, the European code E967, Meso-Xylitol, Xlitol, Xylite, and Xylo-pentane-1,2,3,4,5. If any of these ingredients are listed on items you feed to your dogs, stop using them immediately. Xylitol can cause liver failure and dangerous drops in your dog’s blood sugar leading to death.
Another labelling red flag is the term “natural flavor.” Listening to a Harvard professor lecturing on flavoring agents, I was shocked when he unequivocally stated, “One thing you can be sure of when you see ‘natural flavor’ on a package is that it is not ‘natural.’” He then went on to explain how there are over 2000 GRAS* (Generally Regarded as Safe) ingredients, that can all be added to products under the “natural flavor” phrase. Many of these ingredients are ones health-minded pet owners want to avoid both for themselves and for their pets. And while “natural flavor” sounds better than “artificial flavor” there is actually very little difference between the two as both are highly synthesized, laboratory produced substances with little or no relationship to the natural products from which they were derived.
The problem for the consumer is we don’t know whether the “natural flavor” listed on a bag of dog or cat food is an unhealthy flavoring ingredient or an innocuous flavoring ingredient such as recaptured steam from boiling meats. As careful consumers, we do not want mystery ingredients in our pet foods or in our own. And if your pet has allergies, you should always shun the “natural flavor” phrase since you have no way of knowing which one of the 2000 “natural flavor” ingredients are in that particular product. Beware, it could be one that is deadly to your pet.
Transparency in labeling is a goal all food manufacturers should strive to achieve. Vague terms such as “natural flavor” and potentially harmful ingredients such as xylitol have no place on a product’s bag and certainly no place in your pet’s food bowl!
Northwest Naturals Raw Pet Food
Here at Northwest Naturals we invite you to read our ingredients list with a critical eye. We do not include either of the ingredients mentioned in this article nor to we include any fillers, binders or unnatural ingredients. Eighty percent of our product ingredients for the dog food recipes are muscle meat, organ meat and finely ground bone. Eighteen-and one-half percent of the recipe is locally sourced vegetables and fruit, and the remaining one-and one-half percent is natural, non-synthetic vitamins and minerals to ensure each bag of food you purchase for your dog provides a complete and balanced diet.
Our feline diet is even simpler: ninety-eight percent is muscle meat, organ meat and finely ground bone and two percent is natural, non-synthetic vitamins added to make sure your cat has a complete and balanced diet at every meal.
I urge you to carefully check your pet’s food label. Please understand what you are feeding your pet for a long and healthy lifetime with your best friend.
By Carol Kendig