Propylene Glycol in Wet Cat Food

Propylene glycol is a multi-purpose chemical. One of its uses is as a food additive. It is a ‘desiccant’ (creates dryness) in some wet cat foods. I am not sure why manufacturers want to make wet food dryer. Apparently it keeps food moist! There is no indication that it has been banned at July 2012. It is approved for dog food and is added to some human food.

Certainly it was used in 1992 to varying levels of concentration in wet cat food.

It has a food additive number (E number): E 1520. (and/or E 490? in ‘feed’)

Tests by Cornell University showed that it can cause an abnormality in red blood cells of cats at certain concentrations. The cat’s bone marrow produced more than the usual number of red blood cells to compensate for the loss die to the reduced lifespan of the cat’s red blood cells.

Propylene glycol can be harmful to cats at concentrations found in commercial cat food (12%) – as at 1992 (source: Medical, Genetic & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats). Have things changed? Is it still used in cat food?

As at 2012, it is still approved for dog food but apparently it is toxic to dogs and can kill dogs. This comes from the veterinarians.

Apparently, currently it is prohibited for use in cat food under 21 CFR 582.1666 (this appears to be a FDA, GRAS reference – “generally recognized as safe”). “Most cat food producers stopped using propylene glycol in 1992″¹

If most cat food manufacturers have stopped using it are there some who are still using it? The problem here is that it is considered safe for humans and dogs by the FDA but not the vets. This is a grey area and we know that manufacturers tend to push their luck on ingredients of pet food for commercial reasons.

It is being phased out as a ‘feed’ additive. I presume ‘feed’ means food for livestock. There is certainly a certain amount of opaqueness surrounding the use of this chemical.

If propylene glycol is used in cat food it is breach of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.


Check cat and dog food, particularly dog food ingredients. I know it is tiresome but the occasional check may be in order.

Can someone shed some light on this subject?


  1. American Chemistry Council
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