You might have heard of this but sometimes pet food is irradiated for various reasons such as killing organisms which cause illness and to extend the shelf life of foods. Irradiation also kills insects. Irradiation is meant to make the food safer. But it seems that the manufacturers don’t really know what it does other than kill these organisms. This is because it seems to produce products i.e. chemicals, within the food which are toxic to cats and dogs. They appear to be carcinogenic chemicals which can harm pets or they affect the nervous system of cats. I’ve also read that irradiation destroys vitamin A which is the reason why only cats become sick when they eat irradiated food. Dogs have the ability to synthesise alone vitamin A but cats can’t. But dogs have become sick too. You see, this is a mess and it needs to be cleared up.
Last week one website, Stuff, reported concerns about imported dried jerky dog treats which have been linked to illness and death in dogs around the world including America and New Zealand. And yet it appears that the regulations regarding the irradiation of pet food are not in place. The overall picture is very muddy because in America the FDA has evaluated the safety of irradiated food for more than 30 years and has found the process to be safe for humans.
So, people don’t really know what is going on. What is worrying is that in New Zealand, for example, there is nothing to stop pet food from being irradiated nor are there any labelling requirements. There is a symbol which indicates ionising radiation (Radura) but its use apparently is not obligatory.
Ironically, if an importer of pet food into New Zealand is meeting their regulatory and legal requirement to ensure that their products are fit for purpose there is no need to declare that they have been irradiated. I say “ironically” because the irradiation process appears to make the food unfit for purpose. There seems to be a big hole in the regulations in New Zealand.
The reason why I say people shouldn’t buy pet food if it has been irradiated is because the consumer doesn’t really know what’s going on. Dr. Nick Cave, a veterinary nutritionist says that irradiation of pet food should be banned. It appears that Australia has banned the irradiation of imported pet food. It was Dr. Georgina Child who made the connection between batches of gamma irradiated cat food and the deaths due to neurological damage of more than 35 cats in Australia in 2009. That appears to be the first time that the authorities and people became aware of the dangers of this process.
I remember a viral new story about jerky dog food killing dogs in large numbers in America and it would seem that it was linked to this irradiation process but the investigation took ages and I forget how it concluded. In the meantime, during the investigation, more dogs were dying. There was an uproar about the attitude of the authorities in dealing with what was a massive dog health problem.
My research indicates that in the UK irradiation is allowed for 7 categories of human food so by implication I will presume that it is not allowed for pet food. My research also indicates that in 2001 the US FDA approved a petition broadening the use of irradiation of animal feeds to include pet foods, treats and chews. At the time of writing this I have not seen anything to counteract that.
It is obvious to me that as a consumer who has researched the matter quite quickly but reasonably thoroughly it is impossible to be reassured that irradiated cat food is safe. I would argue the same applies to dog food. I just don’t see that reassurance from Internet research which is why I’ve said don’t buy the stuff.
Incidentally, I don’t know whether you can irradiate wet cat food. I don’t think you can or you don’t need to. Perhaps they irradiate dry cat food because it’s based upon all the rubbish that’s full of bacteria and so on and therefore it needs to be irradiated to kill these pathogens. Just steer clear of the stuff.
Irradiated pet food has a flower symbol on it known as the Radura. If you see it leave the food on the shelf. But I am not sure it is obligatory to have the label on irradiated pet foods.