Preservatives in Hills Science Plan Dry Cat Food

“Natural preservatives and natural antioxidants” are used in Hills Science Plan LIght Dry Cat Food. What does it mean?

I telephoned Hills in the UK and asked what “natural preservatives and natural antioxidants” means. The lady at customer service said that it referred to high levels of vitamin E and C and mentioned “Tocopherols”.

The natural preservatives in the Hill dry cat food I have mentioned (and probably in other dry cat food products made by Hills) are high levels of vitamin C and E. These act as preservatives at higher than usual levels.

The high level of vitamin E in Hills senior, light, dry cat food is incorporated by adding a type of chemical compound called Tocopherols. They have “vitamin E activity”.  That must mean they are an artificially produced form of vitamin E but they can be described as “vitamin E” as I understand it.

My research indicates that high doses of vitamin E can increase risk of dying in humans. However other sources state there are no side effects from high doses of vitamin E.

As for vitamin C, high levels can, it seems, cause stones in the urinary tract of cats who are predisposed to urinary oxalate stone formation. Cat owners won’t know if their cat is predisposed. As far as I can tell, other than that, vitamin C is OK at high levels ( . However it is not required as a supplement in cat food as the cat can make it themselves (synthesise it) so in this instance it is purely used as a natural preservative.

I can’t find anything in my books that state that overdoses of vitamin E and E cause health problems.

Food preservatives are useful. I sense that the main benefit is for the manufacturer but no doubt consumers also benefit.

Cat food preservatives can be, what I would describe as, nasty chemicals. The ones that constantly come up on the internet are: BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. BHA has the E number E320 and is (butylated hydroxyanisole. BHT is butylated hydroxytoluene. Ethoxyquin is E324 and is also used as a pesticide! That pretty well sums up the chemical.

I’d try and avoid cat food with those preservatives. They can have a potentially damaging impact on cat health. It is tricky to know exactly what is going on. BHT and BHA are also used as preservatives in human food.

Conclusion: As cat food preservatives avoid BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin if possible. Vitamin C and E as “natural” preservatives are OK. However, see a vet about this if you are concerned.

7 thoughts on “Preservatives in Hills Science Plan Dry Cat Food”

  1. I do know that excess vitamin C is converted in the body to oxalic acid one of the main culprits in the formation of kidney stones. Excessive vitamin E in the absence of adequate vitamin C acts as an oxidant rather than the much touted antioxidant. Perhaps the 2 together maintain the therapeutic value of vitamin E but excess C is not so good.
    I use only 2 brands of dry cat food. La Cat from israel uses phosphoric acid and citric acid as preservatives, and also contains cranberries and yucca. Both of these preservatives have been used for many years without any ill effects in both human and pet foods. The other food is Goody from Turkey which I know from experience is very good and if a cat has some food intolerance problems Goody will cure it. What I don’t like is the bland statement EC approved preservatives used. They can be anything at all including the very nasty ethoxyquin. It is all the more important to serve the dry food in the mash that I have suggested on different occasions. If there are any nasty ingredients they are at least diluted with lots of fresh chicken liver, canned food, mackerel, and WATER.
    They used to get Friskies but that caused quite a lot of stomach problems and that was when I lost 2 toms to urinary tract problems. I do not trust the expensive and widely distributed famous brands. They are the ones that figure most in pet food scandals and withdrawals, and although they use cheap and nasty Chinese ingredients they hike up the price like it’s something special.

    • I like your comment (as usual) Harvey. Very interesting. You are in a unique position compared to us in the West, as you can buy Israeli and Turkish cat food.

      Israel seems to have a good reputation regarding cats: they accept feral cats as far as I know (there are lots in Israel), they have banned declawing and the preservatives in their cat food are not harmful. I wonder why they don’t export to the UK?

      Neither do I trust the big companies to be transparent and totally honest about the stuff they put in cat food.

  2. It’s a minefield! It seems that so much is hidden from us nowadays and we are just supposed to accept it without question.
    Good on you Michael for all this research.

    • It is a minefield and to be honest I don’t fully trust the big pet food manufacturers even the spokeswoman on the phone. They make it difficult to figure out what is going on and what is safe. If pet food never goes off at room temperature it is strange and they say Felix wet cat food should be binned after 30 mins. I don’t understand. I have some wet food out right now in a dish that I am testing for a week to see what happens to it.

      • I will be interested in the result Michael.
        We’ve left ‘midnight snacks’ down for our cats for nearly 40 years and I know lots more people who do the same.
        Walter is a messy eater and if we miss some bits he’s knocked on the placemat after we’ve picked the saucers up, they just go to ‘jerky’

        • At the moment, after 2 days at least, it is just drier. There is no sign of it going off. It just desiccates and goes dark brown. I’ll leave the food there for a while longer.

          It just seems strange because foods such as breed and meats go off at room temperature. Anyway, I’ll work on this some more.

  3. The fact that these won’t necessarily be written on the packaging makes it a very uphill battle.

    Can you imagine in this day and age – the age of information availability – that the most obvious and simple information you could possibly want, i.e: what you are putting in your cats body, can’t easily be found. And in the US that stretches to humans as well. In the US packaging for humans doesn’t have to show GM foods. So basically you can’t eat corn without being paranoid that Monsanto is shoving their middle finger right through you. And technically it’s not paranoia, it’s just the US food administration laws put there to ensure the companies that create dangerous food can get away with it. You can’t even eat a tomato over there and be sure it’s ok unless it’s registered organic.

    Back to cats though, I guess in Europe the laws protecting big business’ nefarious agendas with regard to pet food standards are somewhat like the US human standards. Basically you don’t know because it only “may” be on the packaging. In conclusion, being a cat in Europe is like being a human in the US in terms of getting to the bottom of things with regard to ingredients. You just don’t know without a fight and even then you aren’t sure.


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