Pets Have a Message: Leave the Toxics Out of Our Food Cans

Study finds toxic chemicals hiding in pet food cans.

We all love our furry family members and I don’t mean Uncle Joe with the beard to rival Grizzly Adams. Cats, dogs, and other pets are valued members of our families. So much so, that we as a country spend more than $60 billion per year on pets in an attempt to improve their lives in accordance with our own quality of life. And close to half of the $60 billion is spent on food, with the amount increasing each year.  

Gone are the days when cats fended for themselves in the barn, earning their keep by catching mice or when dogs survived on scavenged meat and leftovers from the garden or kitchen table. Now pet food manufacturers formulate food specifically for pets. And we pet owners read the ingredients on their food packages just as diligently as we do our own. But, there are some ingredients—for both human and pet food—that don’t show up on the labels. Some food can be contaminated with BPA or other chemicals found in food packaging.

In 2016, the Ecology Center released Buyer Beware: Toxic BPA & Regrettable Substitutes in the Linings of Canned Food, a report examining the can linings of almost 200 cans of food. In that study, 67% of the cans contained BPA-based linings and 25% had PVC. Then, as all good pet owners would, we asked ourselves, “What about our pets?”

So the Ecology Center tested 60 cans of cat and dog food collected from pet owners in Michigan. 100% of the tested pet food cans were lined with a BPA-based or PVC-based coating, with BPA epoxy being more common in cans of dog food (85%) and PVC in almost all cat food cans (95%).

The difference in coating types between cat and dog food cans may be related to their different shapes. Dog food cans are usually similar to a can of soup or beans, whereas cat food tends to come in smaller cans, shaped like a can of tuna. The smaller cat food cans are subjected to more stress during the manufacturing process than are the taller dog food cans, and PVC-based coatings can withstand the higher stress, while BPA epoxy cannot.

Unlike human food cans, we didn’t find alternative coatings in pet food cans, such as oleoresin or polyester resin, except in combination with PVC or BPA-based coatings. Unlike pet owners, who want their pet’s lifestyle to equal their own, pet food manufacturers do not seem to prioritize safer can coatings.

BPA is well-known to migrate into food from BPA-based can linings. It is a hormone disruptor that may contribute to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. A recent study from the University of Missouri found that BPA in the bloodstream of pet dogs nearly tripled when they switched to canned dog food. Also, their gut microbes changed in ways that may impact their metabolism.

PVC-based can coatings present health concerns, too. PVC coatings, which often also contain BPA, leach chlorinated BPA derivatives into food. We don’t know how toxic these chemicals are but evidence suggests they are hormone disruptors.

And while we want our pets to have our quality of life; we don’t want them to have our health concerns. We urge pet food manufacturers to take a portion of the profits from this growing industry and assess the packaging materials they are using. We ask that they commit to phasing out BPA-based and PVC-based can coatings and seek safer alternatives.

You can show your furry friend’s support by posting their “shaming” photo about the toxins they are exposed to by pet food manufacturers. Print a sign, take a photo and post on Facebook or Twitter (make sure it’s public) with the hashtags #petsbeware and #healthypets. The Healthy Stuff team will make sure that manufacturers see your pet’s cuteness and shame about toxic pet food.  


Published on June 29, 2017