Oct 10, 2012

Plastic Coated Pet Kibble?

This Is just Weird

Hill's Pet Nutrition has announced they are reformulating their pet foods, but don't get too hopeful.  A newly approved patent acquired by Hill's might be adding plastic (low density polyethylene) to pet foods real soon.

From a press release posted on the PetFoodIndustry.com website "Hill’s Pet Nutrition will reformulate its Science Diet dogs and cat foods to add more natural ingredients."  What's interesting, Hill's states they "made the decision to reformulate the Science Diet petfoods because some consumers were making product choices based primarily on a set criteria for ingredients, rather than the overall promise of nutrition and clinical research."  I interpret this statement as 'we are going to reformulate our pet foods based on what will sell, not on the science we've believed in for years.'  

At the same time as this product reformulation, Hill's Pet Nutrition has been provided with a patent for "a composition comprising a physically discrete pet food oral intake composition with a physically stable film..."  

This patent...invention is "a method for increasing the shelf life...or protects the composition from bacterial growth..."  "For example these include a dry pet food comprising kibbles, bits, any other discrete materials, solid treat, supplements and the like, and even "chunks" in a chunk and gravy wet diet assuming the film can be properly applied to the chunk in the food processing and remain stable in the liquid environment of the container."  

Further quotes from the patent (bold added): "The chemical used in coating the pet food is a polymer which should be physically stable during the process of its application and also stable during its lifetime on the pet food composition surface while being subjected to any further processing steps.  Examples of these polymers include zein, casein, starch(es), cellulose(s), gum(s), gelatin, starch/synthetic polymer(s), e.g starch/low density polyethylene, and the like." 

What is low density polyethylene?  From the Polymer Science Learning Center"Polyethylene is the most popular plastic in the world. This is the polymer that makes grocery bags, shampoo bottles, children's toys, and even bullet proof vests."  (Bullet proof pet food?)  Polyethylene with long chains or branched polyethylene - low-density polyethylene - "is cheaper and easier to make."  

Wikipedia states low-density polyethylene "is a thermoplastic."  Low-density polyethylene is commonly used to make plastic bottles, tubing, corrosion-resistant work surfaces, plastic bags...and now perhaps as a coating in pet food.  

Let's go back and look at the quote from the recent Hill's Pet Nutrition press release..."Hill’s Pet Nutrition will reformulate its Science Diet dogs and cat foods to add more natural ingredients."  I don't think low-density polyethylene falls into that natural ingredient category, do you?  

Though this is only a guess, I doubt low-density polyethylene or plastic will be listed within the ingredient panel on the pet food label.  I would guess that the plastic will be considered a processing aid - thus any pet food utilizing this shelf life extender will not be telling you about it.

Thanks to my wonderful friend(s) that sent me information on the patent!  Educating pet food consumers is a team effort, I'm thankful to be part of the team.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
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