Have you looked closely at the label on your pet’s food? Do you ever notice how difficult pet food labels are to understand? It’s like they are written to confuse pet owners deliberately. However, if you don’t know how to interpret a pet food label, you will want to learn because you could be missing valuable information that affects the decisions you make about your pet’s health.
Here’s something you might or might not have noticed on your pet’s food packaging; a little symbol - it is usually green and looks like a circle with its top half dashed and a little flower inside. This harmless-looking symbol is called the radura, and it might be more harmful than you know.
The radura symbol is on the packaging of pet foods, and pet treats to let the consumer know the product has been treated with irradiation. And interestingly, the FDA requires that the symbol be placed on any human food treated with irradiation.
What is Irradiation?
Irradiation, also called “ionizing radiation,” is the deliberate process of exposing food to a carefully controlled amount of electromagnetic radiation.
Ionizing radiation is radiant energy that can break chemical bonds. This means the energy is strong enough to damage living tissue. Ionizing radiation changes the biological molecules, thereby disrupting physiological processes such as reproduction, growth, and decay.
Types of Irradiation Used on Food
There are three types of ionizing radiation that can potentially be used in the food industry:
- Electron beams (machine-generated)
- X-rays (machine-generated)
- Gamma rays (occur naturally from radioactive decay of Cesium 137 or Cobalt 60)
Why Would My Dog’s Food Be Irradiated?
The irradiation process is used to prevent illness. Since the radiation kills living organisms, it is used on pet food to eliminate bacteria, parasites, or Salmonella, all of which have caused food poisoning outbreaks.
The irradiation process also slows down the natural decaying processes in fruits and meats and other foods.
Harmful or Helpful?
Currently, some organizations see food irradiation as a positive way of preserving all types of foods. Some have even argued that this means of food preservation could end world hunger.
Generally, irradiation is helpful to those in the food manufacturing and distributing industries because it is a means of preserving large amounts of food for months or years.
According to the Center for Food Safety, “Food irradiation uses high-energy Gamma rays, electron beams or X-rays to break apart the bacteria and insects that can hide in meat, grains and other foods.”
Would you take your dog for X-rays daily?
Keep in mind that unless you make your dog food and treats, most pet foods are not fresh when your dog eats them.
The mixture forms a dough that is heated under pressure, then pushed through a machine that cuts it into kibbles. Then the kibble is dried, cooled, and coated before it is packaged and sealed. Once sealed, the food bags are then shipped to various locations where they are stored in warehouses until distribution.
Risks of Irradiation
Food safety watchdog organizations tend to be more skeptical about the potential risks of irradiating foods that pets or people will consume.
Food that is exposed to radiation can lose some of its nutritional value. For example, Healthy Dog Treats, based out of Australia, noted that irradiated pork might lose 50 percent of its thiamine. Research done in 2015 showed bread made with irradiated flour lost 17 percent more niacin content than bread made with non-irradiated flour.
The Food Commission, Britain’s independent watchdog on food issues, listed concerns for potential health, safety, and environmental impacts of the irradiation process.
Among the concerns were:
- Creation of dangerous toxins in the foods
- Loss of nutrients
- Potential use of the technology to cover up unhygienic food production
- Risks to worker safety
Dr. Michael W. Fox, a syndicated columnist, believes that irradiated pet food is not entirely toxin-free. Instead, endotoxins are produced by some bacteria before irradiation. Endotoxins, which can cause illness, are not necessarily destroyed by irradiation.
Endotoxins refer to toxins that exist inside bacterial cells and suggest disease there is disease. According to Dr. Fox, these remain in the various animal parts that get recycled into pet foods.
There is not yet enough research available on the long-term effects of irradiated food on pets’ bodies (or on human bodies). However, laboratory animals fed irradiated foods in large doses showed health issues such as tumors, reproductive problems, and premature death.
Until more is known about this process's long-term effects on your pet’s health, why settle for “not bad” food?
Look for dog food and treats that are grown using responsible practices.
Look for products that are organic or 100 percent natural, with no additives or preservatives.
Remember, your dog relies on you to make healthy choices.
By Lauren Lee