Preservatives are just one kind of additive used in pet food. Consumers alarmed by nutritional gossip and hearsay may elect to avoid feeding “additives” to their pets for the same reasons they avoid these compounds in their own foods. Consumers wanting to avoid “additives” as a generic group are often not well informed on the types or benefits of pet food additives and the possible negative consequences of not using these compounds in foods.
Additives such as flavorings, colorings, binders, and emulsifiers in pet foods are the same as those approved for use in human foods (21 CFR 573). In the USA, no additive may be used in foods unless and until the FDA has been convinced that the additive is safe at the intended level of use in the intended food using thorough scientific evidence. The FDA usually requires at least 2-year feeding tests in two different species of animals to reveal short-term and long-term effects.
The additives presently used in both human and pet foods are on the “generally regarded as safe” list (GRAS; 21 CFR 582), and if there is an indication of harmful effects, the compound is removed from both human and pet foods. Propylene glycol, for example, has been removed from the GRAS list for cats.
Pet owners interested in additive-free products must first specifically identify which additive (intentional vs. unintentional) they wish to avoid. There are commercially available products that do not contain artificial colors, flavors, or synthetic preservatives, and with some discussion, an acceptable commercially prepared product or homemade diet usually can be found.