Are colorings in commercial cat food products safe?

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Yes…and no. As long as the colorings are edible—and there are some colorings that occur naturally in food, such as beets and carrots—they won’t be toxic.

On the other hand, food coloring is listed as one of the top nine food allergens for felines. Food colorings have also been linked to headaches, digestive and behavior problems and even some cancers.

It’s important to understand that colorings, even though basically safe, do not do a thing to increase nutrition or safety. They are only added to make a food visually attractive and, quite honestly, many of the less expensive brands use them. Actually, inexpensive cat foods are a false economy, since a cat will eat as much as she needs to get the nutrients she requires—that means a cat might eat twice as much of that generously-carbohydrate-filled store brand to get the nutrients she needs in a normal feeding of premium food. That means she can consume even more of the bad stuff, leading to medical problems in the long-term.

What’s the best thing to do? Learn to read labels and learn what and what not to avoid.

What you want to see:
• Compliance with the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) requirements for a “complete and balanced” meal.
• A named protein source such as chicken, beef, lamb or fish, as opposed to something vague, like “chicken meal.”
• On canned food particularly, the named meat listed as the first ingredient.
• Expiration dates to be checked for freshness.
What you don’t want to see:
• Words such as “by-products,” “meat and/or bone meal,” “animal digest,” most other descriptions including “digest” or added sugars.
• Chemical preservatives, including BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propyl gallate
• Corn meal as a filler
• Excess of carbohydrate “fillers” (Dry food can contain as much as 50 percent grain)

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