For some 25 years I have alerted the public to the dangers of exclusively feeding heat processed foods. Companion animal feeding has progressed – actually digressed – from table scraps and real foods the family could spare to today’s “100 % complete” processed foods in primarily kibble form, with some canned and semi-moist also available. The foods appear to be scientific and improved, but they’re far worse for the animals. Not only is nutrient value diminished by heat, but a spectrum of toxins is created. Additionally, the singular feeding of processed food has led to the spurious “100% complete and balanced” claim that is both logically and scientifically flawed.
Entrepreneurs have seized upon this information to create a spate of raw frozen (RF) foods to capture a market niche and to fill the demand from consumers wanting a raw alternative to standard heat processed canned, semi-moist and dried pet foods. This market trend, as with most others, may begin with some truth (raw food is the best food) but gets distorted, if not perverted, once economic opportunity enters the picture. This paper will examine the rationale of these products, their economics and dangers. A more intelligent and healthy alternative will be proposed.
1. Weakened Pets And Highly Virulent Organisms – A raw state and the presence of moisture in food provide the perfect environment for the growth of pathogenic organisms. Although prey foods in the wild often putrefy and are teeming with microorganisms, carnivores in the wild are immunologically adapted to these organisms and even benefit from the probiotic effects of some. On the other hand, domestic pets eating sterilized heat processed foods are immunologically compromised and are threatened by mutated and highly virulent pathogenic strains created by modern circumstances and antibiotic resistance. Freezing at appropriate temperatures puts pathogens in a state of arrest but does not eliminate them. Although all foods contain some pathogens, unless they are sterilized (requiring high heat or other measures that greatly diminish the nutritional value and create toxins), it is the load of these pathogens that must be of concern to consumers. RF foods are a potential reservoir and vector of large numbers of pathogens.
2. Producers With Only Kitchen Technology – Because of the minimal technology required to produce a RF pet food, essentially anyone regardless of credentials or expertise can bring a product to market. All one needs to do is grind and mix ingredients in a kitchen, package and put in a freezer. There are no controls over the conditions in the kitchen, the quality of the ingredients or the method of freezing. All these factors can dramatically influence the nutritional value and pathogenic and toxic content of the food. But being in a frozen state hides these potential dangers and therefore poses a threat to both pets and the humans who handle the foods. John Doe can make a food under unknown conditions and with unknown ingredients, label, package, freeze and deliver to consumers or stores without one single control monitoring or impeding the process. Regulators may eventually examine the label if they happen to see it in a store (they will never see it if shipped directly to consumers) and object to some terminology or the like; but, all John needs to do is change the label and all will be well. The product could contain every manner of ingredient, be laced with virulent pathogens, and receive the aegis of regulators … and into the market it goes.
3. Raw Frozen Foods Are Not “100% Complete” – Many RF foods make (or imply) the same spurious 100% complete claim as heat processed foods and thus carry with them the same health dangers. Feeding any food exclusively, let alone a nondescript packaged food containing who-knows-what from who-knows what manufacturing environment, is a bad choice if health and safety are of concern. (See The Truth About Pet Foods by Dr. Wysong).
4. Problems Are Ignored By Producers – RF food pathogens include not only bacteria, but fungi, viruses and parasites. Toxins include those from molds (mycotoxins), bacteria and those created by oxidation. In our study of RF products in the stream of commerce, not one producer addressed these concerns with any technological know-how that we could discern, and most did not even acknowledge the problems potentially lurking in their foods.
5. Freezing Masks Inedibles – Raw meat and organ tissue continues to use ATP (source of energy) until it is exhausted and the tissue enters a state of rigor. Endogenous enzymatic activity within the tissue continues to digest the muscle tissue (proteolysis), softening it until it becomes tender and develops the typical palatable taste. This process is retarded by cold. The freezing of properly aged meat presents few problems, however, any residual ATP present in the tissue during freezing will contract the muscle upon thawing resulting in a more unpalatable product. Mixed RF foods would hide this problem.
6. Free Radical Problems Masked – Essential fatty acids and other health enhancing lipids are critical in the diet. Once foods are ground, mixed, exposed to air, light and pro-oxidants such as heme iron and other metals found in plant and animal tissue, the contained lipids are oxidized to chain reaction producing free-radicals, causing rancidity and oxidant toxins. Freezing at appropriately low temperatures slows this process but does not stop it. The temperature in conventional freezers used for RF foods is not insurance against such oxidation. Because the frozen state masks olfactory detection of rancidity, foods that would be otherwise rejected end up being consumed. The free-radical pathology potential can then work its chronic degenerative disease and immune weakening effects.
7. Freezer Burn Indicates A More Serious Problem – Air reaching the meat surface is the cause for the freezer burns that result in the typical grayish-brown leathery spots. Frozen water on the surface or just beneath it sublimates (from solid state directly to vapor) into the air, causing moisture to be lost from the meat over time resulting in discoloration and a dry, leathery texture. Proper packaging helps maintain quality and prevent freezer burn, however most packaging is permeable to air. The prevalence of freezer burn in RF products speaks to the fact that the product is being oxidized and with that creating free radical toxins to lay the seeds for various degenerative diseases.