When researchers set up experiments, they include a control group and an experimental group. Sometimes with these studies, the outcomes are serendipitous and the researchers learn something new. This has happened twice in the past couple of years regarding bisphenol A (BPA) experiments.
We summarize these experiments and give tips to empower you to protect the well-being of your companion pets.
What is BPA?
BPA is found in many common plastic products such as food containers and water bottles. As well, BPA is also spread on the inner lining of canned food containers to keep the metal from corroding and breaking.
BPA has been identified as an endocrine disrupting chemical that may cause adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned its use in baby bottles and children’s sippy cups.
What We See on the Market
Nowadays, many of us are familiar with the potential effects of BPA and purchase products that manufacturers claim are “BPA-Free.”
Bear in mind that BPA-Free claims are not regulated by the United States Federal Government. So, a manufacturer can falsely claim that a product is BPA-Free.
BPA-Free Claims and Pets
The confluence of marketing claims and scientific experiments gone awry confronted the pet product industry in 2017. Researchers from the University of Missouri published a study in which they simply wanted to determine if short-term feeding of widely available commercial canned food could alter BPA concentrations in dogs.
So, they placed dogs – that had previously eaten kibble – on one of two canned pet foods. The control of the experiment was a pet food that the manufacturer gave assurances was, in fact, BPA-Free. The manufacturer of the experimental canned dog food group acknowledged that its cans were lined with BPA.
After two weeks, BPA increased nearly three-fold in both the control and the experimental groups of dogs fed on either of the two canned diets. The researchers also discovered that increased serum BPA concentrations were correlated with the dogs’ gut microbiome and metabolic changes.
Something was clearly not right. So, the researchers tested the control and the experimental dog food contents and cans. Turns out, the BPA concentrations were not significantly different between both foods and the cans.
Critics have said that this is a failed experiment because the control group fell apart and that gut microbiome changes occur when switching dogs from a dry to a wet food. While the latter statement is true, we disagree that switching foods is the only thing that can change the microbiome. Overall, we have learned valuable information from this experiment.
We found out that yes: BPA concentrations do increase and affect the gut microbiome. As well, we were reminded of the dangers of apparently false marketing claims.
Another study published in mid-2017 analyzed 60 pet food cans. It found some very disturbing results, as most dog food cans (81%) had a BPA-based coating.
Another BPA Experiment Gone Awry
In a study concerning the effects of BPA on reproduction in mice, Tegan Horan and her team thought something was amiss.
Both the control and experimental mice groups were separated, but all lived in BPA-free cages. The experimental group received BPA through a dropper. The control mice – which did not get the BPA – actually exhibited genetic changes similar to the experimental group.
Further investigation showed that the control group was exposed to bisphenol S (BPS) and that led to egg and sperm reproduction problems.
So, the researchers started exposing the mice to BPA alternatives like BPS, bisphenol F (BPF), and bisphenol AF (BPAF). The results were the same. What the bisphenol was doing was altering the chromosomes of mice. Think of it as incidental gene editing.
The scariest part is that the researchers found that these changes can be passed down through subsequent generations. If they completely eliminated all BPA and its alternatives, the effects would still continue for three generations.
To be fair, previous studies involving BPS and its effects have been conducted. However, the mice or rats were purposefully exposed to BPS, they did not have an incidental exposure like Horan’s study.
Additionally, a study from 2011 showed that most plastic products release estrogenic chemicals, which is the most common source of endocrine disruptor activity.
What the FDA Says Now
In February 2018, the FDA released a two-year government study involving rats and BPA. After exposing the rats to high doses of BPA, the effects were actually only minimal. The FDA concluded that BPA is safe for the currently authorized uses in food containers and packaging.
Companion dogs – and particularly companion cats – should derive the majority of their hydration through moisture-rich foods. Moisture helps dogs and cats digest foods for optimal nutrition and reduces the chances of kidney, urinary and liver conditions.
Think about this in terms of your own nutrition. Kibble would be like if you ate only corn chips for breakfast and dinner instead of more moisture-rich foods like chicken or eggs.
Companion pet parents also need to consider the ingredients, sourcing, processing, manufacturing, and additives.
So, canned food is problematic based on manufacturing due to BPA or the BPA alternatives. But, your companion pet will still thrive better on a moisture-rich diet.
Reading this has likely created a frustrating dilemma. What should we do?
Canned pet food is not your only option. Consider other foods:
- Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried – With dehydrated pet foods, you simply add water and let the food rest for a few minutes. The market for these food is small, but growing. Plus, the processing aspects of these foods is better than that of canned foods.
- Raw – When safely prepared and nutritionally balanced, these diets offer superior nutrient value for pets.
- Home-prepared – Think about it. All human-grade food items for your pet. Of course, if you make your companion pet’s meals, we urge you to obtain information from a veterinary or animal nutritionist or consult with them directly to make sure the meals are balanced.
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Koestel, Zoe et al. “Bisphenol A (BPA) in the Serum of Pet Dogs Following Short-Term Consumption of Canned Dog Food and Potential Health Consequences of Exposure to BPA.” Science of the Total Environment, vol. 579, no. 1, Feb. 2017, pp. 1804–1814., doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.11.162. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969716326274
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“Pets Beware: Toxic Chemicals in Pet Food Cans.” Ecology Center, 29 June 2017, http://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff/reports/pet-food-cans-study-2017.
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