What gelling agents and thickeners does my wet pet food contain?
January 27, 2022 | By David Jackson, AllAboutDogFood.co.uk
Finding out what thickeners and gelling agents wet foods contain can be like pulling teeth. Many manufacturers will either side-step the question or ignore it altogether and even some of the ones that are open and cooperative might not know some of the facts about their own foods.
Well, we've been working hard to find a system that provides you with the information you need where it is available and incentivises manufacturers to be more transparent where it is not.
And, as always, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
Why gelling agents and thickeners are important
To find out why these additives might have an impact on your dog, take a look at our ingredient glossary entry here.
Why many manufacturers can not/will not disclose the information
First off, wet pet food companies are under no obligation to disclose the use of most gelling agents and thickeners so if they would rather not say, there's nothing you or I can do to make them. When this is the case we always assume the worst and we suggest you do the same.
But the real difficulty arrises when companies knowingly or unknowingly give out partial or even false information as fact.
Most wet pet food companies do not have their own factories, instead outsourcing their manufacturing to third party factories like Landguth in Germany, Vafo in the Czech Republic or Cambrian in Wales.
Since the factories take care of the production side of things, many wet pet food resellers simply do not know a lot of the technical details of their own products.
When faced with technical questions (like what gelling agents and thickeners are used) these wet pet food companies have to go to the factory for information but the answers they get may not be entirely forthright.
Side-stepping the truth
According to one wet pet food manufacturer that has been willing to talk to us, thickeners (like locust-bean gum, cassia gum etc) are only ever used in conjunction with a gelling agent (like carrageenan, agar-agar, konjac, alginate, for example). Again, check out our guide for more info.
The trouble is, of course, that most members of the public and even many pet food company staff are not aware of the distinction between thickeners and gelling agents so when presented with the answer "our foods contain thickener x" from the factory or the reseller, they do not realise that it completely fails to address the question of gelling agents.
To further complicate matters, some technological additives including gelling agents and thickeners can be incorporated into the vitamin and mineral premix. Since they are therefore not individually added by the factory itself, it is perfectly permissible to claim that the food does not contain any added ingredient x even though ingredient x is present in the food via the premix (i.e. 'no added carrageenan').
For all these reasons, we have decided to overhaul how we list paté or loaf type wet foods. Essentially, unless a company is willing to tell us exactly what gelling agents and thickeners theirs contain, we will now indicate on the listing that these additives are undisclosed, we will withhold the 'clear labelling' logo and the 'hypoallergenic' logo (as some of these additives are not what we would describe as hypoallergenic) and we will rate the food as if it contains the most controversial gelling agents and thickeners. Please note that some of these changes are still being rolled out.