If Our Pets Could Talk
By Jackie Kellum
Many people have more than one pet—cats, dogs, or a combination. When you have many pets, you usually do not buy just one bag of food at a time, but rather you purchase several bags or cans. With this kind of purchasing, it is very important to store the pet food in the safest way possible.
Air, light, moisture, and heat exposure to dry kibble is harmful. These elements increase the risk of loss of nutrition, food becoming rancid, and can even cause pet illness. The ideal location to store your pet food is in a cool and dry place.
Metal or plastic containers, like a garbage pail, can serve kibble storage needs. Pet kibble is best stored in the original bag and then placed inside the storage container. However, kibble stored loose in a plastic container may present problems. Plastic storage containers aren’t always made with the highest quality plastic. Over time, the plastic can collect oils from the food and make the food rancid. The plastic chemicals can also leach into the food itself. In particular, several studies of black plastic have confirmed that the recycling of plastic from electronic waste is introducing harmful chemicals into consumer products. One of these chemicals is bromine, which is often used as a flame retardant.
Whether using a metal or plastic container, periodically wash it with soap and water and dry well before using again. When the previous bag is running low, do not top off with a new amount of fresh kibble because rancid oil from the old bag’s food may contaminate the fresh food.
Keeping the kibble in the original manufacturer’s bag inside the storage container has several benefits: (1) the original packaging best preserves freshness and helps keep the food safe from rodents and insects; (2) the wrapping becomes a barrier between the food and the container; (3) the bag provides an added barrier that helps seal in fats and oils to prevent them from becoming rancid. The original bag will also allow access to the UPC code, lot number, “best by” date, and brand/manufacturer information, in case there’s a problem such as a defect or a recall. FYI: The “best by” date lets you know how long you can keep the food. However, this date becomes inaccurate once the bag is opened.
After opening the bag and after each use, squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible and re-seal it tightly. Various resources say that the kibble is safe to use for two to four weeks after opening, if stored properly. An unfinished can of wet food can be stored in a refrigerator for three to five days when covered. Look at the contents before use; if it’s watery, has changed in smell or texture, throw it out.
When buying all your pet food, always check the label for the expiration date and the “best by” date. A date after this does not indicate the food is suddenly bad, just that the quality, nutritional value, and potency will fade, no longer giving your pet the nutrition as stated on the label.
Read labels front, back, and side, as necessary. Know what is in your own food and your pet’s food, and know where this food comes from. Bar codes are on all food items. The first three numbers of the bar code tell you the country of origin. For Example: China=690, 691, or 692; Taiwan=471; USA and Canada=000 to 009, and Mexico=750.
Be an educated consumer for yourself and your pet.