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Table of Contents:
> What to Learn From The Canned Food Disaster
> Critiques Of Pet Food Company Claims

What To Learn From The Canned Food Disaster

First of all, our sympathies go out to those who have lost pets due to the recent canned food problem. All of us who love our pets can only imagine the heartbreak.

This is also tragic for the manufacturing company and their employees who must feel a sense of responsibility. It is difficult to see how a company could survive this and how hundreds of employees will not lose their source of livelihood. Although there is no evidence of foul play or intentional misconduct at this point, consumers will likely turn to other brands made by other companies.

On the other hand, no producer can feel too smug, since such an incident could easily happen to any company producing food for human or animal consumption. As you know, spinach picked from a field, watermelon, hamburgers...virtually anything that can be eaten could possibly be fatal.

There is no fail safe protection. Just because a food is cooked--which all canned foods are--provides no certain safety. Dry foods are not totally reliable either. Raw foods have their dangers too, but they are obviously exaggerated since every major pet food disaster that has occurred in the past 15 years has been with cooked foods. Dilated cardiomyopathy that afflicted thousands of cats was from feeding 100% complete and AAFCO tested cooked foods. Mycotoxin poisoning was from dried cooked foods. And now this from cooked canned foods. Although good food handling and manufacturing practices help reduce risk there is no one manufacturer that can provide perfection.

As we continually preach, however, feeding only one food meal after meal, day after day puts your pet at greatest risk both in the short and long term. It doesn't matter if the food is organic, "100% complete," or is absent all of the boogeyman ingredients marketeers try to scare you about. Don't be fooled into believing the route to safety and health for your pet is a particular packaged food to feed relentlessly. Vary the diet, don't fall for marketing nonsense (see below), and follow the Optimal Health Program for the wisest course of action for both your family and your pets.

Critiques Of Pet Food Company Claims

In the last issue, we discussed research that applied to some pet food company claims. This issue of the e-HL follows up in more detail on two of the more misleading and dangerous claims. Whether you are a pet owner or not, the following information will help you understand the need to see through marketing claims. These two topics are part of a new section on our website that is being built to evaluate the various misleading claims that abound in the food (particularly the pet food) industry.

A person could easily conclude—if the arguments in the critiques are correct—that at best such claims demonstrate incompetence, and at worst a deliberate attempt to deceive consumers. The consequences for those who fall prey is to be misled from the important understandings of health and how to achieve it. With regard to pets, it is not a matter of finding the one magic commercial food—particularly one with misleading claim—and feeding it continuously. Health is best achieved by following the principles in the Optimal Health Program.

CLAIM: “No grains”
REBUTTAL: A little history. When Wysong foods were first formulated in the early 1980s, special attention was paid to ingredients, not just—as was the common practice at that time—percentages of protein and the like. Then Wysong introduced the idea of archetypal feeding. That means diets for pets should be predominantly meat, meals should be varied, and raw foods should be at least rotated into the diet. These concepts remain critical for pet owners to understand if health is their objective. Some manufacturers, looking for an edge in the market, are attempting to capitalize on these concepts.
Doing so is one thing. Not doing so and leading the public to believe you are, is quite another.
The “no grains” claim on a pet food is made to lead people to believe there is either something wrong with grains or that the food is predominantly meat. The claim also implies that a “no-grain” food is better or safer than all the products that have grains.
Grains are added to dry extruded pet food kibble because the starch they contain permits the kibble to form in processing—similar to popcorn popping. If grains are not used, then some other form of starch must be used, such as potato or tapioca. The starch in grain is essentially the same as starch from anything else. Starch is starch and there is no reason to believe the starch in grains is somehow uniquely inferior or dangerous compared to other starches. In fact, the nutritional value of grains is superior, particularly to tapioca. (
Although it is true that starch is not a natural component of a carnivore's diet, simply substituting one starch for another does not solve the problem.
Feeding in variety and using true all meat foods is the solution. ( ,  ‘Hiding' the starch in the formula by using potato or tapioca does not make a food more meaty than a grain based pet food.

Don't be fooled: Tapioca is used as the starch source in some “no grain” pet foods. Tapioca (cassava root, manioc) is first and foremost a source of carbohydrates, but very little else. It is actually a nutritionally poor substitute for grains— ( ). Due to its poor nutritional quality, special attention must be given to formulations to compensate for this problem. Tapioca contains very little protein, and the small quantity that is naturally present is of inferior quality to grains. This necessitates the addition of ingredients to supply the amino acids methionine and lysine. Meat naturally contains these amino acids, but formulating with tapioca rather than grains and legumes effectively robs the meat of these essential amino acids. This creates a net deficiency of them as compared to the same formulations if they were to contain grains.
In pet food kibbles, the “no grains” claim is almost assuredly made to imply that the grains have been replaced by a superior ingredient. However, the idea that ridding the food of grains creates a superior product is not supported by the facts. [See “No Grains” article ( ) and Tapioca/Grain comparison chart ( )]. The truth is, tapioca poses some unique and very serious health risks.
The high carbohydrate concentration in tapioca results in high doses of sugar—which is what starch converts to when digested. In terms of sugar concentration, tapioca is second only to sugar cane. In carnivores, high levels of sugar are toxic over time and lead to a host of chronic diseases including dental deterioration.
Tapioca is often chemically modified before formulation in food products and as such, presents a threat to health by binding essential minerals that play key roles in many critical enzyme systems, and also producing the disease, parakeratosis. ( )
Furthermore, natural tapioca contains cyanogenic glycosides (specifically linamarin and lotaustralin) which yield hydrocyanic acid upon hydrolysis (as occurs in the stomach). Hydrocyanic acid (hydrogen cyanide) is highly toxic to humans and animals. In fact, hydrogen cyanide is a chemical warfare agent and was used in Germany's gas chambers and is used for execution today in the U.S. The toxicity is dose dependent and therefore animals or humans fed a steady diet of any food that yields hydrogen cyanide are at risk.
Cyanide is an irreversible enzyme inhibitor in cellular respiration pathways. Cyanide ions bind to the iron atom of the enzyme cytochrome c oxidase (also known as aa3) in the fourth complex in mitochondrial membranes. This denatures the enzyme, and the final transport of electrons from cytochrome c oxidase to oxygen cannot be completed. As a result, the electron transport chain is disrupted, meaning that the cell can no longer aerobically produce ATP for energy. In effect, it stops the body from “breathing.”
Tissues that mainly depend on aerobic respiration, such as the central nervous system and the heart, are particularly affected. Acute poisoning with high concentrations of cyanide causes coma with seizures, apnea and cardiac arrest, with death following in a matter of minutes.
At lower doses, loss of consciousness may be preceded by general weakness, giddiness, headaches, vertigo, confusion, and perceived difficulty in breathing. At the first stages of unconsciousness, breathing is often sufficient or even rapid. But then the victim progresses towards a deep coma, sometimes accompanied by pulmonary edema, and finally cardiac arrest. Skin color goes pink from high blood oxygen saturation.
At doses insufficient to cause loss of consciousness, the symptoms can also include faintness, drowsiness, anxiety, and excitement. Dizziness, nausea, vomiting and sweating are also common. The situation is complicated by the non-specific nature of the symptoms.
Exposure to lower levels of cyanide over a long period of intake, as occurs in people in tropical Africa, and could occur in pets fed “complete and balanced grain-free” extruded foods, results in increased blood cyanide levels. This may lead to weakness of the digits, difficulty walking, dimness of vision, deafness, decreased thyroid gland function, and Tropical Ataxic Neuropathy (TAN). TAN is characterized by lesions of the skin, mucous membranes, optic, auditory, spinal, and peripheral nerves resulting in myelopathy, bilateral optic atrophy, bilateral hearing loss, and polyneuropathy. Stomato-glossitis, motor-neuron disease, psychosis, and dementia are diseases prevalent in humans who regularly consume tapioca (cassava) products. Although many of these maladies have thus far only been described in humans, this is likely because only humans have been consuming large quantities of tapioca in lieu of grains. That could certainly change if pets are converted from grain-based to tapioca-based pet foods.
Birth defects were seen in rats that ate diets of cassava roots. Effects on the reproductive system were also observed. Moreover, when tapioca is ground into flour with milling, the powder has been reported to produce ulcerogenic effects in the gastric mucosa. Personnel working in pet food plants compounding tapioca based pet foods could experience skin irritation and sores from exposure to tapioca dust.
When cassava (tapioca) chips are sun-dried on the floor to reduce the hydrocyanic acid, they can be infected by microorganisms. This can predispose to aflatoxicosis, a potentially lethal mycotoxin disease.
The problem with microbial infestation can be avoided by using fresh cassava root. However, cassava root, either fresh or parboiled, has resulted in deaths due to the high degree of cyanide toxicity found in the fresh root.
As it stands, appropriate measures have not been taken to produce tapioca products of guaranteed quality that will meet the nutritional requirements of pets. A pet owner is well advised to ask any producer of tapioca-based pet foods for answers to the following:

· Nutrient levels: energy, protein, fiber, and mineral levels
· The exact amount of tapioca used in the formula
· Levels of anti-nutritional factors: hydrocyanic acid, phytates, and oxalates
· Microbial counts: levels of Aspergillus and Eschericia species
· Levels of other contaminants: those introduced during the drying process
· Moisture content

The levels that could be reached in a “no grain” tapioca-based pet food could certainly reach dangerous levels. Levels of hydrogen cyanide above 100 parts per million (ppm) in a finished food are considered unacceptable. In a “no grain” formulated pet food, depending upon the type and amount of tapioca used, levels in a typical formula could reach over 1026.3 mg/kg, or 718.85 ppm! The minimal lethal dosage in humans is about 50-60 mg. A 60 lb. dog eating an average amount of a “no-grain” tapioca-based pet food could be ingesting 17.6 mg of hydrogen cyanide per day. Considering that this dog is about one third the weight of an average human, on a per weight basis it would be receiving 52.8 mg (3 X 17.6 mg) of hydrogen cyanide—which is within the lethal dose (50-60 mg) range. Even if this calculation is on the high side, lower hydrogen cyanide levels would at the least put the animal at risk of chronic toxicity.
The above is not to say that moderate levels of tapioca cannot be consumed by animals and humans without ill effect. However, eating it as a mainstay, or as a substitute for grains that have been proven safe and nutritionally beneficial for thousands of years, is not only unwarranted, but also potentially dangerous.

The Wysong e-Health Letter is an educational newsletter. Opinions expressed are meant to be taken for their argumentative/intellectual interest value, and not interpreted as specific medical or legal direction for individual conditions or situations. The e-Health Letter does not represent all-inclusive knowledge, nor can it affirm or deny facts or data gathered from cited references. Before initiating any health action or changing existing therapies, individuals should read the references cited in the e-Health Letter or request them from Wysong Corporation (, and seek and evaluate several alternative, competent viewpoints. The reader (not the Wysong e-Health Letter) must assume all responsibilities from the application of educational and often controversial information presented in the e-Health Letter. 

Copyright 2006, Wysong Corporation This newsletter is for educational purposes.  Material may be copied and transmitted provided the source (Dr. Wysong's e-Health Letter, is clearly credited, context is clearly described, its use is not for profit in any way, and mention is made of the availability of the free Wysong e-Health Letter.  For any other use, written permission is required.