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Highlights from AAVN: Part 2

From June 2nd to June 3rd the 21st Annual AAVN Clinical Nutrition and Research Symposium virtually took place and hosted a diverse set of oral abstract, poster, and keynote presentations. The presenters touched upon relevant topics affecting animal nutrition today, ranging from obesity to protein supply to the evolution of a mammal’s first diet; milk. Along with an array of informative presentations, AAVN made adequate time for virtual networking between conference participants through events such as their virtual cocktails and trivia night. 

The conference was also filled with a variety of keynote presentations, including one by David Dzanis (DVM, PhD, DACVN) entitled “Regulatory Milestones Over the Past 30 Years”. 

Ethoxyquin in Human Spices  

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Ethoxyquin was approved as one of the first food additives in human food in order to prevent browning in fruits (pear, apples, etc.) as well as to maintain the colour of spices. Its use was then extended to pet food to act as a preservative. Over time the popularity of this additive diminished, and the FDA received its first complaint from an individual who believed their dog developed cancer due to this additive. Eventually, the number of complaints reached an overwhelming level, convincing the FDA to further investigate this additive. The FDA began its investigation by looking into the other chemicals associated with ethoxyquin to see if they were linked to cancer, ultimately finding that there was no connection. Subsequently, the FDA performed a multigenerational study on dogs to see how ethoxyquin was impacting their lives over multiple years. The only experimental group that demonstrated negative responses, liver pigmentation and increased liver enzymes, to ethoxyquin intake were those in the highest supplement group during lactation. Even still, the negative impact ethoxyquin had on the liver of dogs in this group was immediately rectified by lowering their intake to the next highest dose. In effect, the FDA concluded that ethoxyquin was safe to be in pet food but asked that companies voluntarily reduced the amount at which it was incorporated, as a means of appeasing the consumer. Despite the investigation into ethoxyquin deeming it safe, consumers decided that they would not purchase pet food containing this additive, prompting the majority of pet food companies to remove it from their products. This example demonstrates how consumer perception and demand are major players in the evolution of pet food regulation and practices and how they will continue to dictate these elements going forward.  

However, consumers are not the only players in shaping the pet food industry, as research is also a major factor. This was clearly demonstrated in Dr. Dzanis’s example of propylene glycol’s phase-out in semi-moist pet food. Although there were no concerns among consumers over the safety of propylene glycol’s, research had shown that the amount it was being incorporated into semi-moist cat food was contributing to the development of Heinz body anemia in cats. In effect, the FDA changed the allowance of propylene glycol’s in pet food and removed it from all cat foods, based on research alone.  

Dr. Dzanis also touched on many other topics such as the stricter regulation over label claims and supplements. Overall, the talk was extremely insightful and gave the audience a peek into the way pet food practices have been shaped today.  

The summary provided here is just a glimpse into the innovative and captivating presentations that took place during AAVN. Stay tuned for part 3 which will take a look at Michael L. Power’s presentation (PhD) entitled “The Evolutionary Biology of Milk; A brief review of the past 300 million years”. 

Written by: by: Cristian Mastrangelo, OVC Pet Nutrition Summer Student

Edited by: Shoshana Verton-Shaw, RVT, VTS (Nutrition)

Dr. Adronie Verbrugghe, DVM, PhD, EBVS Specialist in Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition® (Dip ECVCN)