Propylene glycol in animal feed

Legislation, toxicity and uses of propylene glycol in animal feed

1,2-propanediol, propane-1,2-diol, monopropylene glycol (MPG) or propylene glycol (PG), among its many names, is characterized by being a water-soluble, colorless, odorless and oily liquid. This ingredient is recognized for having a great variety of applications on the different types of existing industry (cosmetic products, pharmaceutical products, lubricants, plasters, clays, inks or toners …), but above all it stands out in the food industry for its use as a food additive.



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Among its many applications in the food sector, propylene glycol is frequently used as part of the composition of liquid sweeteners, butter, ice cream, soft drinks or coffee. In addition, and since propylene glycol has the ability to dissolve most of the existing organic compounds, it is used in the food industry as an humectant or support for emulsions, aromas, antioxidants or colorants.

Propylene glycol in animal feed

If we move the focus to the animal nutrition industry, the European reference legislation on additives for feed intended for animals is included in Regulation (EC) 1831/2003. After the preparation of this legal document, the scientific panel FEEDAP (additives and products or substances used in animal feed) of EFSA suggested a re-qualification of some of these additives, including propylene glycol, by the new name of “raw material” . This change in name was reflected in Regulation (EU) 892/2010, and since then propylene glycol has been used as a raw material in order to increase the energy requirements of cattle, sheep, goats or pigs, among others.

Use of propylene glycol in cat food

However, since 1996, the American legislation through the FDA considers propylene glycol as a GRAS substance in animal feed, with the exception of its use in cat food. This is because more and more scientific studies confirm that cats experience, even after consumption of very low doses of propylene glycol, a type of anemia caused by the formation of Heinz bodies.

Some of the most characteristic initial symptoms that cats can develop associated with this type of hemolytic anemia are:

  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Dark colored urine
  • Fever
  • Soft spot
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

If the consumption of these feed is prolonged in time, the symptoms could be considerably worse. Therefore, the use of propylene glycol in cat feed formulas is highly discouraged.

Currently, propylene glycol is the only emulsifying solution to convey synthetic antioxidants such as BHA (E 320, Butylhydroxyanisole) or BHT (E 321, Butylhydroxytoluene), both widely used to prevent discoloration and oxidation of fats in many types of commercial feed. Furthermore, the maximum doses of these synthetic antioxidants must never exceed 150 ppm, individually or together, as specified in Annex III of Regulation (EC) 2316/98.

BTSA and its natural antioxidants free of propylene glycol

Luckily, there are companies that are concerned with developing solutions to these problems in order to protect the health of companion animals. BTSA offers 100% natural sourced antioxidants intended for animal feed, and strongly avoids the use of propylene glycol in all of its formulas.

Among these antioxidant solutions 100% of natural origin and free of propylene glycol, the following stand out:

  • OXABIOL® is a natural antioxidant made from tocopherols obtained from the distillation of a single raw material: Non-GMO soybean oil extract.
  • OXABIOL® PLUS C 60 is a mixture of our antioxidant OXABIOL® with other ingredients that offer a synergistic effect.

The food industry lives in a constant transformation, whose objective will always be to satisfy the current needs of all people and animals. It is very important that all these changes always go hand in hand with the current legal framework of reference to guarantee the highest level of food safety.

To learn more about the OXABIOL® range and about all our antioxidants and products for animal feed, visit our nutririon animal website.

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