When we buy pet food at the supermarket or pet store, we expect that it was made with care and attention to safety, and for the most part it is.
Nevertheless, hundreds of pets die each year from contaminated foods. A recent case was a tragic reminder, as more than 130 pets died due to high levels of aflatoxin in dry dog food. (Aflatoxin is a deadly pathogen produced by the type of mold that grows on the grains and corn that go into dog food.)
The pet food industry is one of the most regulated in the U.S. and most manufacturers have strong safety measures in place. But could more be done?
The Proven Power of Pulsed Light
Pulsed Light is an important technology that has been approved for use in food safety by the FDA. According to research published by the National Institutes of Health, Pulsed Light “destroys both the cell wall and nucleic acid structure of microorganisms present on the surface of either food or packaging materials in a few seconds.”
Pulsed Light is not a cure-all, but it can add a vital layer of protection to the processing and packaging of pet foods.
Dr. Joshua Cassar, a food safety consultant, has been studying the use of Pulsed Light in pet foods for years. In soon-to-be published research he conducted while at Penn State, he found that “using Pulsed Light to decontaminate a reformed high-moisture pet food achieved modest microbial reductions.” He says Pulsed Light is best used as a layer of defense along with other antimicrobial interventions to achieve what is known as “hurdle-effect” microbial reductions, which means as pathogens pass through various layers of defense, one of them being Pulsed Light, more and more are eliminated.
In addition to direct product treatment, Pulsed Light can also be used as a sanitizing tool for equipment such as food conveyors. Another study by Dr. Cassar and colleagues found that Pulsed Light can achieve at least a 5-log reduction on food contact surfaces.
A Safety Investment Worth Making
There are millions of pets in the U.S. alone. About 60% of all households have a cat or a dog companion and they spend billions on pet food each year, according to petfoodindustry.com. Obviously, keeping our pet food safe is a top priority for manufacturers and owners alike.
Pulsed Light can be easily incorporated into most processing operations. XENON lamps are designed to integrate into many different OEM configurations. It can be added with little energy consumption compared to other methods, and it is free of chemicals.
In addition to its easy implementation, using Pulsed Light technology to make your product safer could be a competitive advantage—and U.S. consumers have many options to choose from when it comes to pet food. For manufacturers who want to send a message that they are doing everything possible to protect pets, using Pulsed Light makes an important statement.
More Research is Needed
There has been little research to date on the antimicrobial application of Pulsed Light for pet food products, but that is changing thanks to the efforts of Dr. Cassar and his colleagues. He says: “An emerging antimicrobial technology such as Pulsed Light would benefit from continued research.”
If you’re a pet food manufacturer, XENON’s scientists and engineers are ready to work with you to develop a solution tailored to your operations. Contact XENON to learn more.