Expert advice from Bailey’s nutritionist Katie Lugsden on keeping your pet in peak condition

Q. The dog food I use for my terriers states that it contains EU permitted antioxidants. Can you tell me what they are and why they are used in dog foods?

Janet Simpson, West Sussex

A. Oxidation is the scientific term for the breakdown or spoilage of food. An antioxidant is therefore a substance that helps to prevent food from going off giving it a much longer shelf life.

The main ingredient that requires protection is fat – if antioxidants weren’t used the fat would go rancid very quickly and would not be safe to consume.

Natural antioxidants, such as vitamin E are very unstable and so are likely to be destroyed by food processing techniques. Synthetic alternatives such as BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) which is used in Baileys Working Dog Mix, and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) are usedinstead and are the most commonly used antioxidants in pet foods.

They are also used in human foods and can be found in crisps, crackers, cake mixes, cereals, chewing gum, dried fruit, lunch meats and ready meals. They are also used in cosmetics and so it’s likely that you are coming into contact with them just as much as your dogs are.

BHA and BHT are very stable which contributes to their effectiveness, particularly as only small quantities are required to prevent oxidation occurring.

Both BHA and BHT are approved for use under European and American legislation in both pet and human food products.