Petco moving away from artificial ingredients

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Petco will no longer sell food and treats containing artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives for dogs and cats by May.

The pet retailer, which operates some 1,500 stores throughout North America, announced its decision in a Nov. 13, 2018, press release. "Some may question whether this makes good business sense, but putting pets' health first has always been the right thing to do for Petco," company CEO Ron Coughlin was quoted saying in the release. "We hope the rest of the pet industry will join us on this path to better health for the pets we love."

Petco is the first major pet food retailer to take such a position against artificial ingredients.

The company planned to begin removing dog and cat foods and treats with artificial ingredients from store shelves and e-commerce in January. Some of the more than 40 artificial ingredients Petco is eliminating include FD&C red No. 3, butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hytroxytoluene, glycerol tributyrate, and benzaldehyde, among others.

"We're inviting pet food companies to join us on this journey, even working hand-in-hand with some to pursue potential ingredient changes to meet our new stringent ingredient standards," said Nick Konat, co-chief merchandising officer for Petco, in the release. "In cases where an existing brand is unable to update some or all of their products to meet our criteria by May of 2019, we will not carry either specific products or the brand entirely."

Dr. Korinn E. Saker, director of the Nutrition Program at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, described Petco's decision as "a very welcome commitment" to ensuring optimal pet health and well-being.

Concerns have grown over the years about the long-term health consequences of artificial ingredients for humans and pets, with slow progress in evidence-based research to best address those concerns, according to Dr. Saker, who is also chair of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition's board of regents.

"A very large retail establishment like Petco refusing to sell pet foods and treats containing artificial ingredients is a bold statement that will hopefully challenge all pet food manufacturers to substitute the artificial with natural, for the sake of our pets," Dr. Saker told JAVMA News.

This year, Petco will also launch the Petco Pet Wellness Institute: a coalition of "veterinarians, nutritionists, pet psychologists, academic researchers, and other credentialed leaders," according to the release. Part of the institute's mandate will be funding evidence-based research to help further understand and define industry-wide issues, including the impact of food and ingredients on pet health.

A pile of bone-shaped dog treats