2001-Fri Feb 24 08:00:34 MST 2017
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Last month I visited my sister in
California. In San Francisco, we walked into
one of those
fancy natural food stores that are so plentiful out there. While
waiting for my
sister to select her items, I read labels. More than
30(!) products I checked out contained xylitol.
Everyone knows xylitol is toxic to dogs, right?
so toxic that I could scarcely believe how many products included it on the list of ingredients. One maker of
preserves went so far as to offer this homage to xylitol on its
“X brand sugar-free raspberry preserves are a great-tasting, healthful blend of
and the natural sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar
alcohol that is
ideal for diabetics and those concerned about sugar intake.
Unlike sugar, xylitol has a very low glycemic index, has fewer calories and
for your teeth.”
Trouble is, it kills dogs. But that bit
The Bay Area is one of
destinations. It’s a place where the natural
beauty alone earns my vote, but it’s the food culture that’s historically been the draw for me.
In recent years, however, I’ve realized that the area’s
pro-pet attitude matters more than my farm-to-table
appetites. Which is
why I was surprised to see two of my favorite things about this
California — pets and food politics — collide so spectacularly.
Xylitol is more
lethal to dogs than any other consumer product ingredient I can think of. Only
500 milligrams can kill a
10-pound dog. A veterinarian with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center estimates that a single
piece of sugar-free gum contains 300 milligrams of xylitol. At that rate, if the pack of gum my Slumdog got into last year had contained xylitol, it would have been enough to kill two average-size Labradors.
How could the
common use of xylitol and the adoration of dogs coexist in
proximity? How could one of the foodiest, healthiest and dog
lovingest places in the world offer such a jarring contradiction?
The answer comes in a cultural
leaning toward items that are “natural,” “unprocessed” and “real.” The
starring role in the natural food and farm-to-table movements
makes it a magnet
for such products. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is clamoring
for more “sugar-free,” “low calorie” and “low-glycemic index”
Given that trend, it makes sense that
manufacturers would include ingredients that help them meet those
But as a veterinarian, I find corporations' willingness to include xylitol in their products without including warning labels indefensibly irresponsible and morally
reprehensible. How can they not
that something intended to make their families healthier can be
lethal to one
or more of its members?
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