What’s in Bakers dog food

The Truth about Bakers Dog Food

In the UK, pet food manufacturers don’t have to list specific ingredients which leaves a lot of ‘hidden’ ingredients. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) this practice “allows for fluctuations in the supply of the raw materials used and provides flexibility for labelling ingredients” [1]. This makes life very easy for the big corporate pet food manufacturer, but leaves consumers confused and in the dark.

At Pooch & Mutt we believe that customers deserve to know what they are feeding their dogs, which is why we list all ingredients on our packaging and why we research what goes into other pet foods. We do not seek to offer an opinion on the ingredients that other companies use, we seek to provide links and information so that you can decide for yourself.

Colourants and antioxidants

Bakers have recently updated it’s recipe and packaging and now claims “No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”. There is more information about this [here] saying that this was due to “listening to what our customers said”. When you read that the previous recipe [click here to see info on previous recipe] included E320 (a potential carcinogen [2]), E321 (banned in Japan and a key ingredient in embalming fluid [3]), E310 (linked to tumour formation in rats [4]), E132 (Banned in Norway [5]), E102 (Banned in Norway, not recommended for consumption by children [6]), E110 (side effects include hives, allergies, hyperactivity [7]), E104 (Banned in Australia, Japan, Norway and the US [8]), E171 (Banned in Germany [9]) and E153 (Banned in the US [10]) it is easy to understand why there was public pressure.

Colourants: Bakers do not publish the actual colourants they use either on their packaging or on their website, so I contacted them and asked them. The reply I received (click here to see the reply) said Chlorophyllin Copper Complex, Carmines  and Annatto.

A red food colourant made from the ‘scale insect’ Cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) [11].

“Carmine is made, literally, from ground-up cochineal insects, which is just a more harrowing way of saying mashed red beetles. Because you’re dying to know more, the insects are killed by exposure to heat or immersion in hot water and then dried. Because the abdomen region that houses the fertilized eggs contains the most carmine, it is separated from the rest of the body, ground into a powder and cooked at high temperatures to extract the maximum amount of color.” [12]

In 2012 Starbucks was forced to remove carmines from all its products due to public pressure. [13]
The Hyperactive Children’s Support Group recommends to avoid carmines. [14]

An orange-red food colouring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree (Bixa orellana) [40]. 

A study comparing hypersensitivity reactions of food colours (their likelihood to cause skin conditions such as hives) showed that Annatto was MORE likely (26%) to cause a reaction than the artificial colours Tartrazine (11%) and Sunset Yellow (17%) used in the old Bakers recipe. [15]

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A link between Annatto consumption and IBS was highlighted by Herbert L. Stein, Professor of the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at UCLA in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. [16]
In traditional medicine in Peru, annatto is used as a mild diarrhetic – i.e. this is taken to induce diarrhea. [17]

A green food colourant. No adverse side effects are known.

Antioxidants: Things gets slightly confusing here. The email that I received from Bakers said, ‘To ensure that the food doesn’t go off or become rancid due to oxidation, which would make your dog ill, we use antioxidants (Propyl Gallate, BHA and BHT) and list them “Additives”.‘. I have replied to the email to ask for clarification of this, as Propyl Gallate (linked to tumour formation [4]), BHA (a known carcinogen [2]) and BHT (banned in Japan [3]) are not natural. I have not yet received a response, but for the purposes of this article, I am going give Bakers the benefit of doubt to assume this is out of date information from the previous formulation. Additionally, there is a recent update to Bakers key facts page [click here] that says “We do not use artificial preservatives in our BAKERS® recipes. The preservatives we use are Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric acid (E 330), Orthophosphoric Acid (E338). They have always been in the BAKERS® recipe.”

While sorbic acid is naturally occurring in some berries [18], most of the world’s production of sorbic acid, from which potassium sorbate is derived, is manufactured synthetically. [19]

One of the research questions that was posed by researchers at Gazi and Ankara Universities in Turkey was “does potassium sorbate induce genotoxic or mutagenic effects in lymphocytes?” Their research concluded that this chemical should be labeled as a genotoxic and mutagenic compound because it damages white blood cells. The result of damaged white blood cells due to the exposure of this chemical are damaged gene information which can lead to mutations and cancer. [20]

Consuming large amounts of food that contain potassium sorbate can prompt nutrient depletion. This happens because of diarrhea. This is a sign that the body cannot absorb nutrients, vitamins, and minerals properly. Other health complications can arise from nutrient depletion in the long run. In other cases, nausea happens due to overwhelming of too much potassium. Other side effects from prolonged consumption of the preservative are vomiting and upset stomach. [20]

Those who consume large amounts of food containing potassium sorbate may suffer from diarrhea which can cause them to deplete the nutrient value in their system. In lesser cases, the patient may suffer from nausea as your body becomes overwhelmed with the amount of potassium in your system. [21]

Also known as phosphoric acid.

Often used as a rust remover. [22]

Phosphoric acid is not a known carcinogen, mutagen. [23]

The top 5 dangers or Phosphoric acid are stated as 1. Lower bone density, 2. Triggers major kidney issues, 3. Decreases nutrients in the body, 4. Increases body acidity, 5. Damages tissue. [24]

Commonly used in colas to give a tangy taste.  [24]

The phosphoric acid in colas is the reason why if you put a dull copper coin in a cola it will come out looking shiny and new. [25]

“Lemon juice and lime juice are rich sources of citric acid…Lemon and lime juice, both from fresh fruit and juice concentrates, provide more citric acid per liter than ready-to-consume grapefruit juice, ready-to-consume orange juice, and orange juice squeezed from the fruit.” [26]

A study at Perdue University showed an increased risk of Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), known as bloat (a deadly condition) in dog food containing citric acid as a preservative. [27]

Potential minor side effects include nausea, diarrhea and stomach pains, with more serious side effects possible including mood changes and rapid weight gain [28]

Recorded problems are that it can be a local irritant and in large amounts can cause teeth erosion. [29]

UPDATE: Bakers does include BHA and BHT

Since writing the paragraph above I have received a reply from the PetCare advisor at Purina that says “You are correct that BHA and BHT are not natural products. However, they are antioxidants rather than preservatives and in line with EU law, these are classified as ‘additives’ and are listed in this way on the label.” [click here to see the email]. 

Just to confirm/explain this. BHT and BHA are widely used in the food industry as preservatives [30] and are NOT natural. EU law allows Bakers to list these on the pack as ‘antioxidants’, instead of preservatives [31]. The new packaging says “No added artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives”, which seemingly allows Bakers to include BHT and BHA as non-natural ‘antioxidants’, as opposed to ‘preservatives’, despite the reason for their inclusion being, “To ensure that the food doesn’t go off or become rancid“.


An antioxidant consisting of a mixture of two isomeric organic compounds, 2-tert-butyl-4-hydroxyanisole and 3-tert-butyl-4-hydroxyanisole. It is prepared from 4-methoxyphenol and isobutylene. [32]

Often used in conjunction with BHT

Not permitted in infant foods. May provoke an allergic reaction in some people and may trigger hyperactivity and other intolerance reactions. Concerns over carcinogenicity and estrogenic effects and in large doses caused tumours in Laboratory animals. Not recommended to be consumed by children. The Hyperactive Childrens Support Group believe that a link exists between this additive and hyperactive behavioural disorders in children. [33]

Listed as a carcinogen in The State of California. The US National Institutes of Health report that BHA is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. [32]

The International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that BHA is possibly carcinogenic to humans based on no evidence of cancer in humans and sufficient evidence of cancer in laboratory animals [34]

Damage to the lining of the stomach and enlargement of the liver have been reported in laboratory animals fed very high oral doses of BHA [34]

Shown to cause malignant tumours in rats and liver cancer in fish [34]. Banned in Japan [39].

A chemical derivative of phenol.

Banned in Japan, Romania, Sweden and Australia [35]

A common ingredient in embalming fluid [35]

McDonald’s eliminated BHT from their US products in 1986 [36]

General Mills (The makers of Cheerios) pledged to remove BHT from all cereals in 2015. “Already, General Mills says, the Cheerios…it sells in the U.S. contain no BHT.” [37]

Used to treat genital herpes [38]

How much Chicken/ Beef/ Lamb… 4%… 1%?!

According to the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association website, “All information on a pet food label must be truthful and not misleading about the nature and quality of the product” [28]. We leave it to the reader’s discretion to decide whether or not it is misleading to call a product “Meaty Meals”, when the number one ingredient listed on the pack is “cereals”, or whether or not it is misleading to include just 4% chicken in the chicken variety, and just 4% of beef in the beef variety.

The PFMA website explains that “The 4% declaration is a legal requirement which represents the minimum percentage content of the characterising ingredient guaranteed to be present by the manufacturer” [41].

The Bakers composition lists, “Meat and animal derivatives (15% in the chunk) equivalent to 30% rehydrated meat and animal derivatives, with min. 4% beef” (correct as of 3.1.18). As we think that this is generally quite hard to understand for most people we would like to offer our ‘translation’ of what this means.

Firstlyequivalent to 30% rehydrated…”, this means that the Bakers chunk includes 15% ‘dried’ meat and animal derivatives, but if water were added to rehydrate it (which it isn’t) it would equal 30%. As they are claiming the 4% to be an ‘if rehydrated’ percentage this means that the actual amount of ‘dried’ meat meal is 2%.

Secondly “in the chunk”. As we read it this means that Bakers are making the claim of 4% (2% when you account for the ‘rehydrated’ claim) just on the “Meaty Chunks”. As far as we can tell the food is made up of “Meaty Chunks” and “Country vegetable” kibbles. Judging by the image on the front of the pack less than 50% of the food is ‘”meaty chunks”, but for the sake of easy maths lets assume 50% of the food is “meaty chunks”. This means that we need to divide the 4% (2% in it’s dried state) by 50%. So the beef variety is actually 1% beef, and the chicken variety is 1% chicken.

This could mean that the “beef” variety and the “chicken” variety are actually exactly the same product, although we cannot say for sure that is actually the case. All we can say is that due to the way that they label the products, Bakers would legally be allowed to put the same product/formulation in all packs if the product contained just 1% of the ingredient (chicken/beef/lamb) listed on the front.

We are sure that, as a Nestlé-owned company, Bakers/Purina will have checked this legally. We leave it to the reader to decide how they feel about buying a product that says ‘chicken’ on the front, but only contains 1% chicken.


  1. Pet food: a note on the legislation. Food Standards Agency
  2. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) CAS No.25013-16-5. Report on Carcinogens, Eleventh Edition.
  3. Butylated hydroxytoluene
  4. Prejean, J., Farnell, D., Thompson, R et.al (1982) Carcinogenesis Bioassay of Propyl Gallate (CAS No. 121-79-9) in F344 Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Feed Study). National Toxicology Program Technical Report Series, NIH Publication 240, 83-1796.
  5. E132 Indigo Carmine, The UK Food Guide
  6. E102 Tartrazine,The UK Food Guide
  7. E110 Sunset Yellow, The UK Food Guide
  8. E104, Quinoline Yellow, The UK Food Guide
  9. E171 Titanium dioxide, The UK Food Guide 
  10. E153 Carbon Black, The UK Food Guide
  11. Yusai, I., Naoki, H., Kyoko, I., Kazufusa, S., Naoki, S. and Hiroshi, A. (2017) Spiroketalcarminic Acid, a Novel Minor Anthraquinone Pigment in Cochineal Extract Used in Food Additives. Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 65, 883-887.
  12. 5 Horrible Food Additives You’ve Probably Eaten Today, Adam Tod Brown (2008)
  13. Starbucks to phase out bug-based dyes from 6 food, drink items,Ryan Jaslow, CBS News (2012)
  14. Food Additives: Food Colours
  15. Mikkelsen, H., Larsen, J.C. and Tarding, F. (1978) Hypersensitivity Reactions to Food Colours with Special Reference to the Natural Colour Annatto Extract (Butter Colour), Toxicological Aspects of Food Safety. 1, 141-143.
  16. Stein, H.L. (2009) Annatto and IBS. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 43, 1014-1015.
  17. Floch, M.H. (2009) Annatto, Diet and The Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 43, 905-906 https://journals.lww.com/jcge/Fulltext/2009/11000/Annatto,_Diet,_and_The_Irritable_Bowel_Syndrome.3.aspx
  18. Potassium Sorbate
  19. Potassium Sorbate – Agricultural Marketing Service. (2002) CFNP TAP Review. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/P%20Sor%20technical%20advisory%20panel%20report.pdf
  20. Potassium Sorbate: Uses, Side Effects and How to Avoid Them, Daily Health Cures Editorial Team (2017)
  21. Potassium Sorbate Uses and Side Effects,MD-Health.com
  22. Phosphoric (V) acid. CLEAPSS Student Safety Sheets
  23. Phosphoric acid solutions. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (Last update 3.1.2017)
  24. Phosphoric acid: The Dangerous Hidden Additive You’ve Likely Consumed, Axe
  25. Science Project: Corrosiveness of Soda, Education.com
  26. Penniston, K.L., Nakada, S.Y., Holmes, R.P. and Assimos, D.G. (2008) Quantitative Assessment of Citric Acid in Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, and Commercially-Available Fruit Juice Products. Journal of Endocrinology. 22, 567-570.
  27. Interesting Study on Dog Bloat
  28. Citric acid, potassium citrate and sodium citrate,Michigan Medicine
  29. E330 Citric Acid,UK Food Guide
  30. Two Preservatives to Avoid? Berkley Wellness.
  31. Labelling, Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association
  32. Butylated hydroxyanisole
  33. The UK Food Guide Butylated hydroxy-anisole (BHA)
  34. US National Library of Medicine
  35. Butylated hydroxytoluene
  36. Acids, Antioxidants & Salts E300-E385
  37. Bomgardner, M.M. (2015) General Mills To Remove Antioxidant BHT From Its Cereals. 93, 6.

  38. Bht (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) Information, Evidenced-Based Supplement Guide on MedicineNet.com
  39. 7 Foods Banned in Other Countries That Are Still Consumed in the U.S.
  40. Annato
  41. Pet Food Ingredients FAQ’s, Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association

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