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Pet Food Quality: Understanding Biogenic Amines

Posted January 21, 2020 by By Kemin Nutrisurance

What Are Biogenic Amines?

Biogenic amines are compounds formed during the normal metabolic functions of plants and animals.1 Many amines play important roles in human and animal physiological functions,2,3 but a high accumulation of biogenic amines ingested from food can become a health hazard.4

Biogenic Amine Formation in Food

Not all biogenic amines have toxic effects and toxicity can vary based on the person or animal affected. Some amines are found naturally in human foods, including meat, fish, cheese, wine, beer and fermented foods.1 However, high levels of biogenic amines in food can indicate microbial spoilage.5


Once biogenic amines are formed, they are heat stable and cannot be destroyed by processing methods such as cooking, baking or canning.6 Histamine, tyramine, cadaverine, putrescine, spermine and spermidine are biogenic amines with potential toxicity effects in animals when ingested at high levels.

Amine Toxicity in Dogs and Cats

Even after centuries of domestication, dogs and cats maintain similar genetic profiles to their wild canid and feline ancestors. It’s not uncommon for wild canids and felines to scavenge decomposed or spoiled carcass. Due to this, it appears they have developed adaptive mechanisms to metabolize and detoxify biogenic amines, and domestic dogs and cats may still maintain some of these mechanisms.7

There is a shortage of literature evaluating the precise effect of biogenic amines on dogs and cats due to ethical reasons. However, studies have shown elevated levels of biogenic amines can cause food poisoning and detrimental effects on palatability and nutrition. Pet food manufacturers should control biogenic amine formation in raw materials and finished products to avoid detrimental effects to the food or pet consuming it.

Pet Food Safety: How to Control Biogenic Amines

To evaluate product freshness, pet food manufacturers can use the Biogenic Amine Index.8 This index shows biogenic amine content in a food product and can be used to indicate freshness or spoilage.


Kemin recommends the methods below to avoid biogenic amine formation and promote pet food product freshness:

  • Use quality ingredients: The quality of an animal meal, or other animal protein source, largely depends on the freshness of animal by-product before rendering. The time between collection and rendering should be as short as possible.  
  • Use cold storage to prevent microbial growth: Cold storage can prevent microbial growth in products that are fresh, but if a product endures high temperatures before freezing, amines can form and continue to form once cooled.
  • Practice good hygiene: Ensure transfer and processing equipment is kept sanitary to reduce microbial load.
  • Use freshness control treatments to prevent microbial deterioration: ALLINSUR™ FS has been shown to effectively control biogenic amine formation in raw materials. Click here to learn more about ALLINSUR.

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1.       Ruiz-Capillas C. and Herrero A.M. (2019). Impact of biogenic amines on food quality and safety. Foods. 8: 1-16.

2.       Ten Brink B., Damink C., Joosten H.M.L.J., Huis in’t Veld J.H.J. (1990). Occurrence and formation of biologically active amines in foods. International Journal of Food Microbiology. 11: 73-84.

3.       Kalač P. (2006). Biologically active polyamines in beef, pork and meat product: A review. Meat Science. 73: 1-11.

4.       Bardócz S. (1995). Polyamines in food and their consequences for food quality and human health. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 6: 341-346.

5.       Triki M., Herrero A.M., Jiménez-Colmenero F., Ruiz-Capillas C. (2018). Quality assessment of fresh meat from several species based on free amino acid and biogenic amine contents during chilled storage. Foods. 7: 132-148.

6.       Hui Y.H. (2006). Handbook of food science, technology, and engineering. Volumes 1-4. 3618p.

7.       Kim K.S., Backus B., Harris M., Rourke P. (1969). Distribution of diamine oxidase and imidazole-N-methyltransferase along the gastrointestinal tract. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. 31: 137-145.

8.       Mietz J.L., Karmas E. (1978). Polyamine and histamine content of rockfish, salmon, lobster, and shrimp as an indicator of decomposition. Journal - Association of Official Analytical Chemists. 61: 139-145.