DENVER— A new report released by Clean Label Project™—a national nonprofit focused on health and transparency in labeling—shows dangerously high levels of environmental and industrial contaminants in pet foods across the industry. Products were screened for over 130 toxins including arsenic, once known as a primary ingredient in rat poison; cadmium, the active component in battery acid; as well as pesticides and other contaminants with links to cancer and other fatal conditions in both humans and animals. The analysis also includes review of protein, fiber, fat, and ingredient label transparency.
Clean Label Project had the top selling dog and cat food products tested—both wet and dry—and dog and cat treats, as reported by Nielsen for 2016. The organization had over 900 products tested from 74 brands.
The report lists the top and bottom 10 products for each category and notes overall trends. Every product tested is displayed on cleanlabelproject.org/petfood with a rating of one, three or five stars so consumers can look up the products they purchase—and make informed purchasing decisions based on science rather than marketing terms and manufacturer supplied data.
Clean Label Project found lead in some pet food at 16 times the concertation of lead in Flint, Michigan’s tainted drinking water. And arsenic in concentrations of 555 times higher than the maximum contaminant level for human drinking water set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Companies may be unaware these chemicals are in their products, as many of these tests are not routine or required—but that doesn’t make the presence of these toxins any less dangerous,” says Jackie Bowen, Clean Label Project executive director. “The rapid expansion of manufacturing and outsourcing has made an impact on the purity of not just pet food, but all food—and the only way to fix it is to increase awareness and demand action.”
Clean Label Project’s study reveals the significant disconnect between what pet product consumers believe they are paying for and the products they actually receive. Many of the claims made on product labels are not regulated. Terms like “human-grade,” “highest quality ingredients” and “natural” are open to interpretation by consumers and brands. Despite the premium consumers are often willing to pay for products with these labels, Clean Label Project found that price is not a reliable indicator of purity.
The long-term exposure to low, medium and—in some cases—extremely high levels of toxins identified in the report is cause for serious concern. Though little research has been done on the impacts of these toxins to companion animals, there are well established connections between long-term exposure to these elements and the incidence of cancer and other deadly diseases in humans and laboratory animals.
All the products Clean Label Project evaluates are blind tested by Ellipse Analytics, an accredited independent chemistry lab—and results are verified by two additional labs through random testing. Blind data is then analyzed by Clean Label Project’s Technical Advisory Board of veterinarians, statisticians, epidemiologists and food safety scientists before being published.
All of the products tested were purchased online or off store shelves. The 74 brands tested are 9 lives, Acana, American Farms, Artemis, Authority, Bil-Jac, Blue Dog Bakery, Blue Buffalo, Canidae, Canine Carry Outs, Catswell, Cesar, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Country Value, Diamond, Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance, Dingo, Dog for Dog, Dogswell, Eagle Pack, Earthborn Holistic, Feline Holistic Select, Freshpet, Fromm, Full Moon, Goodlife, Gravy Trains, Greenies, Halo, Henne Pet Food, Hill’s Science Diet, Hi-Tek Rations, Holistic Select, I and Love and You, Iams, Just Food for Dogs, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Lotus, Meaty Bone, Meow Mix, Milk-Bone, Milo’s Kitchen, Nature’s Logic, Nature’s Variety, Newman’s Own, Nudges, Nulo, Nunn-Better, NutriSource, Nutro, Old Mother Hubbard, Open Farm, Orijen, Pedigree, Petcurean, Pounce, Premium Edge, Primal Pet Food, Professional +, Pup-Peroni, Purina, Rachel Ray Nutrish, SmallBatch Pets, Smart Bones, Snausages, Sojos, Solid Gold, Stella and Chewy’s, The Honest Kitchen, Three Dog Bakery, Timberwolf, TruDog, Wellness and Whiskas.
The product ratings are available for free at cleanlabelproject.org/petfood.