Dog food labels read "all natural" and cat food labels read "grain free," but do you really know what is in your pet's food? And is it really safe?
A new study by the Clean Label Project a national non-profit organization, looked at more than 900 top-selling dog and cat food products. According to their findings, some pet foods are not only unsafe, but they could slowly be poisoning your pets.
"Clean Label Project worked with an independent third party, analytical, chemistry laboratory called Ellipse Analytics who has tested tens of thousands of consumer products, and they literally have never seen environmental and industrial contaminants as high as they have ever seen in pet food," said Jaclyn Bowen, the executive director of the Clean Label Project.
Eighty-one percent of the pet foods tested exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's lead action level. In some pet foods tested, lead was found at 16 times the concentration of lead in Flint, Michigan's drinking water. Eighty-nine percent of pet foods tested exceeded the arsenic levels set by the EPA.
Robert Glock, a research scientist at the University of Arizona, says most contaminants in the study will not be toxic unless present in one thousand to one million times the concentrations that can be detected. He also saod to keep in mind that EPA levels for water may be very different than toxic levels in food products for pets.
So, should pet owners be worried about what is in pet food? What can consumers do to protect their pets?
Clean Label Project says to be aware of marketing tactics such as "high quality", "all natural" and "grain free." The study found that these brand messages, along with higher prices, were not an indicator for quality. On Amazon, the average price for the study's top ranked dry dog food was $19.13 for a 15-pound bag. The average price for its lowest-ranked dry dog food is $85.33.
Additionally, pet foods labeled "grain free" were generally found to have higher levels of toxins than those that did not.
Top Ranked Dry Dog Foods:
1. SmallBatch Pets Frozen Turkey Batch Sliders Dry Dog Food
2. Sojos Raw Made Easy Complete Turkey Recipe
3. Sojos Wild Wild Boar Recipe Dry Dog Food
4. Stella & Chewy's Freeze Dried Chewy's Chicken Dinner Patties
5. SmallBatch Pets Freeze Dried Raw Duck Batch Dry Dog Food
6. The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Preference Base Mix Dry Dog Food
7. Sojos Raw Made Easy Pre-Mix Original Recipe Dry Dog Food
8. Eagle Pack Lage and Giant Breeds Natural Dry Dog Food
9. Stella & Chewy's Freeze Dried Dandy Lamb Dinner Patties Dry Dog Food
10. Stella & Chewy's Freeze Dried Simply Venison Dinner Patties
Bottom Ranked Dry Dry Dog Foods:
1. Bil-Jac Farmer's Bounty with Steam Rolled Oats Dry Dog Food
2. The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Zeal Fish Recipe Dry Dog Food
3. Diamond Grain Free Care Sensitive Stomach Formula Dry Dog Food
4. Acana Regionals Wild Atlantic New England Fish and Fresh Greens Dry Dog Food
5. Orijen Six Fish with New England Mackerel, Herring, Flounder, Redfish, Monkfish, Silver Hake Dog Food
6. Orijen Six Fish Wild Caught Regional Saltwater and Freshwater Fish Dry Dog Food
7. Orijen Tundra Goat, Venison, Mutton, Bison, Arctic Char, Rabbit Dry Dog Food
8. Earthborn Holistic Grain Free Ocean Fusion Dry Dog Food
9. Acana Singles Mackerel and Greens Formula Dry Dog Food
10. Timberwolf Grain Free Legends Dakota Bison and Buffalo Meal with Herbs and Berries Dry Dog Food
Clean Label Project recommends printing out their list of recommended foods. All products tested have been rated one, three or five stars. Clean Label suggests that pet owners take the list to their local vets to find a product that is not only lower in contaminants, but also meets the dietary needs of their pet.
When in doubt, turkey was found to be the cleanest protein source, with the least amount of contaminants overall.
"Their diets aren't like ours. They eat the same thing two to three times a day and every day of their life," Bowen said. "So, with that, the exposure that they're having to these environmental industrial contaminants and toxins is so especially important, and the fact that nobody is talking about it, we're really looking to drive that awareness.
Clean Label Project's pet food rankings can be found here.