Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Clean Label Project™ doing this work? Why does this matter to consumers? How is Clean Label Project different from other food advocacy groups? Find the answers to these frequently asked questions and more below.

FAQs about the Pet Food Study

What if my pet food wasn’t tested?

We are currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Indgiegogo to raise the funds to complete Round 2 of our Pet Food Study. Contributors to the campaign will have the unique opportunity to vote on the next round of brands and products we test.

How can I tell if a brand changed its product since it was tested?

We don’t have a clearway to tell if a product has changed without retesting. We invite brands to join the Clean Label Project certification program, which includes random testing of their products throughout the year to ensure purity.

We do plan to retest all the product periodically, to keep the rating up to date.

Why do some brands have 1 star and 5 star products?

Clean Label Project focuses on products, not brands. Depending on the ingredients each product has different sources, suppliers, packers, etc. It was not uncommon for a brand’s products to rate up and down the scale.

How did you choose the products to test?

Clean Label Project used 2016 Nielsen data to select the top selling pet food products in the US that make up 90% of the overall dry and wet dog food, cat food, and treats revenue.

Additionally, we included some pet food specialty retailer’s favorite brands.

Our team purchased products from store shelves and online—just like customers would.

How do you know the tests are accurate?

Ellipse Analytics is Clean Label Project’s partner laboratory for testing. They are an independent third party analytical chemistry testing and data company. The test 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.

My pet eats prescription food—what should I do?

Present the results of our study to your veterinarian, and discuss with them the best options for your pet’s diet.

How were the products rated?

Products were tested for more than 130 toxins and contaminants.

Can I see the raw data?

We want consumers to be able to understand and apply the data to make educated choices, which is why we developed a rating system.

What does Clean Label Project Certified mean?
Clean Label Project tested more that 900 dry and wet dog foods, cat foods, and treats for over 130 environmental and industrial contaminants and toxins. As part of our study, Clean Label Project simulates the consumer shopping experience. This means that just like you, we went to our favorite retailers and ordered products online to ensure the products we were testing were the exact same type of pet food products you have in your pantry and refrigerator.
Clean Label Project’s Certification program is for the highest performing products. Not only did the individual products of these brands perform exceptionally well in our initial unannounced sampling and testing, they have voluntarily signed on to having the Clean Label Project continue to randomly sample and test a subset of their products to ensure ongoing compliance with Clean Label Project standards.
What does Best in Class mean?

Clean Label Project Best in Class program is reserved for the highest performing brands. Not only did their individual products perform exceptionally well, their entire product portfolio tested averaged a near perfect 5-star. These brands have committed to performing routine supplier assurance testing, having regular food safety audits, and incorporating maximum contaminant levels as part of their sourcing specification. We commend these brands for their pet food ingredient quality and have awarded them a best in class distinction for this commitment.

What happened to nutrition?

When we launched with the results of our pet food study, we included a measure meant to show how nutritious a pet food was– looking at factors like protein, fat, fiber, and the transparency of the label. We quickly realized that this approach was insufficient: pet nutrition is a hugely complex topic, and the information reported on packages simply was not up to the standard we hold ourselves to at Clean Label Project. We decided that if we wanted to do pet nutrition justice, we needed a more rigorous, scientific approach — and an approach like that takes time and money to do right. So for the time being, we have removed the nutritional component from our rating system. For now, the star ratings you see on our site are based entirely on the contaminants data we collected ourselves.

FAQs about Clean Label Project

What is Clean Label Project?

Clean Label Project is a new, unbiased, science-based nonprofit educating consumers about toxins in consumers products on the market today.

What are the toxins in consumer products that are not listed on product labels?

Product labels lists ingredients that a product is known to contain. What they don’t include are contaminants and additives that ingredients may come in contact with as they enter the food supply chain. These can include heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic and mercury) and ‘legacy’ chemicals that, in the case of food, leach into the soil and water in which ingredients are grown as a result of agriculture methods, industry and mining activities. Transportation and storage systems provide additional opportunities for contamination. At Clean Label Project, we understand that no food product will be 100 percent free from all unwanted contaminants, but we believe we consumers should know which products are the purest*, meaning that they contain the least number of contaminants.

Why does this matter to consumers?

As consumers and parents we all want to feed our loved ones the cleanest food possible. There are a lot of troubling news stories about arsenic in baby rice cereal and lead in water, as well as pesticides, antibiotic resistance and additives in foods. By publishing lists of the cleanest foods according to our data, Clean Label Project gives shoppers an easy solution for cleaner foods.

Why is Clean Label Project doing this work?

Clean Label Project is doing this work because we believe that every consumer has a right to know what is really in the products they purchase so they can make informed choices. Our nonprofit advocates for cleaner food and consumer products on behalf of the public. 

Aren’t contamination levels in food already regulated by the government?

Surprisingly, not really. The FDA had made significant efforts when it comes to traditional food safety- making sure the growers, manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants have the necessary systems in place to protect consumer from food borne illness like salmonella, e.coli, and listeria. The US lags behind countries like France who have already issued a call to action to improve the quality and purity of the foods we feed the nation’s most vulnerable populations. Very little regulatory attention is being paid at the federal level to minimize the consumer exposures to environmental and industrial contaminants and toxins.

This sounds expensive. Will I have to pay more for cleaner products?

Price is not a true indicator of purity. This is why Clean Label Project blind tests all products. The data reveals that the cleanest ingredients can be found across all price points and across all categories.

Do manufacturers already test for these ingredients?

Manufacturers are indeed doing their own random product testing, and guidelines exist to regulate some single contaminants, such as arsenic in drinking water. However, packaged and processed food can contain a variety of hidden contaminants that are not regularly tested for, such as heavy metals, antibiotics and pesticides that have been shown to be of concern to human health.

How are products scored for Clean Label Project’s Product Ratings?

Our third-party laboratory partner blind tests products for a list of 130 toxins and contaminants, including heavy metals, antibiotics, BPA/BPS (plasticizers) and pesticide-residues that are not identified on labels but are prevalent in food and consumer products. The products are then published on the Product Ratings using a five-star rating system based on how they perform across the 130 contaminants in comparison to the rest of the industry category. All of this information is wrapped up to represent the overall product score.

What do these tests look for specifically?

Clean Label Projects looks beyond the product’s marketing terms to tell you what is really the product. We test products for the following industrial and environmental toxins, including: arsenic, cadmium, mercury, lead, aluminum, BPA, antibiotic and pesticide residues, acrylamide and melamine.

How is Clean Label Project different from other food advocacy groups?

Clean Label Project uses actual laboratory testing data to conduct large scale category tests on America’s best-selling consumer products. We rely exclusively on data and science, not marketing claims.  The products evaluated account for 90 percent of the most purchased products in the marketplace. These products are tested and analyzed for 130 contaminants and toxins, including heavy metals, pesticides, antibiotics and other unwanted substances.

  • Clean Label Project is focused on finding solutions that increase rigor in reducing potentially harmful contaminants in consumer packaged goods.
  • Our organization takes rating to a new level by having products tested for numerous contaminants including heavy metals and pesticide residues. Our medical advisory team then analyzes and benchmarks the results.
  • We rely exclusively on blinded laboratory tested data and science to make our recommendations.
  • Our findings empower consumers with the scientifically based data they need to choose the cleanest products.
How do these contaminants get in food?

Our future work will include research to find out how and where the contamination occurs. However, our early due diligence and data leads us to a number of conclusions. For example, in food products, naturally occurring toxic and heavy metals; contaminated soil and water from agricultural farming methods; mine tailing runoffs, as well as storage, silos and transportation systems that can transfer certain contaminants as food is stored and transported.

Why does Clean Label Project sell products through Amazon?

Clean Label Project is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to When you purchase products through us, we keep about 4% of each sale, which goes directly to fund future testing and allows us to continue our fight for cleaner products and transparency in labeling.

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