Why Clean Label Project’s Methodology is Unique

At Clean Label Project™, our product evaluations are based on analytical chemistry testing. We do not make assumptions for product recommendations based on manufacturer supplied data, peer-reviewed research reports or data from other consumer advocacy groups. Clean Label Project looks beyond the product’s marketing terms and ingredients to tell you what isn’t listed on the label – hidden industrial and environmental contaminants and toxins like arsenic, cadmium, lead, antibiotic or pesticide residues.

Here is How it Works


Here is Why it Matters

Clean Label Project’s mission is to educate consumers so they can make informed choices every time they shop. We accomplish this by using scientific data to identify toxins in consumer products and by sharing this information with you, the consumer. However, we also believe it’s important to understand what kinds of contaminants products are tested for and the potential effects. Listed below are some of the 130 contaminant pet foods and consumer products are tested for and the potential effects.

Contaminants We Test For


Acrylamide is an extremely toxic chemical used in manufacturing. It is used in the treatment of water, and it can sometimes wind up in soil through that route. It is also found in tobacco, and made naturally when certain plants (like potatoes) are cooked. Acrylamide has been linked to brain damage in both cats and dogs, as cancer in laboratory animals.1

1 https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp203.pdf; Spencer and Schaumburg, 1975; Satchell et al., 1981; Beland et al., 2013


Ammeline is a byproduct of melamine, and is structurally similar to melamine. It is used in lubricating greases, but is sometimes found in places where melamine is concentrated. Like cyanuric acid, ammeline may enhance the toxic effects of melamine, though there is some evidence from animal studies that ammeline can cause kidney damage by itself.1

1 http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/chem/Melamine_report09.pdf


Arsenic is metal and an element on the periodic table. It is found naturally but is also used in industrial settings such as mining and smelting operations. It is also toxic to humans and animals, and can leach into soil and water, where it can wind up in plants. Arsenic has been classified by the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer as a cancer-causing chemical (carcinogen) in humans.1

1IARC 1987


Antibiotics are used on farms to prevent diseases, particularly when animals are crowded together, and to encourage growth prior to slaughter. People are exposed to these antibiotics when they eat contaminated meat and poultry. 1



Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to make plastics or epoxy resins (compounds used to line cans). People can be exposed to BPA by eating canned foods—the BPA lining the can seep into the food inside. There is evidence that BPA can effect the brain of children, as well as laboratory animals.1

1 Weinstein et al., 2013; https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/assets/docs_a_e/bisphenol_a_bpa_508.pdf


Cadmium is a toxic natural element found worldwide. It enters the food chain through industrial contamination of soil and water, but is also found in cigarettes. Cadmium can be found in fruits, vegetables and grains such as rice, as well as organ meats, shellfish and protein drinks. Exposure to cadmium can damage kidneys in humans and animals.1

1ATSDR https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=47&tid=15; Nazima et al., 2015


Chromium, like arsenic and lead, is a naturally occurring toxic element. Chromium is released from industrial activities, and ends up in nearby soil and water. While small amounts of chromium good for humans, too much chromium can cause cancer in humans and animals.1
1ATSDR https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp7.pdf;  Sun et al., 2015.

Cyanuric Acid

Cyanuric acid is a chemical often used as an herbicide, as well as in swimming pool water. Functionally, it is like melamine. Cyanuric acid can end up in water and soil, as well as in fish swimming in Cyanuric acid-contaminated waters. While not as toxic as melamine, cyanuric acid can still damage kidneys in animals. More concerning is evidence that cyanuric acid can boost the toxic effects of melamine—making a dangerous chemical even worse.1

1 http://www.who.int/foodsafety/fs_management/Melamine.pdf


Like mercury, lead is a harmful toxic heavy metal. It is used in many industrial processes, and used to be a common material for making paints and water pipes. Like other toxins, lead can leech into water and soil and contaminate foods. Lead poisoning affects memory and learning in children, and can cause stunted growth and kidney damage. In dogs and cats, lead has been linked to brain damage, kidney damage, and death.1

1 ATSDR https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=93&tid=22; Knights and Kumar, 2003; Hogasen et al., 2016


Melamine is a chemical compound commonly used in making plastics. While melamine is not an approved food additive, it has been found in infant formulas and pet foods. Melamine can damage or impair the kidneys, which can lead to death. This happened in 2007, when several pet foods were found to be contaminated with melamine.1

1 http://www.who.int/csr/media/faq/QAmelamine/en/ ; http://deohs.washington.edu/pehsu/sites/default/files/melamine_factsheet.pdf


Mercury is a metal that occurs naturally in the environment, but can also be found because of pollution, farming, industrial practices and manufacturing (e.g. processed food cans). A form of mercury (methylmercury) is found in most seafood, which is why the FDA recommends limiting how much seafood you eat. Mercury damages the central nervous system, including the brain of humans, cats, and dogs.1

1 ATSDR https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=113&tid=24 ; Farina et al., 2012


Mycotoxins are what we call toxins produced by fungus (like mushrooms). Mycotoxins are found on many varieties of fungus, and can be found in molds as well as mushrooms. People become exposed to mycotoxins by eating foods or drinks contaminated by these chemicals or by breathing in moldy air. Mycotoxins have been linked to food poisoning, birth defects, and cancer.1

1 http://www.who.int/ceh/capacity/mycotoxins.pdf


Nickel is a naturally occurring metal that is commonly mixed with other metals to make products such as stainless steel. Nickel is released into the air from industrial facilities, and it can settle into nearby water and soil. Nickel has been linked to kidney damage and cancer in laboratory animals.1

1 ATSDR https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp15.pdf; Denkaus et al., 2002; Chen et al., 2010.


Commonly sprayed on fruits, vegetables, grains and grass to control insects and weeds, some pesticides have been linked to cancer, while others are known to effect the development of a fetus, or to damage kidneys and the brain of humans and laboratory animals.1

1 ATSDR: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxchemicallisting.asp?sysid=31; Nasir et al., 2016

Sign up for our newsletter and keep coming back for more testing results on pet food and other consumer product categories.

Start typing and press Enter to search