America’s Retailers’ Private Label Pet Food Tested for Tocixity & Ingredient Quality

America’s Retailers’ Private Label Pet Food Tested for Toxicity and Ingredient Quality

Clean Label Project Issues Report Cards on the Toxicity of Name Brand and Popular Private Label Pet Foods


DENVER—More consumers are switching from brand loyalty to retailer loyalty — with a steady increase in demand for private label offerings — including pet food. Along with increased demand is consumers’ expectation of equal or superior quality. Clean Label Project™ — a national nonprofit focused on health and transparency in labeling — compared the most popular private label pet food brands to the bestselling brands on the market, testing for over 130 environmental and industrial contaminants and evaluating ingredient quality.


The results were split. Only two private label brands — Whole Foods “Whole Paws,” and Kroger’s “Pet Pride” — broke into the top ten brands for product purity of the79 brands ranked. In contrast,’s “American Journey” was in the bottom ten — signifying that this brand contained higher levels of harmful toxins and/or lower ingredient quality.


Retail Private Label Ranking Results:

  1. Whole Foods – Whole Paws (Overall Brand Rank: #9 – out of a total of 79 brands)
  2. Kroger – Pet Pride (Overall Brand Rank: #10)
  3. PetSmart – Simply Nourish (Overall Brand Rank: #12)
  4. Walmart – Ol’ Roy (Overall Brand Rank: #13)
  5. PetSmart – Authority (Overall Brand Rank: #23)
  6. Trader Joe’s – Trader Joe’s (Overall Brand Rank: #38)
  7. Walmart – Special Kitty (Overall Brand Rank: #55)
  8. Only Natural Pet – Only Natural Pet (Overall Brand Rank: #66)
  9. Costco – Kirkland (Overall Brand Rank: #68)
  10. com – American Journey (Overall Brand Rank: #74– out of a total of 79 brands)


Within each category — wet dog food, dry dog food, wet cat food, and dry cat food — as a whole, dollar for dollar, private label pet foods tested higher for toxic contaminants than national brands. Dry cat food fared the worst, with private labels averaging over 700 percent more BPA, over 200 percent more lead, and over 100 percent more pesticides and acrylamides than national brands. Dog food categories have a smaller gap, but levels are still elevated in private label brands.


“You shouldn’t need a degree in analytical chemistry to be able to tell which products are higher quality and contain less toxins,” says Clean Label Project Executive Director Jackie Bowen. “The pet food industry knows consumers are looking at labels — because owners want to buy the best products for their pets — but instead of reformulating their recipes or cleaning up supply chains, brands simply slap a few unregulated buzz words on their packaging to instill confidence in customers. Consumers and pets deserve better.”


The release of the private label results is part of a second round of toxicity testing for Clean Label Project’s Pet Food Study, originally released in April 2017. A total of 148 products have been added to, from an additional 21 brands. In addition to the new individual product rating, each brand received a report card broken down by categories: presence of heavy metals, pesticide residues, acrylamides & plasticizers, antibiotic residues and ingredient quality.


Every product tested is displayed on with a rating of one, three or five stars so consumers can look up the products they buy — and make informed purchasing decisions based on science rather than marketing terms and manufacturer supplied data.


All the products Clean Label Project evaluates are blind tested by Ellipse Analytics, an accredited independent chemistry lab, and screened for over 130 environmental and industrial toxins and now ingredient quality. The test results are verified by two additional labs through random testing. Blind data is then analyzed by Clean Label Project’s Medical 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. Brands tested include 9 Lives, Acana, American Journey, Artemis, Authority, AvoDerm, B.F.F., Bil-Jac, Blue Buffalo, Buckley, Canidae, Canine Carry Outs, Castor & Pollux, Cesar, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Country Value, Diamond, Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance, Dog for Dog, Dogswell, Eagle Pack, Earthborn Holistic, Freshpet, Fromm, Full Moon, Great Life, Greenies, Halo, Hill's Science Diet, Hi-Tek Rations, Holistic Select, I and Love and You, Iams, Kibbles 'n Bits, Kirkland, Lotus, Meow Mix, Merrick, Milk-Bone, Milo's Kitchen, Natural Planet, Nature's Logic, Nature's Variety, Nudges, Nulo, Nunn-Better, NutriSource, Nutro, Ol' Roy, Old Mother Hubbard, Only Natural Pet, Open Farm, Orijen, Pet Pride, Petcurean, Premium Edge, Primal Pet Foods, Pup-Peroni, Purina, Rachael Ray Nutrish, Royal Canin, Simply Nourish, SmallBatch Pets, SmartBones, Snausages, Sojos, Solid Gold, Special Kitty, Stella & Chewy's, Taste of the Wild, The Honest Kitchen, Three Dog Bakery, TimberWolf, Trader Joe's, TruDog, Wellness, Wet Noses, Whiskas, Whole Paws



The product ratings are available for free at


About Clean Label Project
Clean Label Project’s mission is to educate the public so they can make informed choices every time they shop. It accomplishes this by using scientific data to identify toxins and verify nutritional value in consumer products and sharing this information directly with consumers. Clean Label Project also believe it’s important to understand what kinds of contaminants it tests for and the potential effects, and includes education as a core initiative. Its website is

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