Why Clean Label Project’s Methodology is Unique


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. We evaluate the good stuff too like ingredient quality. Listed below are some of the 130 contaminant pet foods and consumer products are tested for and the potential health effects.



The Sampling & Analysis Process



Not all contaminants are created equal



Clean Label Project's overall product ratings factor in heavy metals, process contaminants, and by-product contaminants in addition

to nutritional superiority in order to provide consumers an overall snapshot of America's cleanest products.


Clean Label Project Evaluation Process 

Environmental & Industrial contaminants' analytical chemistry results Nutritional Superiority =  overall score 

Why do we weight heavy metals the highest? Because scientific evidence suggests that

these contaminants pose the greatest risk to health.

Clean Label Project also downgrades products and brands for food safety-related recalls. 



Contaminants We Test For


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: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2011/402647/


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


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


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 


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


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



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


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


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


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, and 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


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


In food processing, residual solvent, as the name suggests, is the remaining solvent that is present after doing some type for extraction. Residual solvents usually occur when the required processing and solvent-purging methods or steps are not properly utilized. For example, hexane is a petroleum by-product of gasoline refining and a common solvent used by conventional grain processors to extract oil from different grains such as corn, soy, and canola. Most soybeans are processed through a hexane bath to separate soybeans into oil, protein and fiber. Soybean processing releases this highly explosive, neurotoxic chemical into the environment where it reacts with other pollutants to create ozone, which is a serious human health and environmental hazard.1


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