Last month, a class action lawsuit was filed against Champion Pet Foods, makers of Acana and Orijen, alleging the presence of heavy metals and BPA in their foods. This lawsuit has understandably caused concern among our customers and created a bit of a social media firestorm.
Many of our customers have come to us for our opinion on this lawsuit and, in a nutshell, we are not concerned about the quality of Orijen and Acana foods at this time. We believe the lawsuit to be without merit and the way in which the levels of heavy metals are defined in this lawsuit to be engineered to appear greater than they actually are.
Heavy metals in our environment have been a cause for alarm here in Portland in the last few years, with high levels of cadmium and arsenic being found in moss around the Portland area as well as lead found in many of the faucets and drinking fountains in our schools. It is to be expected that any conscientious pet parent would be worried about this lawsuit, especially given the environmental issues we have experienced.
However, it is important to understand that these heavy metals are naturally occurring in our environment and are only a cause for concern at high concentrations. We all ingest, breathe and are otherwise exposed to arsenic, lead, cadmium and other heavy metals every day. While pollution creating higher levels of these heavy metals is a cause for concern, it is not accurate to assume that any exposure greater than zero is toxic. If we look at arsenic in particular, we find that not all arsenic is created equally toxic. Inorganic arsenic is part of the Earth’s crust, is found in the soil and air, and is the most toxic. Organic arsenic is found in higher concentrations in marine environments and is much less toxic.
Let’s take the lawsuit’s published arsenic levels in Orijen’s Original formula for dogs. Per the chart in their lawsuit, the level of arsenic is 907.6 micrograms/kilogram, or parts per billion. Given that there is more arsenic found in fish and that type of arsenic is much less toxic, it stands to reason that the chart produced in this lawsuit generally reflects a higher level of arsenic in fish-based Orijen and Acana formulas (it does). It also stands to reason that those levels of arsenic are primarily organic and not considered to be toxic. Fish is present in many Orijen & Acana formulas.
The NRC has established 30mg/kg of arsenic as being a reasonable MTL (maximum tolerable limit) for mammals with the FDA recommending 12.5mg/kg for dogs & cats. 907.6 micrograms/kilogram is equivalent to .9076 mg/kg, which is well below the established MTL. (Please note that we have not included a link to the NRC’s MTSA Committee report on their recommendations as viewing the actual report requires a $100 purchase; rather their recommendations are referenced in the FDA report we linked to).
Champion’s 3rd party heavy metal testing, which is conducted as part of their regular quality control testing, found an average of .89mg/kg across their Orijen and Acana dog foods from the period of 2014-2017.
The levels of other heavy metals, comparison to regulatory agencies’ recommendations and Champion’s own testing follow these same patterns. While the numbers referenced in the lawsuit appear large at first glance, once the proper conversion to compare with regulatory guidance is completed, we see that they are well below established limits.
We believe that we all should be concerned about human-caused contamination of our environment – lead in our schools’ pipes, cadmium in our air from industrial facilities, BPA in the majority of our plastics and microplastic pollution in our waterways and oceans. The cumulative effects of a little bit of this compound here and there is as of yet something we seem unable to measure, scientifically study and consequently regulate. However, it is unreasonable to single out Champion Pet Foods. Their quality standards, use of BPA-free packaging and commitment to producing some of the highest quality pet food, in our opinion, remains untarnished.
Thank you to all of our customers who trust in our ability to evaluate pet food quality, standards, and cut through the noise generated by this issue. If you have any questions, please feel free to stop by the store and talk to Sarah.