Archive for the 'Organic and Green Pet Foods' Category

01st Aug 2009

Which Pet Food Claims are Verified by an Independent Third-Party?

An USDA-accredited organic certification agency (i.e., the independent third-party) verifies the following claims (none of these claims can be verified for non-certified organic pet food products):

1. Organic status of ingredients
2. Sourcing of ingredients (e.g., countries of origin, human-grade vs. feed-grade quality)
3. Qualities of ingredients (e.g., antibiotic-free, hormone-free, GMO-free)
4. Omission of toxic synthetics during growing and handling of ingredients (e.g., no use of synthetic pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics, or hormones)
5. Omission of toxic synthetics during the manufacture and storage of pet food product (e.g., sanitizers, pesticides)
6. Processing details (e.g., what temperatures are used during dehydration)

The organic certifier has access to all of the records of the manufacturing facility and of every single production batch. These records have to be available for re-inspection if necessary for 5 years.

Nobody can guarantee any of the claims listed above for non-certified organic pet food products, because records do not have to be disclosed to anybody who is not associated with the pet food company.

You may see that organic certification of pet food products substantiates a manufacturer’s claims by demanding full disclosure of all records. Organic certification agencies also inspect a certified organic pet food manufacturer’s marketing materials and product packaging information to ensure that the manufacturer’s product descriptions are truthful.

From my experience as a certified organic pet food manufacturer who routinely compares pet food products and claims, I can attest to the fact that organic certification provides the tightest regulatory oversight in the pet food industry. I am sure every manufacturer of certified organic pet food products will agree with me.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic and Green Pet Foods Comments Comments Off

26th May 2009

Genetically Engineered Corn Impairs Fertility in Mice

A recent study indicates that a diet containing genetically modified or engineered (GM, GE) foods can impair reproduction in laboratory mice. Although it is has not yet been determined if this also applies to other species, the results of this study certainly suggest that it is safer to feed your pets foods that don”t contain GE ingredients. The safest way to do this is to choose certified organic pet foods, in which the use of GE ingredients are prohibited and their exclusion is verified by an unbiased third party.

Dr. Jürgen Zentek, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna, performed a feeding study with genetically engineered corn (GVO-Mais NK603 X Mon810) using laboratory mice. The experimental group of mice was fed a diet containing 33% GE corn, while the control group received a diet containing 33% non-GE corn.

There was no significant difference in food intake, body weight, or longevity in the adult mice. However, both the number of litters and the litter sizes decreased significantly in the GE-fed group.

This study was funded by the Austrian Department of Health and can be read in detail (in German) at

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic and Green Pet Foods Comments Comments Off

25th May 2009

Dangers of Non-Organic Products – Herbicides – Roundup Toxicity

If you are not fully convinced that organic farming and organic products (yours and your pet’s food included) are safer and healthier than non-organic conventional alternatives, read on:

Roundup is the brand name of a systemic, broad-spectrum herbicide produced by Monsanto; it is the number one selling herbicide worldwide. Roundup contains the active ingredient glyphosate, which is the most used herbicide in the USA. Roundup is available in several formulations including Roundup WeatherMAX, Roundup Weed and Grass Killer Super Concentrate, Roundup Weed and Grass Killer Ready-To-Use Plus.

Glyphosate is considered to be of low toxicity to humans because its effects are (theoretically) specific to plants. However, fatal reactions to glyphosate have been reported after the ingestion of large amounts. Pulmonary edema, shock, and arrhythmia were the reported causes of mortality in a case study (1). At levels far below agricultural recommendations which correspond to low levels of residues in food or feed, Roundup formulations induced cell damage and death in human cell lines (neonate umbilical cord vein cells, embryonic kidney cells, placental cells) (2).

Roundup also affects the survival and performance, of beneficial plants, microorganisms in soil and water, as well as representatives of almost all invertebrates and vertebrates investigated so far. Here is a collection of just a few of the studies published on this topic to date in the year 2009.

Roundup or its active ingredient induces mild oxidative stress in goldfish tissues (brain, liver, kidneys) (3). It causes death of larval (4) and juvenile amphibians (toads) (5). Glyphosate herbicides decrease growth of phyoplankton/algae (5). Roundup lowers the regenerative properties of flatworms (6). It is genotoxic for broad-snouted caiman where its presence in the egg induces DNA damage of the red blood cells (7).

I hope I’ve given you enough information to stimulate your interest in this and other herbicides that might end up in your food, your pet’s food, and all parts of your pet’s body, including feet, fur, and mouth. Since both you and your pet routinely carry toxins into your house on your feet, try to avoid public areas where toxins are used to maintain lawns. Since it’s often impossible to know where these chemicals are being used, it’s probably best to leave your shoes outside your living area and to wash your pet’s paws after a walk in the park, or even just a run in your backyard.

And of course, choose organic pet toys (for example, those found made by Purrfectplay available at and USDA certified organic pet foods whenever you can.
Remember: only certified organic pet food claims are regulated and enforced by the US government.

1. Chang & Chang. Refractory cardiopulmonary failure after glyphosate surfactant intoxication: a case report. J Occup Med Toxicol. 2009 4:2.
2. Benachour & Seralini. Glyphosate formulations induce apoptosis and necrosis in human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells. Chem Res Toxicol. 2009 22(1):97-105.
3. Lushchak et al. Low toxic herbicide Roundup induces mild oxidative stress in goldfish tissues. Chemosphere 2009.
4. Relyea & Jones. The Toxicity of Roundup Original MAX(R) to Thirteen Species of Larval Amphibians. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2009 30:1.
5. Dinehart et al. Toxicity of a glufosinate- and several glyphosate-based herbicides to juvenile amphibians from the Southern High Plains, USA. Sci Total Environ. 2009 ;407(3):1065-71.
6. Vendrell et al. Effect of glyphosate on growth of four freshwater species of phytoplankton: a microplate bioassay. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol. 2009 82(5):538-42.
7. Liu et al. Impact of glyphosate and acetochlor on Dugesia japonica ingestion and regeneration. Ying Yong Sheng Tai Xue Bao. 2008 19(11):2509-14.
8. Poletta et al. Genotoxicity of the herbicide formulation Roundup (glyphosate) in broad-snouted caiman (Caiman latirostris) evidenced by the Comet assay and the Micronucleus test. Mutat Res. 2009 672(2):95-102.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic and Green Pet Foods Comments 1 Comment »

10th Mar 2009

Organic Pet Foods

Anyone who considers his or her pet a part of the family knows how hard it is to pick a good pet food from the overstocked displays at their favorite neighborhood or online pet supply store. At first glance, it seems like one has a myriad of great choices—that is, until you actually read the fine print and begin to understand what label terms mean and wonder which claims to trust.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about the benefits of organic products (e.g., healthier, more nutrient-dense, less agricultural and other synthetic chemical residues and toxins), and it’s likely that you restrict your survey of various products to organic pet foods. Nevertheless, it’s probably difficult for you to discriminate between marketing fiction and labeling facts, even in this pet food category. Such confusion is understandable, given the general lack of regulations that allows the abuse of descriptive terms for pet food ingredients in general and organic pet food ingredients in particular.

The law
Currently in the pet food industry, only USDA certified organic claims are regulated and enforced by U.S. law. All other non-certified organic claims are not regulated or enforced by the U.S. government and therefore may or may not be true, as they have not been verified by an unbiased third-party. As a State compliance officer at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) wrote in 2008: It is buyer beware of any pet food product that does not show that it is certified by one of the National Organic Program (NOP) certification agents.”

At present, USDA organic certification for pet foods follows the NOP standards set for human food products. However, new organic pet food policies are being developed which will likely—and unfortunately— water down these standards to the point where they will be not much better than those set for organic livestock feeds, setting the bar very low indeed.

Specifically, these new standards will probably allow the inclusion of more synthetics in USDA certified organic pet foods than are currently permitted in the so-called ‘National List’ of allowed non-organic ingredients and manufacturing processes (details of may be viewed at (

The organic certification process
The organic certification process for a given organic pet food manufacturer includes a review of all products made by that company, organic certificates for every ingredient used, and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) statements for every ingredient used, where applicable, as well as regularly scheduled inspections of the production facility.

Organic certification and ingredients
All ingredients included in any USDA certified organic pet food must be fully traceable back to their origins. This is critically important in any cases of pet food recalls that may arise. This requirement automatically prohibits the use of any ill-defined pet food ingredients, such as so-called ‘rendered’ ingredients, fish meals, or generic animal fats which can’t even be traced to individual source species, let alone their origins.

Organic certification verifies pet food claims
Organic certification through an unbiased USDA-accredited certifying agency is also the consumer’s best assurance that all ingredients are fully disclosed and that the manufacturing site is free of the toxic chemicals that are commonly used in both non-certified organic pet food and human food manufacturing facilities alike. In general, this certification is the only credible verification for the claims that are often made by pet food companies (i.e., ‘organic,’ ‘antibiotic-free,’ ‘hormone-free,’ ‘no GMOs,’ ‘no by-products,’ etc.).

The future of the organic certification standards for pet foods
Although some less desirable synthetic ingredients will probably be included in the ‘National List’ that is now being developed in connection with the planned organic pet food policies, both current and future standards will guarantee that claims made about USDA certified organic pet foods are true. Fortunately, pet food manufacturers will be able to choose not to include any synthetic ingredients, even if they will be allowed to do so under the law. Exclusion of such ingredients will certainly be another worthwhile label claim to look out for in the future.

Categories of certified organic pet food products
Use of the USDA organic seal is reserved for certified organic products containing at least 95% of certified organic ingredients; conventional ingredients cannot be used in this class of USDA certified organic products if organic versions are currently available. Pet food products that contain at least 70%, but less than 95%, organic ingredients cannot display the USDA organic seal; however, they can carry the label, ‘made with organic ingredients’ and, as in the case of products containing more than 95% organic ingredients, they must disclose the organic certifier which assured that the listed organic ingredients are indeed organic and that the chosen processing methods comply with current standards, as well as that the products do not contain any GMO ingredients. Among the better known of these organic certifiers are Quality Assurance International (QAI), California Certified Organic Famers (CCOF), and Oregon Tilth (OTCO).

Certified organic pet foods are also ”green”
USDA certified organic pet foods are not only healthier and intrinsically safer for your pet, they are also the only ones that are currently considered to be ‘green,’ i.e., supportive of sustainable and ecologically balanced manufacturing practices. A Green Seal certifying agent confirmed in May 2008 that, USDA organic certification is the best and most credible label for pet and human food products, also in respect to any green claims.” Green Seal is a third-party certifier that uses stringent processes to verify green claims. Due to the availability of a rigorous organic certification process through the USDA, Green Seal currently does not have any standards, either in place now or planned for the future, to certify food products for both humans and pets.

What does this all mean for consumers and the pet food industry?
So, the next time, you’re looking for a good pet food product for your animal companion, play it safe and choose one that’s USDA certified organic. Not only will you support your pet’s health, you’ll also help protect the health of our environment. Moreover, when you make this choice, you won’t be supporting unethical pet food manufacturers that routinely use false claims to the maximum extent allowed by law to push sales of their inferior products.

P.S.: An OTA (Organic Trade Association) or Green America (formerly ‘Coop America’) membership does not guarantee that a given pet food is either USDA certified organic or green.

P.P.S.: Onesta Organics is the first both certified organic and ”green approved” (i.e., approved by Green America, formerly ”Coop America”) pet food manufacturer in the USA.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic and Green Pet Foods Comments Comments Off

20th Dec 2008

Green Pet Food Claims

According to common sense and a Green Seal employee who wrote to me in 2008: “USDA organic certification is the best and most credible label for pet and human food products, also in respect to any green claims.”

CAUTION: Currently only *certified organic* pet food claims are regulated and enforced by the US government. All other (non-certified) organic pet food claims are not verified by an unbiased party and can be abused for marketing purposes.

You don’t have to believe me ……

A State compliance officer at CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) wrote to me in 2008: “It is buyer be ware of any pet food product that does not show that it is certified by one of the NOP certification agents.

Currently, Onesta Organics is the ONLY both certified organic and green (Coop America approved) pet food company in the USA.

Quote from a green Austrianopithecus: A “green” box made in China for a conventional pet food product makes neither the pet food nor its manufacturer green.”

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic and Green Pet Foods Comments Comments Off