How much is too much? Lead in Pet Food
A new pet food lawsuit filed against Blue Buffalo states the dog food contained “a staggering 840 ppb of lead”. Unfortunately, the suit will probably not get too far because of incredible high levels of lead allowed in pet food.
Another consumer class action lawsuit has been filed. The newest one is against Blue Buffalo Pet Food for “negligent misrepresentation” citing lead content of the pet food was as high as 840 parts per billion.
Excerpts from the lawsuit:
Plaintiff is, and at all times relevant hereto has been, a citizen of the state of California. Plaintiff purchased the Contaminated Dog Foods as the primary food source for his dog, a four-year-year old cocker spaniel-poodle mix named “Coco.” Coco experienced kidney failure.
As the result of Defendant’s deceptive conduct as alleged herein, Plaintiff was injured when he paid the purchase price or a price premium for the Contaminated Dog Foods that did not deliver what it promised. He paid the above sum on the assumption that the labeling of the Contaminated Dog Foods was accurate and that it was safe to feed his dog the food. Plaintiff would not have paid this money had he known that the Contaminated Dog Foods contained an excessive degree of lead.
As a result of Defendant’s omissions, a reasonable consumer would have no reason to suspect the presence of lead in the Contaminated Dog Foods without conducting his or her own scientific tests, or reviewing third party scientific testing of these products.
That is exactly what Plaintiff did here. Plaintiff’s independent lab testing of the Contaminated Dog Foods found that Blue Wilderness Chicken Recipe for Small Breed Adult Dogs contains 200 ppb of lead; Blue Freedom Grain-Free Chicken Recipe for Small Breed Adult Dogs contains 140 ppb of lead; and Blue Basics Grain-Free Turkey & Potato Recipe for Adult Dogs contains a staggering 840 ppb of lead.
To read the full complaint, Click Here.
The lawsuit states FDA has established a maximum permissible lead content in drinking water as 5 parts per billion (ppb), but the suit gives no FDA established maximum for maximum level in pet food. Questions were sent to FDA regarding an established maximum for lead in pet food, and the FDA was a little evasive stating “Although the FDA has not issued specific guidance or set levels for lead in pet food, it doesn’t prevent the agency from taking action where necessary. The FDA handles these situations on a case-by-case basis, reviewing the relevant facts and current scientific literature before reaching a determination. As part of its assessment, FDA scientists look at the level of contamination in the food, the physiology of the particular animal the food is intended for, how much of the food the animal is likely to eat over the course of a lifetime, and other potential exposures that might add to the animal’s overall dose. The FDA also utilizes documents developed by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Science to review heavy metal contamination on a case-by-case basis. The NRC 2005 Mineral Tolerances for Animals provides maximum tolerable levels of minerals in animal feed for several species.”
The FDA source – NRC 2005 Mineral Tolerances for Animals states – under the section “Maximum Tolerable Levels – Lead” – “dogs tolerate 10 mg lead/kg diet without changes in functional indices in hematopoiesis or kidney function.” Ten mg/kg equates to 10,000 parts per billion of lead. The NRC provides no maximum tolerance of lead for cats.
The lawsuit against Blue Buffalo compares established maximum levels of lead in bottled water to pet food – mistakenly. The 840 ppb of lead found in Blue Basics dog food (as reported in this lawsuit) is well below the NRC established maximum tolerable level for dogs. But…
Is 10,000 parts per billion of lead truly safe for our pets?
The FDA has established a maximum level of lead in bottled water of 5 ppb. On a Q&A page from the FDA website regarding lead, the FDA answers the question “Why doesn’t the FDA use the same level (5 parts per billion) it set for bottled water for all foods?” The FDA’s response: “We focus on limiting exposure to lead to the greatest extent feasible for different types of foods, and we do so by determining what is achievable when the food is processed under good manufacturing practices. For bottled water that level is 5 ppb, but that is not the case for many other foods.”
FDA has established a “guidance level” for lead in candy “likely to be consumed frequently by small children” at 100 ppb.
Another “guidance level” for fruit juices at 50 ppb.
And the agency has established an Import Alert for “certain dried fruits found to contain lead above 100 ppb.”
Again…is 10,000 parts per billion of lead truly safe for our pets? If 100 parts per billion of lead for ‘frequently consumed candy’ is the established maximum for children, why the dramatic jump to 10,000 parts per billion for pets for daily consumed pet food? A ten pound cat or 20 pound dog would be consuming much more pet food than a small child with ‘frequently consumed candy’.
Heavy metals such as lead accumulate in the body. The NRC 2005 Mineral Tolerances for Animals states “Cardiovascular, hematological, and neurodevelopmental signs of lead occur at the lowest levels of exposure, and renal, gastrointestinal, hepatic, and immunological signs occur with higher doses or lengths of exposures.”
With regards to ‘length of exposure’ – in 2012 the Department of Pathology and Animal Health of School of Veterinary Medicine of Naples performed necropsy on 38 dogs that had died from a multitude of causes. Half of the dogs were household pets, the other half were strays. Their testing found levels of lead in liver and kidney tissues from every single dog.
Quoting the study: “a correlation with diet could be supposed for lead exposure as well. In fact, dogs living in urban or rural habitat fed with commercial feed showed higher liver lead residues than dogs fed with homemade feed or a mixture of commercial and homemade feed likely due to not adequately controlled canned feed (López-Alonso et al., 2007). In fact, it is well known that diet could be a source of different contaminants, not only heavy metals but also polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and brominated flame retardants (Sonne et al., 2006; 2008; 2010).”
“Heavy metals concentrations detected in tissues of dogs included in the current study were generally low and unable to exert toxic effects. Nevertheless, a prolonged exposure leading to a bioaccumulation of metals in animal tissues could be expected, so chronic toxic effects could not be excluded.”
Dr. Peter Dobias DVM suggests a liver detox once or twice a year for dogs. “The liver is an important organ in almost every aspect of your dog’s organ function and good health. I take my dog Skai through a good liver cleanse twice a year. You will see a regular cleansing has a very positive effect on your dog’s health, namely in their overall energy level, mobility, digestion, endurance and stamina, skin and coat health, immune system function and cancer prevention.” Again for dogs, Dr. Jean Dodds has a well documented liver cleanse diet found here: http://www.nutriscan.org/knowledge-center/cleansing-diets.html
(My apologies to cat owners – I could not find detox diets for cats. However, great resources on diet options for cat parents are the website CatInfo.org from Dr. Lisa Pierson and LittleBigCat.com from Dr. Jean Hofve.)
FDA will be questioned about the current 10,000 ppb of lead at the upcoming AAFCO meeting (August 10, 2017). A firm and lower maximum level for heavy metals in pet food (cat and dog food) needs to be established in regulation. When more is learned, it will be shared.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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