Animals · Pet food · Pets

When Is “Deceptive Advertising” Not Deceptive?

Apparently when it involves commercial pet “food.”

Blue Buffalo

Since its inception, Blue Buffalo Pet Products, Inc. has marketed its pet “foods” as healthier because of the quality of the ingredients used. In fact, Blue Buffalo’s website states:

BLUE foods consist of the finest natural ingredients combined in perfect balance for holistic nutrition. These delicious, high-quality ingredients are the foundation of all of our products[]”

and

Of equal importance is the quality of the ingredients from which these nutrients are derived. For example, real chicken meat is a higher quality protein source than chicken or poultry by-product meals[]”

Souce: Nutrition Philosophy

Purina

In May 2014, Purina Pet Care, wholly owned by Nestlé SA, sued Blue Buffalo for “false advertising, commercial disparagement, and unjust enrichment.” Nestle alleged that testing from “independent laboratories” showed that Blue Buffalo’s True Blue Promise pet “foods”, in fact, contained poultry by-products, corn and artificial preservatives despite claims to the contrary.

Separately, Blue Buffalo was the defendant in a class action lawsuit alleging the same causes. In December 2015, Blue Buffalo settle the class action lawsuit with a $32MM payment without, of course, alleging any wrongdoing. Rather, Blue Buffalo asserted that its suppliers, Wilbur Ellis Co. and Diversified Ingredients Inc., were guilty of misconduct and had tricked Blue Buffalo.

In a press release, Purina seemed “happy” that Blue Buffalo had “fessed up” stating, in part:

Blue Buffalo’s announcement of a $32 million consumer class action settlement — the largest pet food class action settlement ever — comes a full seven months after Blue admitted mislabeling products and 19 months after Purina sued Blue Buffalo for false advertising and misleading pet parents. Purina is pleased Blue Buffalo is beginning to accept responsibility for its false advertising and mislabeling.

Of course, Purina alleges that there is absolutely nothing unhealthy about the use of by-products. Rather, it sued Blue Buffalo because the company claimed it used no by-products and had launched a $50MM advertising campaign promoting its products as superior to those containing by-products, which includes Purina among most others.

Because fate has a sense of irony, it turns out that Wilbur Ellis was also Purina’ supplier. Thus, in a game of tit for tat, a few days after Purina sued Blue Buffalo, this latter sued Purina for false and misleading advertising alleging that Purina marketed its products using pictures of ingredients that were not in the pet food it sold.

In the meantime, Wilbur Ellis and Diversified Ingredients were inpleaded by Blue Buffalo as a third-party defendant. Wilbur Ellis sought to have the case against it dismissed alleging that there had been no direct injuries.

Judge rodney Sippel

The case was filed in the federal court of Missouri and assigned to Judge Rodney Sippel, who may or may not own a dog or cat, or both. Regardless, Judge Sippel dismissed the bulk of the case against Blue Buffalo finding most its claims of consumer deception at times “border on frivolous.” Judge Sippel, apparently a savvy pet food shopper, ruled that Purina’s claims:

“defy credulity. No reasonable consumer would expect these cans of dog food to contain whole turkeys, turduckens, or pies. Nor would any reasonable consumer believe that the Family Favorite Recipes’ references to traditional American meals mean that the same, human grade ingredients are in the cans of dog food.”

Instinct raw

Never mind that the Federal Trade Commission regulations prohibit the use of pictures in products which do not reflect the product itself (i.e., if you’re going to sell a pet food with a picture of chicken breast on the packaging, then the product must contain chicken breasts). Of course, Blue Buffalo has at least admitted that its claims didn’t match the product (though allegedly it was tricked into doing so). We’re still waiting for Purina to admit that the pictures on its products don’t match the contents.

By the way, in case you’re wondering… no, pet “food” manufacturers (is it “food” if it is manufactured?) do not test the ingredients in their products. They rely on their suppliers. Another thing: READ THE LIST OF INGREDIENTS.

Let’s take, for example, Purina’s Beggin’ Strips, clearly marked “Bacon Flavored.” Let’s see:

Beggin'

So the first 3 ingredients are GRAINS, at a time when we know grains are not healthy for us 4-leggeds! And let’s not even get started on the quality of those grains. Then, again, GRAINS! By the way, you can bet your last dime that they are all GMOs. The bacon is 9th on the list of ingredients and is preserved with a known carcinogen with a myriad of other negative health effects. And, of course, sugar is just as addictive to us 4-leggeds as it is to you. BHA is also known to adversely affect health.

All legal documents (e.g., complaints, responses, etc.) can be found at Law 360 which has a pay portal.

Of course, both companies claim that they care about your dog or cat is if they were a member of their families and only want to provide the very best nutrition possible!

Purina’s brands include the following:

DOG FOOD AND TREATS

    • Alpo
    • Beggin’ (Strips, Collision, Littles, Thick Cut and Poppers)
    • Beneful
    • Beyond
    • Busy
    • Just Right
    • Mighty Dog
    • Moist & Meaty
    • Purina One
    • Purina Pro Plan
    • Purina Dog Chow
    • Frosty Paws
    • SecondNature (litter)
    • Waggin’ Train

CAT FOOD AND TREATS

    • Fancy Feast
    • Purina One
    • Pro Plan
    • Friskies
    • Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
    • Cat Chow
    • Muse
    • Friskies Party Mix
    • Beyond
    • Whisker Lickin’s
    • Yesterday’s News (litter)
    • Kit & Kaboodle
    • Deli-Cat
    • Tidy Cats (litter)

Blue Buffalo’s brands include:

DOG FOOD AND TREATS

    • Wilderness
    • Freedom
    • Life Protection Formula
    • Basics
    • Blue’s Stew
    • Blue’s Chunky Stew
    • Red, White & Blue Stew
    • Divine Delights
    • Home Style Recipe
    • Healthy Starts
    • Family Favorites
    • Natural Veterinary Diet
    • Mini Bars
    • Dental Bones
    • Kitchen Cravings
    • Red, White and Blue Bars
    • Health Bars
    • Blue Bites
    • Blue Stix
    • Blue Mini Stix
    • Blue Exuberance!
    • Blue Tranquility
    • Blue Bits
    • Blue Jolly Joints

CAT FOOD AND TREATS

    • Healthy Growth
    • Healthy Living
    • Multi-cat Health
    • Weight Control
    • Sensitive Stomach
    • Indoor Hairball Control
    • Indoor Health
    • Indoor Hairball and Weight Control
    • Healthy Aging
    • Healthy Gourmet
    • Kitty Yums
    • Basics
    • Wilderness
    • Freedom
    • Natural Veterinary Diet
    • Naturally fresh (litter)

Happily eating home-cooked meals made with human-grade ingredients,
Beau

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4 thoughts on “When Is “Deceptive Advertising” Not Deceptive?

  1. Excellent….Ive been preaching to lazy pet owners since I became a pet Mom. You would not eat that stinky crap yourself nor feed it to your children so if you love yr animal so much, well you just don’t, that is the bottom line. Besides why does each and every dog salivate at the sight or smell of real food, they go crazy for good reason, their bodies are starved of nutrition….. No wonder we have so many sick pets. Vets love this, preach this pet food strategy. It’s irresponsible and wrong.
    Please make your next article on vaccinations. Why is the vaccination for rabies even around anymore? Why is a tiny puppy administered the same size dose as a large animal. Vets, grrrrrrr.
    There are so many recipes for pet food and treats available on the internet. perhaps Beau shud post a few to make it easier on the Pet parents.
    thanks for this!!

    Like

    1. You’re welcome Lulu. Actually, a few people have been asking privately for recipes, so I’ll post them soon. My 2-legged and I are also working on a series of blogs on vaccinations. It is a topic of deep interest to both of us and, like with the 2-leggeds, a subject of controversy though not as “public” (at least not yet). Records are difficult to obtain because there is no central government authority that keeps track (at least not that my 2-legged as found). In any event, my 2-legged is doing the research (he’s better at than me) and then I’ll write it up (I’m a better writer than him). Thanks for the comment.

      Like

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