Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Blue Buffalo admits its pet food contained byproducts

Blue Buffalo admits its pet food contained byproducts

Nestlé Purina has legally locked horns with competitor over alleged false claims and false advertising.

Nestlé Purina PetCare Company (Purina) today announced that it has filed a lawsuit in federal court in St. Louis against The Blue Buffalo Company Ltd., for false advertising, disparagement and unjust enrichment – including violations of the Federal Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. §1125(a)).

Blue Buffalo’s promotion, advertising and packaging repeatedly and unequivocally state that its pet food products contain “NO Chicken/Poultry By-Product Meals.” In its complaint, Purina alleges that testing conducted by an independent laboratory revealed that several of Blue Buffalo’s top-selling “Life Protection” pet food products contained significant percentages of poultry by-product meal. Testing was done from samples of multiple formulas of Blue Buffalo pet food purchased at retail stores on both the East and West Coasts.

The complaint also alleges that testing shows Blue Buffalo “LifeSource Bits” contain poultry by-product meal and corn. In addition, several Blue Buffalo products promoted as “grain-free” actually contain rice hulls, despite Blue Buffalo stating on its website that its “grain-free” products will “free your pet from the grains and glutens that cause allergic reactions in some dogs.”

The complaint estimates that Blue Buffalo spent approximately $50 million in 2013 to promote its claims that Blue Buffalo ingredients are superior to competitors. As a result, Blue Buffalo charges premium prices for its products – significantly more than the pet food products they use for comparison purposes on the Blue Buffalo website.

The lawsuit follows a March 2014 decision of the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which found that Blue Buffalo is engaging in misleading advertising practices with respect to its claims about competing products. The NAD decision recommended that Blue Buffalo correct its television ad campaigns by removing all of its allegations that Blue Buffalo’s competitors are misleading consumers.

A copy of the complaint and exhibits can be found at a website Purina has created to highlight its concerns: www.petfoodhonesty.com.

Part 2 for futher reading:

Blue Buffalo has admitted in federal court that a "substantial" and "material" portion of its pet food contained poultry byproduct meal, according to a release distributed by Nestlé Purina, which sued Blue Buffalo a year ago for false advertising.

After Blue Buffalo advertising claims were brought to the attention of the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus for review, in early 2014 NAD encouraged Blue Buffalo to modify its advertising claims concluding that ads were falsely disparaging to competitors. This included the "True Blue Test," which NAD said conveyed the message that competing "big name" pet food companies were deceiving consumers. This prompted Nestlé Purina to send samples of Blue Buffalo for analysis. As cited in the lawsuit, tests showed the presence of poultry by-product meal in nine out of 10 Blue Buffalo pet food products.

A year to the day after Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. brought its lawsuit against Blue Buffalo Co. LTD, Purina spokesperson Keith Schopp said, "Through a $50 million annual advertising campaign that flooded airwaves and pet food aisles alike, Blue Buffalo told consumers over and over, emphatically and without qualification, that its products never contain poultry by-product meal."

Blue Buffalo has not returned dvm360's requests for comment, but on its website its FAQ page continues to claim that "Blue pet food contains no chicken or poultry-by-product meals." Blue Buffalo filed a countersuit against Nestlé Purina in May 2014 alleging "a sophisticated and carefully orchestrated advertising campaign … that falsely attacks Blue Buffalo's honesty and the quality of its products."

According to the Purina release, Blue Buffalo is requesting additional time to file an amended complaint with the court naming its ingredient suppliers as defendants. Bill Bishop, founder and chairman of Blue Buffalo, issued a letter to customers in October of last year saying the company had learned that one of its suppliers had mislabeled some ingredients. He said Blue Buffalo received shipments of poultry byproduct meal instead of 100 percent chicken meal. Bishop assured customers that the company had stopped doing business with that manufacturing plant.

Schopp says blaming the supplier isn't a satisfactory response. “Blue Buffalo now claims it had no way of knowing the bags contained byproduct meal,” he says. “A manufacturer is responsible for knowing what’s in its product, and a simple audit of its supply chain would have revealed what we discovered after reviewing the documentation.

“Only when faced with undeniable evidence from the lawsuit has Blue Buffalo admitted the truth to the court: a ‘substantial’ and ‘material’ portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold over the past several years contained poultry byproduct meal," Schopp continues. "It is unclear to us if or when this practice stopped, or whether any Blue Buffalo pet food containing byproduct meal is still on store shelves.”

Schopp asserts that Blue Buffalo owes consumers an apology for false statements, false labels and false advertising. He also calls for the Purina competitor to prove that no mislabeled products remain in the market.