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Blue Buffalo files countersuit against Purina

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  1. Peter

    Your admonition captures precisely how I feel about the situation, and the adversarial relationship between pet food manufacturers and their customers (us). I wish someone would fund research to discover why, why, WHY consumers tolerate this relationship with “blind faith” as you say… which they would not tolerate in any other aspect of our lives.

    I’ve repeated myself so many times… if it was baby food, would this relationship be tolerated?

    1. Reader

      I think your questions are rhetorical of course because you’ve been reading all this stuff for as long as me. First I think it is impossible for uninformed pet owners to believe that intentional harm is being done. I certainly couldn’t in 2008. And it’s even harder to believe that businesses are motivated by profit for those failures. While in contrast, most normal businesses are incented to profit by promoting integrity, quality delivery AND customer services!

      If you stop anybody in a store and ask them if they know the 30 lb bag of PF trash in their cart “might possibly” be damaging their pet’s long term health (?) they look at “you” as being looney-tunes instead of ever suspecting a giant corporation. Purina in this country is synonyms with General Motors. Nor do these people have any basic nutritional awareness (common sense) even regarding their own families’ nutritional well being. Fast Food and Convenience products are the norm. Everybody wants easy. So why would they put any effort into thinking about animal food? Cheap and fast.

      I did not realize this until explained in the TAPF that Truth in Advertising is excluded from the purview of the FTC (which in theory) is a more powerful agency than the FDA and most certainly is than the AAFCO, which has no enforcement capability whatsoever. The FTC is what (attempts) to regulate human products via advertising claims on TV. As well as placing some other restrictions (just recently lifted is alcohol consumption ON TV). Being that once upon a time real penalties were issued for untrue TV ads. And makers in those days went to great lengths to be perceived as being accurate and truthful. Which was an offshoot those companies sponsoring TV Game Shows that experienced crooked scandals during the ’50’s and the 60’s. Those sponsors wanted (needed) to distance themselves from the hit of corruption. I do believe the FDA uses the “lack of funding = no manpower oversight” for investigation and enforcement just to excuse themselves from being in conflict with political self-interests. Or they would have acted on CJTs by now.

      The analogy of what if Baby Food was killing children is both accurate and misleading. There have been human food based deaths (Burger King and E-Coli tainted hamburger meat). And settlements went to great lengths to keep matters confidential and out of the media. Of course people place greater value on what happens to human beings and most especially children over what happens to animals.

      And yet all of this could be solved so easily, not with necessarily trying to reform the PFI directly, by improving the quality and safety of PFs first. But by creating the demand for transparency. So people can make informed decisions. Now this effort is just beginning to happen (in fact it is history in the making) and so is now coming to our attention with the exchange of these lawsuits! A very good trend indeed. Force makers to be accurate, detailed and evidence-based, regardless of ingredient composition and price point per product …. and the market WILL follow, forcing a natural trend (necessity) to upgrade. Because if a consumer reads the the number one ingredient in a kibble or can is sheep spleen or lung or intestine followed by other junk, or if they read instead that it’s lamb MEAT or meal, then what is that customer going to buy? Especially if cost is similar. So that’s where our PF Test will be very enlightening.

      It’s just common sense folks.

      1. Peter

        You make interesting points. As do others in this discussion. The scandal of “blind faith” is compounded by consumer ignorance. Unlike decades ago, information is available to most, and so I regard this continued ignorance as a deliberate choice on the part of some consumers. After all, Purina does disclose much of what is in Beneful dog food: it is the consumer who accepts that the food is healthy… even when all we need to do is read the bag. I agree that transparency is the issue, and that transparency needs to be… well, transparent. Reform must be undertaken so that labels have meaning and can be interpreted by the consumer, such as they are for human foods. We need to be able to READ the ingredients. There should be standards so that “splitting” and many of the other tactics used to obfuscate consumer knowledge end. While consumers shouldn’t necessarily understand every chemical, vitamin, or additive, they should be able to generally decipher labels and understand what they are buying. Today, they often can’t do that on the most simplistic level: they buy “diet” foods for their pets that can be higher in calorie count that many other “regular” foods sitting right next on the shelf.

        In that “blind faith” is an odd disconnect for consumers who insist they care about their pets: when you ask many pet parents what they feed their dogs, often, they can’t answer. Very often. Once person I know well, hesitated… shrugged… “uh… dog food.”

        This lawsuit is just an advertising campaign cloaked in a document put to a court. It is written in a style to be read by consumers and re-reported by media outlets. If you look at the sidebar of many sites you may be trolling today… you’ll see Purina using it as an advertisement already: “At Purina, what goes in the bag goes on the label,” with a “click here” link to their “petfoodhonesty” website.

  2. Pacific Sun

    Bill Bishop is no slouch when it comes to firing off salvos at the competition. Ouch! And to specifically call out Beneful as “Happy Dog” (….wait for it…) pet food is absolutely priceless! Does that mean these corporate giants (or their minions) are finally watching commercial TV now just like the rest of us? The other night I saw the best ever “False Advertising” PF commercial. Raw completely whole chicken drumsticks, carrot sticks, and something green (I presume vegetables) were “floating” down into a metal food bowl just as the dog was running right up to the dish …. then “whoosh” it all morphed into voila kibble! So now it’s okay not only to lie about the lack of ingredient integrity but the ABSENCE of any involved PROCESSING. Yikes it really is the wild west for pushing PF out there. But maybe they’re all spending their media budgets before the rug finally gets yanked!!!

    We can only hope.

  3. ian bouchard

    Susan,
    Asking AAFCO to dive in is useless. AAFCO has no authority, whatsoever, to regulate, certify or sanction a maker for misleading claims. For that matter, AAFCO meetings have for some time acknowleged that while they can define ingredients they have no authority to supervise adherence to the guidelines that they set. As one of your past posts cited, makers of foods freely claim they follow the AAFCO guidelines while at the same time include ingredients which are clearly not yet recognized/defined by AAFCO (example: pulse flour).

    For businesses, the Federal Trade Commission and Lanham suits are it. For the consumer, voters will have to admonish legislators for asking agencies like the FDA to tighten the rules while ever-reducing their capacity to actual investigate and enforce said rules. They simply do not have the resources to adequately police the regulations already in place…particularly when pet food issues are trumped by problems cropping up in the for-human-consumption system.

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      You’re right that AAFCO has no authority (and it would probably be useless). What I was hoping for is more awareness from AAFCO members – which are State Dept of Agriculture employees. They have authority and could fairly easily stop some of these misleading claims each year when labels are reviewed. But resources – as you mention are a stumble point.

    2. Angel Harris

      Exactly, Ian! I have personally been in contact several times with the AAFCO’s head vet & have been told this, as well. Most pet foods, including most very high-end organic brands, contain several ingredients that have never been tested and determined to be safe for pets, but are declared GRAS due to their ‘safe’ usage in human foods. Some that have turned up in nearly every pet food on the market recently are Rosemary (in all its forms), Spearmint, and Green Tea Extract. Rosemary has been proven via human medical testing & documentation performed for over 100 years to be a bile ‘exciter’ and to cause seizures in certain epileptics. It can also cause symptoms on many dogs & cats, particularly those with GI disorders (while excessive bile can aggravate their conditions, causing severe vomiting & (often bloody) diarrhea within 12 hours of consuming a food containing it). Seizures have been reported in many pets after consuming pet foods containing it, as well, but it is not certain whether these seizures are the direct result of the rosemary (oil, leaf, extract, etc) or due to low blood glucose levels from the diarrhea & vomiting. The same with some pets developing kidney & liver problems (rosemary or dehydration from the severe vomiting & diarrhea caused by the rosemary?). When questioned about their use of rosemary items in their pet foods, nearly every manufacturer states it is to prevent fat from going rancid or it is to improve the taste of the food (rosemary tastes like pine needles!). When questioned about its safety, they all say it is considered GRAS by the AAFCO because of its safe use in human foods. But, it has never been tested on animals for safety!

      1. Susan Thixton Author

        AAFCO doesn’t have a head vet or do GRAS – you might have meant FDA.

  4. Mike

    Well, In the open comments above, Blue Buffalo lies outright in their statements regarding their desire to be in pet specialty stores where an owner, a manager or store associate can give pet food advice and recommendations. That is total B.S. . When I kicked BB out of my store, it was because they were choosing to put their line in chain stores, hardware stores ranch store3s and big box pet supply stores. All of those types of retailers employ minimum wage people who know nothing and can give no sound advice. If they do give advice it can be damaging, because wrong advice is worse than no advice. If there happens to be anyone wandering through the pet food aisles, they will do what the manager has told them. They will “recommend the products that make them the biggest profits in the store.

    1. SarahB

      That’s exactly my line of thought, Mike – since when the hell was Tractor Supply a “pet specialty store”? I woudn’t trust their employees to help me feed a chicken, yet alone a dog.
      I’ve talked to several independent store owners/managers in the mid-atlantic area and all have said they’ve dropped Blue after the company started demanding to be guaranteed a certain amount of shelf space, something stores with a tiny amount of space just can’t do.

  5. Stephanie

    Why hasn’t anyone asked what exactly is wrong with chicken by product meal? It is ground up meat and bones. The bones contain a ton of healthy minerals, and we stick bones in soup stocks to get those benefits, plus flavor, all of the time. How about people actually do some research on pet nutrtion, and make up their own minds instead of listening to food companies or the “knowledgeable” pet food store employee (who may be trained to sell the most profitable brands.)

    1. Susan Thixton Author

      The problems that can be of chicken by-product meal is some of the components could be from rejected for use in human food animals or animal parts. And there is also a concern of denaturing agents used such as harsh dyes or used crank case oil. The issue is that consumers are not told exactly what is in that meal. The legal definition of the ingredient allows for intestines to be included too – and I’ve seen a Tyson flier for pet food ingredients that included DOA (dead on arrival) birds. It’s what we don’t know and ‘they’ won’t disclose that concerns so many people.

  6. Pacific Sun

    Well … an especially good point! The PF advertising wars get so caught up in hype and “perception” (pretty images) that they are not even taking the time to try and educate customers! Who but readers here even begin to know what a by-product is, except for BB is implying that it’s no good!

    In theory and home cooked PF diets chicken bones are the perfect source of nutrition. But you’re thinking about what you get from the grocery store. Rendered protein is not quite the same thing. I’m not the expert, so read TAPF’s information about Chicken versus Chicken By-Products to understand the loopholes, which are the dangers.

    http://truthaboutpetfood.com/its-all-chicken-to-pet-food

    Obviously PF manufacturers want us to believe that any part of the chicken is nutritious because all parts of the chicken are supposedly healthy. But they know what they reality is, so they don’t dare go into detail about parts and pieces, where it comes from, and especially how it is turned into PF (chemically corrected and augmented). But wouldn’t you rather have on the label exactly what parts of the chicken (or any protein) are included?? I don’t care if it’s ground up whatever … as long as it wasn’t contaminated in the first place. The issue is about many ingredients not being USDA approved, much less 1st or 2nd quality (meaning expired and not fit for retail consumption) so the good is included with all the bad. Who’s to prove the real ratio?

    Again the issue is about truth in declaration. So every consumer no matter how they view the source of nutrition can make an informed choice, for the right price point, and to fill whatever requirement that they are interested in for their own pet. Right now, ….we can’t make any of those decisions at all!

    We’re guessing, that’s how bad it is!

  7. g.r.r.

    I SOOO look forward to these lawsuits. In particular, Blue Buffalo may have to OPENLY show where they get their ingredients from. Hopefully, they will be forced to show where they USED to come from as well.

    BB just LOVES CHEAP CHINESE ingredients.

  8. Michele Goinsalvos

    Right on Susan!! You keep on keeping on!

  9. Pacific Sun

    I think there is an unintended benefit to these lawsuits. Especially as BB counters. Because if it turns out that BB which has positioned itself as the all wise “Truth Teller” of the industry, is lying too (as in the examples being put forth among these comments) … then it will erode customer confidence even more! Meaning, if it turns out BB has tricked them, just as much as other companies, then all bets are off. How much worse will it get. At least among the few people who are paying attention to all of it.

  10. ellie

    It seems strange to me that Purina would open it’s self up to the public eye. when they use such low grade ingredients in their food. So now the counter suit. It could get interesting if both companies have their dirty laundry exposed in public.

  11. Kelley

    I’ve said it before. And will say it again. The original Purina company once upon a time was a leader in the animal feed business. They had the market share, the name and reputation locked in. With the opportunity to far out distance their competitors through the use of legitimate research and then documenting HOW their products were benefiting pets.

    Unfortunately they decided not to be a pace setter but rather to settle for the status quo. It’s called Shareholder ROI. I don’t think their intention here is even the need to defend their own food. What they want to do, is pull BB back into step with the Industry. Purina must be standing on the principle that nothing is wrong with their products just as they are. And exactly because of that conviction they are saying that BB is no different either. It isn’t that the use of by-products even should be at issue here (unless it’s coming from contaminated sources). It’s the claim (turning out to be a false one) that by “excluding” by-products in BB food, that the absence of it somehow makes their food superior and by default the competitors’ products inferior! That reasoning alone is just crazy irrational thinking. So Purina is trying to say that by-products could indeed be part of chicken meal, whenever a whole chicken is ground up and dehydrated into meal format. Like duhh.

    So glad they needed to test the evidence to come to that conclusion, ,,, aren’t you?

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