Lawyers, the new Pet Food Regulatory System
A new lawsuit has been filed in pet food…actually 6 new lawsuits. The reason for the lawsuits? Lack of enforcement of law. Lawyers have become the unofficial regulatory system of pet food.
FDA and the State Department of Agriculture members of AAFCO are great at making regulations/law, but they fail tremendously with enforcement. Enforcement fail after enforcement fail, consumers do have a group of individuals that are taking up the fight for us. That group is lawyers.
The latest lack of enforcement issue being addressed by lawyers is misleading images on pet food labels. Wysong Pet Food has filed six lawsuits against competitive brands of pet food; Purina, Mars, Big Heart, Hill’s, Ainsworth and Walmart. The reason? Misleading packaging/advertising.
All of the suits are fairly similar, all with the same complaint. Below is a quote from each of the 6 lawsuit complaints…
In short, the premium meats, fish and vegetables portrayed on [Mars’s, Purina’s, Big Heart’s, Hill’s, Ainsworth, and Walmart’s] pet foods do not fairly represent the actual ingredients of the packages. The portrayals are literally false and thus by their very nature have the capacity to deceive consumers.
In order to compete against a company that uses such deceptive photographs and lower cost ingredients to gain advantage in the market, Wysong Corporation (Wysong) has only two options. It can even the playing field by engaging in the same deceptive conduct, or it can bring this action. Some competing companies have chosen the first option. Wysong chooses the second.
This lawsuit is absolutely correct. The images on pet food labels – and there are more companies doing this than the ones listed above – do not fairly represent the actual ingredients in the pet food, they are certainly false and they certainly deceive consumers. Wysong is right, many companies have joined the misleading image bandwagon over the past few years. Kudos to Wysong for not following suit. Kudos to Wysong for filing suit!
Again, similar in all of the lawsuits (the follow excerpt from the Wysong v. Walmart complaint):
Most pet food consumers place a higher value on pet food that they perceive as having ingredients like those they would purchase and cook for their families. They believe that such foods are better than other foods that do not have that appearance.
On every occasion where one of the photographs in the exhibits is placed on a package, that package actually contains a lower cost product than the one depicted. The actual ingredients used bear no resemblance to the premium cuts depicted.
The following are typical of the cost savings enjoyed by Walmart:
– Chicken breasts like those pictured have a wholesale cost in the range of $1.50 per pound, but the lower grade chicken Walmart actually puts in the packages costs approximately $.12 per pound.
– Cuts of beef like those pictured have a wholesale cost in the range of $4.00 per pound, but the lower grade beef placed in the packages costs approximately $.14 per pound.
– Cuts of lamb like those pictured have a wholesale cost in the range of $6.50 per pound, but the lower grade lamb placed in the packages costs approximately $.43 a pound.
– Salmon filets like those pictured have a wholesale cost in the range of $3.50 per pound, but the lower grade salmon placed in the packages cost approximately of $.13 a pound.
As a proximate result of Defendant’s willful systematic fraud, consumers are deceived. This damage to consumers and Wysong will continue like a cancer until Walmart ceases to use false and misleading images in connection with its products.
Wysong is right. Consumers are deceived and this has been growing completely out of control for years. All because FDA and each State Department of Agriculture can’t be bothered with enforcement of law (laws that they themselves developed). On numerous occasions over the past 4 years (beginning in July 2012) I have sent evidence to FDA and each State Department of Agriculture (all 50 states) of misleading pet food labels. All were ignored – each and every time.
Wysong is suing Purina, Mars, Big Heart, Hill’s, Ainsworth and Walmart for false advertising under the Lanham Act. The Lanham Act is a means for businesses to sue businesses for “false descriptions” such as in marketing of pet food.
The regulations that should have been enforced by FDA and by each State Department of Agriculture which would have prevented these lawsuits are:
Federal law – Food Drug and Cosmetic Act Section 343
A food shall be deemed to be misbranded-
(a) False or misleading label
If (1) its labeling is false or misleading in any particular, or (2) in the case of a food to which section 350 of this title applies, its advertising is false or misleading in a material respect or its labeling is in violation of section 350(b)(2) of this title.
And state regulation from AAFCO (quoting the AAFCO 2016 Official Publication)
PF2.c “A vignette, graphic, or pictorial representation on a pet food or specialty pet food label shall not misrepresent the contents of the package.
Below are images from the 6 Wysong complaints. What is your opinion…does anyone believe these types of meats are in any of these pet foods? Do you believe they violate either of the laws above?
Because FDA – for years – did not enforce misbranded food law, pet food companies have made billions in profits misleading consumers. And because each State Department of Agriculture did not enforce pet food labeling laws – for years – pet food companies have made billions in profits misleading consumers.
In other words, because government agencies supported by tax dollars did not do their job – lawyers have to step in to protect consumers and protect the businesses that abide by law.
Below are the 6 lawsuit complaints. Click on the link to open in a new window.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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