Wilbur-Ellis, pet feed ingredient supplier linked in the Purina v Blue Buffalo lawsuit, has plead guilty to “substituting lower-cost ingredients for premium, more expensive chicken and turkey meal in shipments from a plant in Rosser, Texas, to pet food manufacturers between June 2013 and May 2014.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
…a California-based feed company and a Ballwin commodities broker had been mis-labeling pet food ingredients for years, substituting lower-cost poultry feathers, ground into feather meal, and byproducts for premium ingredients, according to two guilty pleas entered in federal court in the last month.
The California company, Wilbur-Ellis Feed LLC, are likely to be placed on probation for three years later this year and pay out nearly $5.5 million, according to the company’s guilty plea.
As part of the plea, Wilbur-Ellis Feed admitted substituting lower-cost ingredients for premium, more expensive chicken and turkey meal in shipments from a plant in Rosser, Texas, to pet food manufacturers between June 2013 and May 2014. On one or more occasions, the plea says, that lower cost product was hydrolyzed poultry feathers or hydrolyzed feather meal, which consists of ground-up feathers.
What is significant of the last paragraph above is that Wilbur-Ellis admitted to shipping (basically) ground feathers to more than one pet food manufacturer labeled as chicken or turkey meal. Because of the lawsuit between Purina and Blue Buffalo – we know that Blue Buffalo was one of the manufacturers that received the waste ingredient. Sad but true, consumers have no information who else Wilbur-Ellis shipped feather meal to – what other pet foods were sold to unknowing consumers containing feathers instead of chicken meal.
The pet feed ingredient broker Diversified Ingredients involved in the incident (middle-man between ingredient supplier and pet food manufacturer) also plead guilty and “could face up to a year in prison” though his attorney will ask for probation.
McAtee, a trader, broker and co-owner of Diversified Ingredients Inc. of Ballwin, admitted in his plea that the pet food companies that were his company’s clients received adulterated and misbranded pet food ingredients from the Rosser facility between 2012 and May 2014. One client received the ingredients between 2012 and May 2014, his plea says. Other companies, which were not identified in the plea but which made and packed food for Blue Buffalo, received multiple adulterated shipments between 2012 and May of 2014.
McAtee removed the word “blend” from some documents and forged signatures of a Wilbur-Ellis employee on forms to conceal the source or contents of shipments, his plea says.
The full details of the plea agreement are not provided in court records. To read the original charges against Wilbur-Ellis, click here.
As discouraging as this might seem for pet food consumers, this plea deal is a big step forward in holding guilty pet food parties accountable. As comparison, back in 2009 when ChemNutra pled guilty for “one count each of distributing adulterated food and selling misbranded food“ linked to the melamine contaminated ingredients responsible for the deadliest pet food recall in history – a judge sentenced ChemNutra only “$35,000 in fines and three years of probation“.
Maybe…we will see more criminal and federal charges against pet food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers in the near future. Maybe pet food/feed manufacturers and ingredient suppliers will be concerned enough about multi-million dollar fines and potential prison time to stop violating law. Maybe.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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