The Good News, and the Bad News
Just when you think something good happened, you realize that it wasn’t so good after all.
The Good News
On May 6, 2014 Purina filed a lawsuit against pet food rival Blue Buffalo for false and misleading advertising. A few days later (May 14, 2014) Blue Buffalo counter sued Purina with a false and misleading advertising lawsuit. What began in May of 2014 – turned into multiple lawsuits including a consumer class action lawsuit that resulted in a $32 million dollar settlement (the largest pet food consumer settlement in history). Further, the lawsuit filed by Purina has recently led to criminal charges with more than $7 million dollars in fines and penalties.
On Thursday, October 11, 2018 the United States Attorney’s Office Western District of Missouri issued a press release titled “Two Companies Ordered to Pay More Than $7 Million for Adulterated and Misbranded Pet Food Ingredients”. The release bragged “Two companies were sentenced in federal court today relating to their introduction of adulterated and misbranded pet food ingredients into interstate commerce.”
Wilbur-Ellis Company was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Nannette A. Baker to three years of probation and ordered to pay $4,549,682 in restitution, criminal forfeiture in the form of a money judgment in the amount of $964,442, and a fine of $1,000. Diversified Ingredients was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution, criminal forfeiture in the form of a money judgment in an amount of $75,000, and a fine of $2,000.
This is good news. It is more than appropriate for pet food ingredient manufacturers to be held accountable for shipping misbranded pet food ingredients to pet food manufacturers.
Within the same United States Attorney’s Office press release it stated:
On April 25, 2018, Wilbur-Ellis Company pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. On July 10, 2018, Diversified Ingredients pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce and one misdemeanor count of introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce. In connection with the guilty pleas, the court was advised that pet food ingredients shipped from a Wilbur-Ellis facility in Rosser, Texas – specifically, chicken meal and turkey meal – were adulterated and misbranded through the use of cheaper substitute ingredients, such as feather meal and feed grade chicken bone by-product meal, and adulterated and misbranded by omitting premium ingredients, such as turkey meal, from products identified as turkey meal. The adulterated pet food ingredients did not pose a threat to the health or safety of any animal.
This statement in the above quote this section“specifically, chicken meal and turkey meal – were adulterated and misbranded through the use of cheaper substitute ingredients, such as feather meal and feed grade chicken bone by-product meal” – gives pet owners a clue to what chicken by-product meal is most commonly made from — “chicken bone”. Certainly this was a mistake by the author of the press release (the official name of the ingredient is without the word bone – chicken by-product meal), BUT it certainly gives us a clue to what their investigation found common to chicken by-product meal.
The Bad News
The ONLY reason these significant financial penalties and criminal charges were placed on these pet food ingredient manufacturers is because the feather meal and feed grade chicken bone by-product meal were labeled as chicken meal and turkey meal. Pet food ingredients that are not labeled properly are termed ‘misbranded’ per federal law, misbranded pet foods are ‘adulterated’ per federal law.
These pet food ingredient companies WERE NOT charged and penalized because it is illegal to feed pets feathers and bones (waste of human food industry)…it is ONLY because they did not disclose feathers and bones were in the ingredients.
This whole thing between Purina and Blue Buffalo that started back in 2014 was all about the legal definitions of pet food ingredients. The legal definition of chicken meal requires specific things, the legal definition of chicken by-product meal requires different specific things. The legal definitions of ingredients were not abided by, thus making the pet foods misbranded and adulterated. But…in all of these lawsuits, in all of these investigations – no one bothered to recognize that pet food consumers have NO public access to the very pet food ingredient definitions that many million dollar lawsuits were based on.
Pet food ingredient definitions are owned and copyright protected by the private corporation AAFCO – Association of American Feed Control Officials. AAFCO charges $118.00 per year for anyone to view legal definitions of pet food ingredients.
This entire ingredient definition fiasco that started with a lawsuit from Purina against Blue Buffalo in 2014 was the perfect opportunity to change this serious pet owner denial of Freedom of Information rights. But…
Purina didn’t bother to petition the courts to provide pet owners public access to pet food ingredient definitions, neither did Blue Buffalo. And neither did any federal agency or federal employee that investigated this situation. With just the investigation of the Wilbur Ellis and Diversified Ingredients, this is all of the government agencies that spent tax payer money to investigate the ingredients that did not match their legal definition: “This case is being investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles Birmingham, Gil Sison, and Kyle Bateman, Special Attorneys to the United States Attorney General, are prosecuting the case on behalf of the government.”
All of these federal agencies and federal employees involved, all of the pet food manufacturers involved, and all of the pet food ingredient manufacturers involved…and not one thought it was unjust for pet owners to be denied public access to pet food ingredient definitions. Not one.
One more Bad News: Not one of these federal agencies and federal employees involved in this investigation bothered to alert pet owners that other pet food manufacturers bought mislabeled chicken meal and sold mislabeled pet food to pet owners. Purina – who started this whole situation with their lawsuit against Blue Buffalo admitted in court documents they too purchased mislabeled chicken meal. “After years of concealment, Nestlé Purina’s Vice President of Purchasing has admitted under oath that his company procured and used the same Wilbur-Ellis “chicken meal” that Blue Buffalo purchased—and, thus, that Nestlé Purina’s own products were mislabeled for the same reason that Blue Buffalo’s were.” Source: http://truthaboutpetfood.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/BluePurinalawsuitupdate.pdf, page 7, 1st paragraph.
But Purina didn’t recall their pet foods as Blue Buffalo was forced to. Regulatory authorities just ignored Purina’s misbranded and adulterated products. And regulatory authorities ignored all the other pet food manufacturer that purchased misbranded ingredients from Wilbur Ellis or Diversified Ingredients.
What are all of these lawsuits for? Was it just name calling/finger pointing and federal agencies trying to show they can do at least one thing right? Is pet food any safer because of these lawsuits?
Would you buy a pet food with ingredients such as: feathers, condemned chicken, waste of human food processing chicken bone? Of course you wouldn’t. Which is exactly why ingredient definitions have pleasant terms like “by-products” and why consumers are denied public access to pet food ingredient definitions AND the ingredient defining process.
When are authorities going to realize pet owners are being denied Freedom of Information rights with no public access to legal definitions of pet food ingredients?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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