The Blue Buffalo pet food company has entered into a settlement agreement in the consumer class action lawsuit brought against them (basically a false advertising lawsuit). This settlement is the largest in history, $8 million larger than the 2007 pet food recall settlement and $25.5 million larger than the 2014 Purina jerky treat settlement.
In an agreement where Blue Buffalo admits no wrong doing, the pet food company has agreed to a $32 million dollar settlement to “eliminate the uncertainties, burden and expense of further litigation.” The consumer lawsuit claimed “that certain Blue Buffalo products were not consistent with the ‘True Blue Promise’”. The amount that each class member receives will depend on the total amount of Blue Buffalo products purchased.
No pets became ill, and no pets died due to Blue Buffalo products containing by-product meal instead of chicken meal (to my knowledge). This lawsuit is (basically) reimbursement to consumers who trusted the brand was by-product free – when it was discovered some of the Blue Buffalo pet foods did indeed contain by-products.
Blue Buffalo did not voluntarily issue a recall of their pet foods – despite admitting publicly the foods were mislabeled (contained by-product meal instead of chicken meal as was stated on the pet food labels).
No State or Federal authority required Blue Buffalo to recall the mislabeled pet foods. It is unknown why. Mislabeling of a pet food is a violation of regulations and would be a foundation for recall.
The $32 million settlement covers seven separate consumer class action lawsuits from across the U.S. that were merged into one legal jurisdiction – which happened to be in a Missouri federal court; the very same jurisdiction that the home offices of Purina Pet Foods are located in.
This consumer class action lawsuit and the subsequent $32 million dollar settlement got its footing from a Purina pet food lawsuit against Blue (which has yet to go to court).
In May of 2014, Purina Pet Food filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo claiming Blue’s pet food contained by-products when Blue’s advertising proclaimed ‘No Chicken/Poultry By-Product Meals’. Purina claimed they had laboratory testing proving some varieties of Blue Buffalo pet foods contained materials that are by-products. As the pet food versus pet food lawsuit continued, we learned that Blue Buffalo did indeed contain by-products however the blame was placed on an ingredient provider – Wilbur Ellis corporation. The consumer class action lawsuits followed when the by-product meal debacle was announced.
We can assume that the settlement amount – $32 million – is based on the number of consumers in the multiple class action lawsuits and based on how many bags of pet foods they purchased (how much money the consumers spent) on mislabeled pet foods. We can also assume that Blue Buffalo will recover every dime (and then some) in their own lawsuit against the pet food ingredient supplier Wilbur Ellis (the company that sold them by-product meal instead of chicken meal).
Questions: Should Blue Buffalo be able to sue the ingredient supplier for the $32 million settlement amount (or more)? It appears that Wilbur Ellis did sell Blue the wrong ingredient, but…what financial responsibility do you believe Blue Buffalo should bear solely themselves in this situation? Whose ultimate responsibility is it for the final products that consumers purchase (the ingredient providers or the pet food manufacturer or both)?
As example…if a pet food ingredient supplier sold an ingredient to a pet food manufacturer that was contaminated with Salmonella, and the end product (the pet food) tested positive for Salmonella – only the pet food would be held accountable, not the ingredient provider. So…is Wilbur Ellis selling Blue Buffalo the wrong ingredient – Blue Buffalo’s responsibility or the ingredient provider’s responsibility?
Purina made the following statement regarding the Blue Buffalo lawsuit settlement: “Purina is pleased Blue Buffalo is beginning to accept responsibility for its false advertising and mislabeling.” I would agree Purina, I would guess most consumers are also pleased Blue Buffalo is beginning to accept responsibility for its false advertising and mislabeled pet foods. But, I’d guess that most consumers would also ask you Purina…when are you going to begin to accept responsibility for Beneful dog food and the many pet deaths linked to that pet food? The mere $6.5 million Purina/Waggin Train jerky treat settlement admitted no fault by Purina. Where is your own acceptance of responsibility to the many pets that died from consuming Waggin Train jerky treats? And one more, when will Purina properly label its own brands – calling them dog and cat feed? Isn’t a pet product termed ‘food’ that does not meet any legal definition of food also false advertising and mislabeling?
A few more questions…
This Blue Buffalo settlement agreement with consumers (for mislabeled pet foods) is the largest pet food class action settlement in history. It is larger than the 2007 pet food recall class action settlement by $8 million. It is larger than the 2014 class action settlement of Waggin Train jerky treats by $25.5 million.
Blue Buffalo – in my opinion – certainly owes consumers every dime back consumers spent on a mislabeled and mis-advertised pet food. But didn’t the pet owners in the 2007 pet food recall class action deserve every dime back they spent on vet bills? Didn’t the Waggin Train jerky treat class action pet owners deserve every dime back they spent on vet bills? Both of these settlements resulted in pennies to the dollar in return to heartbroken consumers – for hard costs, not even considering the pain and agony watching their pets suffer and many die.
Is the judicial system placing a significantly higher financial penalty on companies that lie to or mislead consumers (on pet food labels and/or in advertising) than on companies whose products actual sicken or kill pets? If so, is this due to the legal issue that our pets are considered property with little or no monetary value?
Or is it that the judicial system is getting tougher on pet food companies as each lawsuit comes and goes?
One thing is for certain, our pet food regulatory system is a mess. Many of these issues should be caught by state and federal regulatory authorities long before the products reach consumers. It has been proven time and time again that pet food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers can quickly become reckless. How many lawsuits and pet deaths will it take for authorities to realize the current system of pet food regulating themselves isn’t working?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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