A lawsuit against Purina linking the illness and/or death of 1,400 dogs to Beneful Dog Food has been dismissed. Another pet food…walks away, responsibility free.
The FDA began receiving a concerning number of consumer complaints of Beneful Dog Food in 2012, an average of three complaints of sick or dead pets per month. In 2013 the FDA had received so many complaints against Beneful the agency initiated an investigation/inspection of three Beneful pet food manufacturing plants.
- Six samples of Beneful Dog Food tested above legal limits for cyanuric acid and melamine (the very same poisonous combination responsible for the 2007 pet food recall).
- Six samples of Beneful Dog Food tested to contain ethoxyquin which was not listed on the label (it is illegal for a pet food to include an ingredient but not list it on the product label).
- Purina refused to provide FDA with copies of records.
- Purina refused to disclose the safety tests the company performs on ingredients to FDA.
- Purina refused to disclose the actual contents or weights of individual ingredients that went into lots of foods consumers had reported killed or sickened their pet.
- Purina refused to allow FDA to take photographs of manufacturing plants.
Even though the FDA found sound scientific and legal reasons for a recall (melamine and ethoxyquin), the agency ended their investigation into Beneful with a ‘talk’ with Purina; no recall, no accountability to the families of dead pets.
However, the FDA ‘talk’ with Purina didn’t stop the reports of pet death and illness linked to Beneful from continuing. One in particular – Frank Lucido, a California pet owner whose 3 dogs became ill and one died linked to Beneful – led to a class action lawsuit (filed early 2015) against the pet food which ultimately represented the families of 1,400 sick or dead pets all linked to consuming Beneful Dog Food.
This past week – November 16, 2016 – the legal action against this pet food with a long, long history of consumer complaints was dismissed by a California court. Purina wins, walks away with no accountability to thousands of families.
Why was the lawsuit dismissed?
The court’s dismissal order states two expert witnesses – veterinarians – were not qualified as experts and their testimony was not taken into consideration.
Veterinarian #1 testimony not taken into consideration…
“Dr. Questen’s opinions include the following: (1) “it is very important to a reasonable consumer to assume that Beneful is safe for dogs to eat” and (2) “it is very important to a reasonable consumer to assume all of Beneful’s ingredients have been tested to ensure that they are free from toxins that could cause their dogs to get sick or die.”
Purina’s argument against Dr. Questen: “Her common knowledge and generalized interactions with pet owners in the course of her veterinary practice is scientifically irrelevant and not a proper methodology for studying consumer purchasing decisions.”
In other words, Purina’s argument was that a veterinarian who talks with consumers everyday about pet food…isn’t qualified to know what consumers think about pet food. Kind of ironic. Purina pushes consumers to “Ask your Veterinarian” about pet food options on their website, and even offers incentives to veterinarians to pitch more Purina Pet Foods to consumers…
…but when a veterinarian’s opinion isn’t wanted, when a veterinarian’s opinion doesn’t help them to fight off a pet death and illness lawsuit…they argue veterinarians are not skilled enough to understand a consumer expects a pet food to be safe.
And as crazy as it might seem…the court agreed with the absurd argument from Purina attorneys.
“The Court agrees with Purina that Dr. Questen is not qualified as an expert to provide opinions about what a reasonable consumer would consider material when deciding whether to purchase dog food.”
Dr. Questen’s testimony was tossed out. Again…it is beyond belief this California court would come to the conclusion that a practicing veterinarian would not – is incapable of understanding – that consumers expect a pet food to be safe when they purchase it…is just beyond belief.
Dr. Tegzes is a board certified veterinary toxicologist. His testimony included statements that a collective effect of mycotoxins, heavy metals and glycols “could adversely affect dogs’ health” and he stated “Purina does not adequately test Beneful”. And his testimony too included a statement that a reasonable consumer would assume Beneful was safe for their dog to consume and the food had been tested.
Again, Purina argued that Dr. Tegzes – a veterinarian of 20 years – was not qualified to make the statement that consumers expect a pet food to be safe when they purchase it. The court agreed with Purina, a 20 year veterinarian wasn’t qualified to make the assumption that consumers expect a pet food to be safe.
With regards to his statement ‘Purina did not adequately test Beneful’, Purina argued that Dr. Tegzes – a board certified veterinary toxicologist – “is not qualified” to have an opinion “on the adequacy of its testing procedures and further asserts that his opinions regarding adequacy are not reliable.”
Again, the court agreed with Purina; “the Court grants Purina’s motion to exclude Dr. Tegzes from providing testimony related to testing procedures.”
To be very clear the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology states “Board certified veterinary toxicologists are a vital link in human and animal health. Veterinary toxicology ranges from biotoxins (natural chemicals produced by plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and phytoplankton) to the toxic effects of pharmaceuticals, feed additives, radiation, and environmental agents on animals and humans.” Veterinary toxicologists are neck deep into testing of pet food and ingredients, and understand more than most how to evaluate testing and testing methods. It is beyond belief that Purina would argue he is “not qualified” to have an opinion on the adequacy of Purina’s testing procedures. And beyond belief that the court agreed with Purina.
And the court ruled that because Dr. Tegzes relied on existing scientific research instead of he himself conducting tests to the synergistic effect of multiple mycotoxins, heavy metals and propylene glycol on dogs (you know…intentionally killing dogs in a study to prove an already scientifically proven – and common sense – risk) the court ruled…”Dr. Tegzes shall not be permitted to testify”.
And aside from the testimony of two veterinarians being tossed, the court dismissed the case including the claim that Beneful used “Industrial Grade Glycols” (propylene glycol) – which NEVER was denied by Purina Beneful. By the way – an industrial grade propylene glycol is forbidden by FDA for use in any food – human or pet food. Pet food is required – by law – to source ONLY food grade propylene glycol (not industrial grade).
Extensive amounts of complaints of sick or dying pets linked to Purina’s Beneful Dog Food have been received by FDA for at least the past 4 years.
In 2013 when FDA investigated Purina Beneful, the pet food company…
- Refused to allow FDA to take pictures, refused to provide FDA with copies of documents, refused to disclose pet food ingredient safety testing measures, refused to disclose exact ingredients used in the batches of pet foods linked to pet illness and death.
A 2015 lawsuit against Purina Beneful refused to allow the testimony of two veterinarians; one regarding a statement that consumers expect a pet food to be safe when they buy it and the other because he relied on scientific literature instead of performing testing that would result in intentional death of more dogs.
Purina never refuted the claim of using an industrial grade ingredient which is illegal.
But, the court dismissed the case issuing the follow ruling…
“The Court rejects Plaintiffs’ position that a reasonable jury could find Beneful unsafe based on the mere fact that 1,400 dogs ate Beneful and got sick or died thereafter. This is insufficient evidence of causation. Indeed, there is no evidence such as an evaluation by a veterinarian that a dog actually did get sick or die because it ate Beneful.”
“Plaintiffs’ case for Beneful being unsafe, therefore, ultimately turns on Dr. Tegzes’s opinions. But as discussed above, the Court finds Dr. Tegzes’s safety-related opinions unreliable and therefore Plaintiffs’ case has no evidentiary support.”
“The Clerk of the Court is instructed to enter judgment in Purina’s favor in accordance with this opinion and close the file in this case.”
“Judge Edward M. Chen, United States District Court for the Northern District of California.”
This is beyond belief.
1,400 sick or dead pets in this case, thousands more complaints of sick or dead pets reported to FDA over 4 years and Purina walks.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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