Bloomberg Businessweek just published a story that provides another piece to the puzzle of the lawsuit between Blue Buffalo Pet Food and Purina Pet Food. This evidence released isn’t in favor of Blue.
Quoting from the Bloomberg Businessweek article:
Pretrial discovery—the process by which litigants demand internal documents and communications that could become evidence—has turned up some e-mails that Purina says reinforce its allegations. The e-mails between a Blue Buffalo ingredient broker and a major supplier suggest strongly that the Connecticut company did indeed sell pet food containing byproduct meal.
In a May 13 e-mail to Diversified Ingredients, a broker working for Blue Buffalo, a sales manager for supplier Wilbur-Ellis wrote that it did include “some by-product meal” in shipments from a Texas plant intended for Blue Buffalo.
Realizing that the inclusion of byproduct meal now has potential legal consequences, Diversified Ingredients expressed alarm to Wilbur-Ellis and a way to respond to the kibble crisis. “I think if we work together, we can band-aid this situation,” Diversified’s Collin McAtee wrote on May 15 to Darwin Rusu of Wilbur-Ellis. Referring to a “smoking gun,” McAtee added:
“If you are going to fill these contracts for any reason, then I’m going to have to go to Blue Buffalo to address the breach of contract and undoubtedly divulge the details of what was shipped and the possibility that Rosser’s material is the smoking gun for their problems. That I do not want to do. If the finger is pointed in that direction and then later verified to have been the cause, then Diversified and Wilbur will both have to answer to this in litigation with Blue. The liabilities in this could be enormous. You are talking about massive product recalls, potential market share loss, etc. That would undoubtedly be in the several million dollar range.” (Italics added.)
Trying to get out in front of this development, Bishop, the Blue Buffalo chairman, posted an open “Dear Pet Parents” letter on Oct. 14 that now makes more sense when read against the e-mail Purina discovered. Bishop wrote: “Blue Buffalo has recently learned from Wilbur-Ellis, a major U.S. company that supplies ingredients to us and many other well-known brands of pet foods, that a Texas pet food ingredient-processing plant they own had mislabeled some of the ingredients they shipped to their customers. So while the customers were ordering and paying for 100 percent chicken meal, at times they were receiving shipments that contained poultry by-product meal.”
Bishop added: “Since Wilbur-Ellis was the source of some of our chicken meal, we may have received some of these mislabeled shipments.” The mislabeling “poses no health, safety, or nutrition issue.” Still, he continued, “the fact that any Blue Buffalo food could include a mislabeled ingredient is totally unacceptable. As a result, we have stopped doing business with this plant.”
Bishop’s response raises two questions: Does he stand by his original dismissal of Purina’s “voodoo science” showing poultry byproduct meal in Blue Buffalo food? (Apparently not.) And second, if the inclusion of byproduct meal poses “no health, safety, or nutrition issue,” why did Blue Buffalo make such a big deal in its marketing about the exclusion of byproduct meal?
Good questions. And I add two more…when are regulatory authorities going to step up and protect consumers from mislabeled pet foods? When is someone going to hold manufacturers responsible for the pet food products they sell?
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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