Purina: Where Honesty Is Our First Ingredient
Petfoodhonesty.com was created in the wake of a false advertising lawsuit we filed in May 2014 against Blue Buffalo, after we discovered the presence of ingredients in their pet food that Blue Buffalo’s labels claim are not in its products. We believe the public has a right to transparency and truth-in-labeling when choosing a pet food, and that pet food brands have a responsibility to know the ingredients of the products they are selling to our beloved pets.
Through a $50 million annual advertising campaign that flooded airwaves and pet food aisles alike, Blue Buffalo told consumers over and over, emphatically and without qualification, that its products never contain by-product meal. Consumers paid a premium for Blue Buffalo products based on these claims. Blue Buffalo also attacked “big name pet food companies,” insinuating that we were somehow misleading consumers.
By-Products Are A Safe And Nutritious Ingredient in Pet Food. This case is not about the nutritional value of by-products and by-product meal, nutrient-rich ingredients that we proudly use in many of our pet food products. Truth-in-labeling and advertising is the issue.
We filed this lawsuit because some of Blue Buffalo’s best-selling products contain by-product meal despite their marketing to the contrary. Our review of manufacturing and shipment records forced Blue Buffalo to finally admit in court that a “substantial” and “material” portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold over the past several years contained poultry by-product meal. It is unclear to us if or when the practice stopped, or whether any Blue Buffalo pet food containing by-product meal is still on store shelves.
Our lawsuit followed decisions against Blue Buffalo by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that found Blue Buffalo’s advertisements to be misleading and disparaging against competitors’ products. Click here for more details.
At Purina, we firmly believe that what is in the bag should be on the label.
May 11, 2015
[Note: This press release has been updated to include an excerpt from the hearing transcript, below.]
A YEAR TO THE DAY AFTER BEING SUED, BLUE BUFFALO FINALLY ADMITS BY-PRODUCT MEAL IN A “SUBSTANTIAL” AND “MATERIAL” PORTION OF THEIR PET FOOD
Purina Sued Blue Buffalo for False Advertising; Evidence Developed In the Court Case Forces Blue Buffalo to Admit the Truth
ST. LOUIS, May 7, 2015 – Purina issued the following response to Blue Buffalo’s admission in court yesterday that a “substantial” and “material” portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold to consumers contained poultry by-product meal, despite pervasive advertising claims to the contrary. Blue Buffalo asked the Court for additional time to file an Amended Complaint in the litigation, naming its ingredient suppliers as Defendants.
“Despite this admission, Blue Buffalo still has not informed consumers of the presence of poultry by-product meal in Blue Buffalo pet food, refuses to accept responsibility for the product it sold, and is instead blaming its suppliers,” said Keith Schopp, a spokesperson for Nestlé Purina Petcare.
On May 6, 2014, Purina filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo for false advertising after testing revealed the presence of poultry by-product meal in some of Blue Buffalo’s top selling pet foods. Blue Buffalo’s CEO responded by immediately claiming the testing was “Voodoo Science” and assuring their customers that “Blue Buffalo does not use chicken by-product meal or poultry by-product meal in any of our products.”
According to Schopp, “Only when faced with undeniable evidence from the lawsuit has Blue Buffalo admitted the truth to the court: a ‘substantial’ and ‘material’ portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold over the past several years contained poultry by-product meal. It is unclear to us if or when this practice stopped, or whether any Blue Buffalo pet food containing by-product meal is still on store shelves.”
No small company, it is estimated that Blue Buffalo sells over a billion dollars of pet food at retail and well over 10 million bags annually.
“Through a $50 million annual advertising campaign that flooded airwaves and pet food aisles alike, Blue Buffalo told consumers over and over, emphatically and without qualification, that its products never contain poultry by-product meal,” said Schopp.
Blue Buffalo also attacked “big name pet food companies,” insinuating that they were somehow misleading consumers. Consumers paid a hefty premium for Blue Buffalo products based on these claims.
“Yet none of these claims were true,” said Schopp.
Schopp added: “Blue Buffalo now claims it had no way of knowing the bags contained by-product meal. A manufacturer is responsible for knowing what’s in its product, and a simple audit of its supply chain would have revealed what we discovered after reviewing the documentation.
“Blue Buffalo owes consumers an apology for all the false statements, false labels, and false advertising. More than this, it is time for Blue Buffalo to be transparent with the public and prove to their ‘pet parents’ that no mislabeled product remains on shelves.”
About Nestlé Purina PetCare
Nestlé Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. A premiere global manufacturer of pet products, Nestlé Purina PetCare is part of Swiss-based Nestlé S.A., a global leader in nutrition, health and wellness.
MEDIA CONTACT: Keith Schopp
Nestlé Purina PetCare Company
October 15, 2014
BLUE BUFFALO FINALLY ADMITS ITS PRODUCTS MAY BE MISLABELED
ST. LOUIS, MO, October 15, 2014 - Last night, Blue Buffalo publicly revealed facts that prove the central allegations in our false advertising lawsuit against them. Contrary to prior assurances, for the first time Blue Buffalo has had to admit that ingredients from at least one of their suppliers contain poultry by-product meal. Click here for link. This is despite the fact that Blue Buffalo has repeatedly stated – in their TV commercials, their advertising, and to consumers on their website – that they never use this ingredient.
Blue Buffalo admits this is “unacceptable” and it is, but Blue Buffalo is not being as “transparent” as they claim. Remarkably, it was Purina – not Blue Buffalo – that unearthed the truth through its scientific testing and, more recently, from documents it obtained through the legal process from one of Blue Buffalo’s ingredient suppliers. Without Purina’s filing of this lawsuit, the truth would still be untold. Blue Buffalo’s approach since May was to deny everything – until Blue Buffalo was forced to admit it was wrong. Changing your story only after the facts are revealed is not transparency.
What is the real truth here? Blue’s Chairman, Bill Bishop, repeatedly told their pet parents, “I can assure you that we’ve never purchased one kernel of corn or one ounce of poultry by-product meal.” Why isn’t Blue Buffalo telling pet parents now that Wilbur Ellis is the same supplier that Bill Bishop blamed for ingredient problems in years past? Click here for link.
Why does Blue Buffalo always have someone else to blame? Remember Blue Buffalo’s angry protests, their countersuit against Purina, their charges of a “smear campaign,” their claims of “voodoo science”? Those are tactics, not truth.
The truth is that this is not someone else’s problem, it is Blue Buffalo’s problem. It is Blue Buffalo’s responsibility to know what is in their products. Amazingly, Blue Buffalo’s Chairman has publicly stated: “Slap on a good label, come up with a slogan, and off you go.” It is this cavalier attitude that is the problem -- an attitude that led Blue Buffalo to make irresponsible allegations of a “smear campaign” against Purina instead of promptly determining the facts. These facts show that there never was any smear campaign. If Blue Buffalo’s latest version of their story is to be believed, Purina knew more about Blue Buffalo’s ingredient suppliers than Blue Buffalo did.
At Purina, we have not used the Texas plant of Wilbur Ellis, formerly known as American By-Products, Inc., in several years. This plant was unable to meet the strict quality control standards we have in place for all of our vendors.
Blue Buffalo owes consumers an apology for all the false statements, false labels, and false advertising. More than this, it is time for Blue Buffalo to be honest with the public and the “pet parents” they profess to care so much about. A half-admission that Blue Buffalo products ‘may’ contain undeclared by-products is simply not acceptable. Pet owners deserve to know what’s truly in Blue Buffalo pet food.
September 19, 2014
As part of our continuing effort to ensure that honesty is the main ingredient in the marketing of pet products, late yesterday we filed an amended complaint against The Blue Buffalo Company Ltd., expanding the claims of false advertising to include Blue Buffalo's pet treats and cat litter. In addition, new testing shows Blue Buffalo's “LifeSource Bits” actually have lower levels of some key nutrients than their standard kibble. In our amended complaint, we also make public the results of earlier independent testing that revealed the presence of poultry by-product meals, grains and corn in some of Blue Buffalo’s best-selling products.
UPDATE 2: On November 12, 2014, Judge Rodney Sippel of the U.S. Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri accepted Purina's Amended Complaint, but decided that the cat litter claims added to the complaint should be brought as a separate lawsuit and not be included in the pet food false advertising case before the court. Purina has the right to file a separate lawsuit related to Blue Buffalo's litter advertising at any time. Based on the court's order, Purina filed its Amended Complaint, removing claims related to cat litter, on November 13, 2014.
View the full press release.
View the Second Amended Complaint.
Statement of Purina Regarding New Blue Buffalo Lawsuit
Blue Buffalo’s lawsuit today is exactly what we expected: a distraction from the real issues in the case and an attempt to stop Purina from being honest with the public about the ingredients in Blue Buffalo’s pet food.
Not only are the allegations in Blue Buffalo's complaint false, the case itself is redundant: we already asked the federal court in St. Louis – three days ago – to review our website and our public statements and rule as a matter of law that they are true.
We stand by our complaint. As detailed in our lawsuit, independent test results show that Blue Buffalo is not being honest with pet owners about the ingredients in their pet food.
And we are not alone in making this claim. Twice over the past several years the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Blue Buffalo modify its deceptive and misleading advertising – related to both their product ingredients and their competitors.
At Purina, we believe that honesty is the most important ingredient in the relationship between pet owners and their pet food company. That is why we have undertaken our lawsuit, and it is why we established a website, www.petfoodhonesty.com, where pet owners can learn the truth. (May 14, 2014)
Statement of Purina
Last week Purina filed a lawsuit detailing independent test results that show that Blue Buffalo is not being honest about the ingredients in many of their best-selling pet foods. We also posted a website, www.petfoodhonesty.com, so that the public can learn more about the issues in the case.
In light of public threats from Blue Buffalo to sue Purina (and even individuals at our company) for defamation, we have amended our complaint to ask the Missouri federal court to review our website and our public statements, and rule – as a matter of law – that they are not defamatory. We are confident in the test results, which show that Blue Buffalo products contain by-products, corn and grain – exactly the opposite of what Blue Buffalo is telling consumers.
Blue, a billion-dollar company that spent more than $50 million in advertising in 2013 attacking “big name manufacturers,” simply doesn’t like that the truth is getting out. We believe consumers deserve honesty, and we are not alone. Our lawsuit follows two separate decisions of the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommending Blue Buffalo change advertising it found to be misleading and disparaging against competitors.
At Purina, we believe that honesty is the most important ingredient in the relationship between pet owners and pet food manufacturers. That is why we have filed this action, and that is why we believe the truth will prevail. (May 12, 2014)
From Fox Business News: Blue Buffalo Chairman acknowledges reliance on outside, third-party manufacturers, doesn't entirely rule out the possibility of a manufacturing snafu…
To read the complete article, click here. (May 8, 2014)
Statement of Purina
We've seen Blue Buffalo’s response to our lawsuit and have the following comments:
- This is exactly what we expected from Blue Buffalo, a billion-dollar company that is not being honest about the ingredients in their pet food. As detailed in our lawsuit, it is time the truth comes out so that pet owners can make the right choice for their pets.
- For more than 85 years, Purina has been in the pet food business, and 99% of Purina pet food sold in the United States is manufactured at Purina’s own plants in the United States. By contrast, 100% of Blue Buffalo pet food is outsourced and made by third-party manufacturers. Consumers have a right to know who is actually manufacturing Blue Buffalo products.
We are confident in our independent testing, and we look forward to proving our case in court.
We will continue to provide updates to pet owners at www.petfoodhonesty.com. (May 7, 2014)
Dear Pet Owner,
Purina believes that honesty is the most important ingredient in the relationship between pet owners and pet food manufacturers, so that pet owners can have trust in the food they choose for their pet.
In the interest of ensuring pet owners understand what is in the pet food they buy, on May 6, Purina filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal District Court in St. Louis against The Blue Buffalo Company Ltd., for false advertising. We took this action because we believe that Blue Buffalo is not being honest about the ingredients in its pet food.
Here are some facts we’d like you to know:
- Blue Buffalo’s promotion, advertising and packaging repeatedly and unequivocally state that its pet food products contain “NO Chicken/Poultry By-Product Meals.” As documented in our lawsuit, however, testing conducted by an independent laboratory revealed that several of Blue Buffalo’s top-selling “Life Protection” pet food products actually contain substantial amounts of poultry by-product meal.
- Independent testing also shows that Blue Buffalo “LifeSource Bits” contain poultry by-product meal and corn. In addition, several Blue Buffalo products promoted as “grain-free” actually contain rice hulls, despite Blue Buffalo stating on its website that its “grain-free” products will “free your pet from the grains and glutens that cause allergic reactions in some dogs.”
- Our lawsuit follows decisions against Blue Buffalo by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. In March 2014, NAD found Blue Buffalo’s advertisements to be misleading and disparaging against competitors’ products. NAD also found Blue Buffalo’s advertising deceptive in a 2008 decision that recommended its superiority claims be modified and its “NO Animal By-Products” claims be discontinued when referencing pet food products that actually do contain animal by-products, such as fish meal, lamb meal and/or liver.
For more than 85 years, Purina has been putting pets first and raising the standards for pet nutrition – from innovative research, to food safety, to sustainable practices. We are invested in the quality of our food because we are a company of pet lovers. Our principles have guided us to take this action to stop misleading and deceptive advertising aimed at pet owners.
We encourage you to learn more about our case, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company v. Blue Buffalo Company Ltd., Civil Case No. 4:14-cv-00859 and the NAD decisions. View the press release.
At Purina, what goes in the bag goes on the label.– From the Pet Lovers at Purina