During the latest in the Blue Buffalo lawsuit brought by Purina last year, Blue Buffalo made an admission that might end up with Purina seeing victory. Blue Buffalo admitted that chicken byproducts make up a significant portion of the pet food that Blue Buffalo has. Until now, the company claimed that they made “byproduct free” pet food.
Blue Buffalo admitted in court last week that its pet food contains the same chicken byproduct and poultry byproduct ingredients the company vilifies in its commercials and other marketing materials, according to Purina via PR Newswire.
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Blue Buffalo’s founder, Bill Bishop, said Purina’s lawsuit and press release are nothing more than a “year-long smear campaign,” but again admitted to using chicken byproduct.
Purina filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo on May 6, 2014 for false advertising. The suit alleges that Blue Buffalo intentionally misled consumers about using chicken byproduct in Blue Buffalo pet food.
Purina filed the suit based on testing that found several of Blue Buffalo’s pet food varieties contained chicken and poultry byproduct meal. Each of the bags tested had labels claiming to be “byproduct free,”court documents show.
According to Truth in Advertising, several class action lawsuits popped up against Blue Buffalo because of the publicity related to the initial Purina lawsuit.
Many people do not like feeding pet foods containing chicken or poultry byproduct meals to their pets because, as the name implies, byproduct meals are made with the byproducts of food not fit for human consumption.
During the processing, eggshells, intestines, feet, leg scales, and other parts not fit for human food – including condemned and inedible materials and, sometimes, waste – are processed using denaturing and rendering to turn out an “edible” product used in most pet foods.
The Food and Drug Administration say byproduct meals are “safe” for pets, but pet parents often choose not to feed their beloved pets anything that they themselves wouldn’t eat.
Purina hired Windsor Laboratories to test the Blue Buffalo food, and James V. Makowski did the testing on different Blue Buffalo pet food varieties.
Dr. Makowski concluded that many of the Blue Buffalo pet food bags contained poultry byproduct meal, and that Blue Buffalo’s grain free pet food contained grains — again, contrary to its labeling.
Blue Buffalo did not have its pet food tested to verify or refute the results, presumably because of its own admission that it tests all of the Blue food already, and the Blue Buffalo ingredient list does not list chicken byproduct.
Blue Buffalo sprung for its own expert, Vinayak P. Dravid, PhD, to opine on the testing procedure Dr. Makowski used.
According to “Section 49, Conclusion” of the report, titled “Declaration of Vinayak P. Dravid, Ph.D.,” Dravid states that “Dr. Makowski’s report is so lacking in detail and documentation that it fails to provide a basis for his conclusions.”
In its commercials and other marketing, Blue Buffalo demonizes any pet food supplier that uses byproduct meal in its pet foods, and because Blue Buffalo claimed not to use byproduct meals, the company’s pet foods became quite popular.
Although Blue Buffalo admitted to the byproduct meal use in October of 2014, emails between Diversified Ingredients’ Collin McAtee and Wilbur-Ellis’ Darwin Rusu show that Blue Buffalo did know about the usage of the byproduct ingredients before the admission.
McAtee brokers ingredients for Blue Buffalo, and Rusu is a major Blue Buffalo ingredient supplier. A judge unsealed the emails during the pretrial discovery phase, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
In them, McAtee wrote that by working with Rusu, the two could “band-aid the situation” instead of having to “answer to this in litigation with Blue” if the claims were verified, noting that the losses via recall would amount to millions.
McAtee did not want to do that, and neither he nor Rusu expressed concern for the affected consumers who might have unknowingly fed their pets food tainted with ingredients that Blue Buffalo did not disclose on the product labeling, according to Poisoned Pet.
Blue Buffalo responded to Purina’s press release saying,
“The food that goes into every bag of Blue Buffalo is tested to confirm that it meets both our safety and nutritional standards before it is released for sale, so any bag that you have or may buy can be fed with total confidence. Just like you, we are pet parents who feed our dogs and cats BLUE so you can be sure that we never compromise on safety and nutrition.”
Blue Buffalo should have uncovered the animal byproduct in the pet food during its own testing, or during an audit. Since the admission, however, Bishop is no longer claiming Purina’s “junk science” is wrong, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
In another letter, Bishop downplayed Purina’s initial allegations, and deflecting the spotlight onto Purina instead, saying its pet treats that contained “unapproved antibiotics” had to be recalled.
To date, Blue Buffalo has mentioned neither recalling the mislabeled bags of Blue Buffalo pet food, nor compensating the consumers who may have purchased the mislabeled pet food.
Despite the admission, the Blue Buffalo lawsuit brought by Purina is still underway, as is Blue Buffalo’s counter suit against Purina for defamation.
[Photo Credit: Blue Buffalo via YouTube]