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FTC Busts Mars Over Outrageous Eukanuba Dog Food Claim: That it Can Extend Dogs’ Lives by 30%

MARS PETCARE IN THE DOGHOUSE FOR BULLSHIT CLAIMS ABOUT EUKANUBA

The Federal Trade Commission announced today a groundbreaking charge against Mars PetCare for lying to consumers. According to Mars Petcare false advertising campaign, its Eukanuba brand dog food could extend dogs’ lives by 30%. But the FTC alleges that Mars made misleading representations, in other words, they flat out lied about the products’ life-extending benefits and falsely claimed that scientific tests supported what the company said.

Mars had the audacity to attempt to convince consumers that if they fed their dogs Eukanuba dog food, that, like the dogs in the study, would “live an exceptionally long life and still full of vitality” – even at age 16 or 17. Other ads touted the “astonishing” observation that with “Eukanuba and proper care,” dogs in the study “were able to live beyond their typical life span.”

But the FTC took one look at the ads and decided that was just bullshit.

NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DOGS IN MARS’ STUDY V. DOGS IN THE GENERAL POPULATION

In reality, the study cited in the ads showed no difference between dogs that ate Eukanuba and the general dog population. Under a settlement with the FTC, Mars Petcare US won’t make health claims without scientific proof to back them up. And the company won’t claim studies show the health benefits of its pet foods unless they really do.

The FTC filed a complaint alleging that Mars Petcare couldn’t prove their outlandish claims and that they didn’t even have  substantiation to support its claims that with Eukanuba, dogs live 30% (or more) longer than their typical life span or that Eukanuba enables dogs to live exceptionally long lives. The FTC also charged that the company falsely claimed to have scientific tests to support the advertised results.

THE FTC ORDER PROHIBITS MARS FROM MAKING PHONY CLAIMS ABOUT ALL THEIR PET FOODS

Additionally, the proposed order prohibits Mars from making misleading claims about the health benefits of any pet food. The order also bars misrepresentations about the contents, validity, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any test, study, or research about the health benefits of pet food.

According to the FTC:

The proposed order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits Mars Petcare from engaging in similar deceptive acts or practices in the future. First, it prohibits the company from making any misleading or unsubstantiated claims that its Eukanuba-brand pet food or any other pet food will enable any dogs to extend their lifespan by 30 percent or more or live exceptionally long lives. It also prohibits the company from making misleading or unsubstantiated claims regarding the health benefits of any pet food, and requires the company to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up any such claims.

Finally, the proposed order prohibits Mars Petcare, when advertising any pet food, from misrepresenting the existence, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any study, or falsely stating that the health benefits claimed are scientifically proven. It also contains compliance and monitoring requirements to ensure the company abides by its terms.

THE FTC WARNING APPLIES TO ALL PET FOOD MANUFACTURERS

The FTC didn’t stop with just Mars – they put out a warning to all pet food manufacturers in the U.S. that bullshit advertising claims like the ones Mars made won’t fly with the FTC. Although the settlement applies just to Mars Petcare, the FTC put out a stern warning to other pet food manufacturers who make false and misleading claims about their pet food:

Like any other objective representation, claims for petcare products must be supported by appropriate evidence.  Every dog has his day and every promise about a pet product is subject to the FTC’s long-standing substantiation doctrine. With more than 65% of American households owning a pet, consumers – and canines – have a right to truth in advertising.

Touting testing may up your substantiation ante. As the FTC Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation makes clear, a company “must possess the amount and type of substantiation the ad actually communicates to consumers.” According to the FTC, Mars Petcare didn’t just advertise that dogs were “living 30% longer.” The company referred to a 10-year “long life study” that purportedly proved it. Marketers call that an establishment claim and false statements of that nature are a particular pet peeve for the FTC.

When translating research into ad claims, don’t bark up the wrong tree.  A lot of companies undertake studies about their products, but make sure that: 1) the methodology is sound; and 2) the advertising claims accurately reflect the results. An ad touting a 30% increase in a pet’s life span or any other express health claim is likely to attract consumer attention – and law enforcement interest if the underlying science doesn’t support the representation.

Mars Petcare U.S., Inc., has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it falsely advertised the health benefits of its Eukanuba brand dog food. The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition.

THE FTC WANTS TO HEAR FROM CONSUMERS

The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through September 6, 2016, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation to Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice (see below). Consumers parties are invited to submit written comments on the issues. Don’t miss this opportunity to have your say on what you think about false advertising of pet food!

See an example of one of Mars’ sickening ads here.

Read more about it here:

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and advisor to AAFCO. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (5) Write a comment

  1. Well, what else should we expect from Mars, a company that holds a patent: “METHODS OF USING OFFAL FOR PET FOOD MANUFACTURE” (US 7,575,771 B2: 18 August 2009)? The dictionary definition of “offal” is “refuse,” “rubbish” or “garbage.”

    Bright Minds is a good example to cite: its really just a reformulation of ordinary ingredients that are just not new. It represents what is wrong with an industry that is more than ever drifting into manipulative advertising and product re-positioning as a means to sidestep growing consumer awareness about how pet food is manufactured.

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  2. Thanks Mollie, I entered my comment which was very easy to do using the link that you provided.

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  3. Now they need to go after Purina for their claims that their Bright Mind food actually increases a senior dog’s brain functioning better than any other food. Especially since Purina will not let anyone know what studies prove these claims or what ingredients are in the food to produce such an effect (supposedly they are a completely proprietary blend of herbs and nutrients). Personally, I thought that the Eukanuba Long Life food and the Purina Bright Mind food (both came out around the same time) were a bunch of lies designed to play on the emotions of pet owners who want to keep their beloved pets around longer. The fact that neither company will show the studies or ingredients should raise a very large red flag for anyone.

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