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Purina fires back at Blue Buffalo for back-peddling on by-products

Purina says Blue Buffalo’s self-confessed admission about adulterated food is absurd; and Purina claims it was they who unearthed the truth about the supplier who sold mislabeled chicken meal to Blue Buffalo – not Blue Buffalo.

Earlier this week, the Chairman of Blue Buffalo issued an indignant public letter finally admitting its products may be mislabeled, claiming they’d been hood-winked by their one of their suppliers who accidentally substituted poultry by-product meal for chicken meal.

At the center of the controversy, is an epic battle between Purina and Blue Buffalo over ingredient claims, that Purina says, are full of hot air and that they had the tests to prove it. Sick of Blue Buffalo’s posturing over their superiority over their competitor’s brands, Purina took them to court for false advertising, commercial disparagement, unfair competition and unjust enrichment based on Blue Buffalo’s pet food advertising.

Turns out – Purina was right.

Ouch.

In response to the letter, Purina issued a scathing rebuttal, responding, that Blue Buffalo is now only finally admitting that yes, indeed Purina was right all along and their products do indeed contain poultry by-products and not chicken meal, because Blue Buffalo was forced to admit the truth – by Purina.

In Purina’s public response to the letter, they allege that:

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.

While Blue Buffalo claims that they only just found out that their supplier sold them mislabeled poultry protein, a problem, they insist, that was apparently “cleared up months ago.”

Blue Buffalo has repeatedly denied ever using poultry by-product meal in their products, basing their entire marketing scheme on this premise: That their food was vastly superior to all other major brands  – turns out  –  isn’t true.

So much for true Blue.

While Blue Buffalo’s Chairman indignantly huffs that they were duped in this “totally unacceptable” accidental ingredient substitution fracas, he makes no attempt to accept any responsibility for the failure of his company to test and hold their ingredients before putting them into their pet foods.

Purina claims it was through their investigation that they discovered the ingredient substitution – not Blue Buffalo:

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 troubling, is not only their failure to implement strict quality control standards, but that Blue Buffalo should have been extremely wary about this particular supplier, because it was this same supplier, Wilbur-Ellis, that sold them melamine contaminated rice gluten in 2007.

Because of this colossal ingredient substitution accident – especially after their repeated posturing about the so-called superiority of their product’s ingredients – Blue Buffalo should accept full responsibility by offering consumers a refund for purchasing food that they thought contained chicken meal, but instead contained the inferior (and less expensive) poultry by-product meal.  But Blue Buffalo hasn’t offered refunds to consumers who purchased their adulterated and misbranded product.

While Blue Buffalo whines that while they were “ordering and paying for 100% chicken meal, at times they were receiving shipments that contained poultry by-product meal”, so too were Blue Buffalo’s customers paying top-dollar for what turned out to be a much less costly ingredient.

Blue Buffalo should be truly transparent in disclosing which of their pet foods might be adulterated and mis-branded and for how long this problem ‘may’ have been occurring, but Blue Buffalo hasn’t revealed which of their pet foods are affected.

Blue Buffalo should issue a recall of all the affected product(s), but Blue Buffalo hasn’t issued a recall.

Blue Buffalo makes no attempt to accept responsibility for their failure to adequately test the quality of the ingredients they buy and use in their pet foods. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure the safety and wholesomeness of their product by implementing and maintaining strict quality control standards; to place the blame at the feet of the supplier is absurd.

Instead of a sincere and meaningful apology, the letter struck me as insincere and disingenuous, with its wishy-washy half-admission that products ‘may’ contain undeclared by-products. Indignant, over this misfortune, he used it as an opportunity to pat himself on the back for being so transparent and forthcoming ‘unlike other pet food manufacturers’ might do. I think it was his utter lack of contrition that bothered me the most, his arrogant denial to accept any blame.

Transparency is not to be used as a marketing platform with which to disguise their thinly veiled attempt to save what little they have of their rapidly eroding reputation.

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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 (20) Write a comment

  1. Why would I believe a competitor’s tests about another companies products?

    Sounds like a sham piece to me.

    Reply

  2. I have been feeding my 3 years old cat Blue Buffalo for almost 2 years I am horrified at the actions of this company they are acting like spoiled children….face up to your obligations be adults my trust in you is gone I thought I was doing the right thing no more he now eats PureVita and the Blue Buffalo went in the garbage!! No thanks to your deceit.??

    Reply

    • I agree. After much research I now feed my two dogs Nature’s Instinct. Blue Buffalo went into the garbage years ago.

      Reply

  3. You may take issue with the CEO’s somewhat arrogant response, but that doesn’t change the facts as described by BB and Purina (if you can call them facts) — BB got less than they paid for from a shady supplier. Purina caught them on it and then turned it into a marketing campaign against them because BB has been stealing their lunch money for years now. Common sense interpretation of the situation doesn’t include leaping to the conclusion that somehow BB was obfuscating the truth in their advertising. And stop calling for a recall. Any affected product has surely rotated out of the marketplace long ago.

    And I have news for you… NO pet food company tests their poultry meal to see if it’s actually poultry by-product meal when they receive it. Not even your employer Honest Kitchen.

    Reply

  4. My dog is 2 and has been eating blue jays wilderness salmon formula since she was a puppy and we’ve never had any problems with her health. We tried other grain free foods for her, but they made her skin more flaky and her coat dull and they weren’t satisfying for her. That being said, all dogs are different and what might work for one may not work for another.
    Regarding the article, I’d like to see more facts and less opinion on the matter. It’s easy to get emotionally charged about these things especially when it comes to our pets because they are our family. However, it doesn’t help in making sound decisions on how to proceed. More research needs to be done regarding the independent lab test conducted. The fact that it was conducted by Nestle, one of blue buffalo’s competitors raises questions for me on the accuracy, reliability, and validity of the tests. I’d find it more believable if the USDA or FDA had done it. People may find this bit of information interesting: http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/240312166?width=360#fullscreen

    Reply

  5. if I may add my two cents worth here. I used to feed my dogs blue buffalo. Now they have allergies. also they had soft stools and direaha. My black gsd pancreatitus. I switch to gluten free pro pac. Still not sure but pets are noticeably healthier. better looking . Perfect weight around 100 lbs. look skinny but can’t feel ribs. feed twice a day never miss. I tried taste of the wild also. My dogs wouldn’t eat it.

    Reply

  6. I used blue buffalo for my puppy but she kept having diarrhea. Vet said put her on science diet lg breed puppy and no more issues. Don’t think all these so called organic foods are always the answer. Plus these companies try to make pet owners feel like they are not doing right by not feeding organic. There is also the crockpot diet for pets. U can find it online and it’s supposed to be a good alternative. Every pet is different and you have to go with what works for your pet and also your budget. I found a dog w/ mange who had no hair and scabby skin. Vet told me to put him on good old pedigree and let me tell you his hair came back very pretty . This was before the organic food craze and he lived to be 14 with no issues.

    Reply

    • Wow, that is amazing. The dog lived to be 14 on Pedigree.

      I wouldn’t call organic food a “craze”, in fact, before the industrialization of food, most foods were naturally organic.

      But now food is produced with vast amounts of pesticides, antibiotics, chemicals in processing, genetically modified grains, etc. What waste remains of the human food industry is then diverted to animal feed. It is a sorry excuse for food, and I prefer to feed my cats whole foods grown and raised as close to what nature intended as I can find, keeping in mind the welfare of animals used in my food for them. I have respect for all animals whether raised for food or raised as companions.

      We must remember our actions have consequences, what you choose to purchase you implicitly support and approve of. If, for example, you buy chicken raised on waste products, poultry litter, drugs who lived their entire lives in battery cages, you are condoning the mistreatment of animals. If you buy food raised with pesticides and irrigated with waste water, you are condoning the destruction of the environment.

      These choices are about respect for life and respect for the earth. It is not a fad or an elitist “craze” dreamed up by hippy-do-gooders – it is a way to live your life without harming the earth and the animals that live on it.

      Reply

  7. Thsnks so much for your email updates. I’ve been buying Blue for awhile. I want to switch. Can someone recommend a brand of kibble and treats that is wholesome and safe? I have a 2 year old Terrier mix, 27 pounds.

    Reply

    • Personally, I make my own cat food.

      And when I’m tired, I feed a commercial raw, dehydrated human-grade food made in a human-grade facility. The company is the only one in the U.S. legally allowed to say it is human-grade, because it is. It is quite $, but worth every penny. You only have to guess who it is, I’ve mentioned them often enough in my comments.

      Plus, I supplement their diet with lots of other human food. The snacks my cats get are:

      Dehydrated salmon treats for cats
      Dehydrated fish treat from Iceland for cats (human-grade)

      In addition, I give them a number of items from the health food store such as:

      Bonito flakes
      Large flake brewers yeast
      Organic yogurt (humane)
      Organic cheese (humane)
      Organic eggs (humane, local when available)
      Raw chicken liver (humane)
      Raw beef liver and raw beef heart from a local humane farmer (John Ford Ranch)

      Reply

      • I am new to your site so don’t have a clue which brand of ‘human grade’ food to which you are referring.
        Tell me, please.

        As I’m sure a lot of readers who live with cats already know, feeding my sweet kitty is a pain in the butt.

        For some reason she really loves cheap, crappy food….Science Diet. I have tried to wean her onto better food but she just turns her nose up and stops eating entirely.
        True, she does need to lose some weight but that’s not the method I want her to use.

        We here in the Arcata area have several good pet food outlets but the most well stocked with knowledgeable staff is The Farm Store.
        They will take back and refund any food an animal refuses to eat. They donate the leftovers to local shelters.

        I tried a brand (Call of the Wild) but the kibble was as hard as bb’s. She couldn’t be coaxed to eat even after I softened the bits with water.

        After explaining the problem to The Farm Store folks, they suggested a brand new to the market for foods…..Waggers, tender and moist.
        All the first listed ingredients are meat or fish depending on which one purchases.

        I am trying the chicken/tuna flavor. The bits are truly moist and soft.
        My sweet kitty is also getting their canned.

        It seems that Waggers was already making treats so segued into food products. There are three flavors to choose from.

        First off I liked the company. Enclosed in the bag was a little note suggesting the slow introduction of their foods into ones animal pal meal schedule.
        Common sense, sure. I just have never had a company make it part of their packing/marketing plan.

        So far she eats it. With the moist bits of kibble mixed with my remaining Science Diet, she eats it but somewhat reluctantly….but she eats it and that’s all I care about.
        The canned has been very well received. I also mix it with canned Science Diet.

        Her stools are still solid and contained. No diarrhea which was one of my concerns. She has less stool but I attribute that to the food being better absorbed into her system.

        So far, so good.

        Since it is so new to the market I don’t seem to be able to find any consumers reviews but here is a link to the product.

        http://www.petpr.com/news/waggers-launch-revolutionary-tendermoist-superzoo-2014/

        g

        Reply

        • Sorry Gura, I hesitate to name it for fear someone might consider it an endorsement or think that I get a kick-back for mentions or that somehow I am affiliated with them.

          I’m not.

          The company is Honest Kitchen. I buy their Prowl and their Smittens treats. And when I have a little extra money I buy samples and boxes of food for friends who need to be converted.

          I pay for it myself, and no, I don’t get any freebies (which would be nice, since I’m broke at the moment). I have to be so careful…you know – ethics and credibility and all that.

          I haven’t looked into the food you mention, but I will and let you know…As for the rest of your comments, I will answer privately. I have some thoughts…(of course).

          Thanks Ghura for the comment and good to “see” you again!

          Reply

          • Thanks.
            Look forward to hearing from you.
            Maybe since I know you and your mom, I would never, ever suspect you were taking kick-backs for mentioning or endorsing any brand.
            I know your ethics are too high for any such actions.
            I trust you, completely.

        • I’ve just started using waggers for my 3 chihuahuas and although they seem to like it, they’re drinking way more water and hacking up foam puddles everywhere! so I think I’m going back to Stella and chewies or maybe try honest kitchen actually! Kg

          Reply

  8. Well, if that doesn’t take the cake.
    Corporations (both evil) fighting over who said what when that horror was uncovered.
    Seems both are trying to snatch the crown of being ‘righteous’.

    Reply

    • You said it man. It is really disgraceful – all this posturing. I suggest they see a therapist and get counseling. They both need to learn how to let go and let God and learn how to forgive each other and move on. I’m kidding, sort of. I guess they tried mediation? I know a good psychiatrist…

      Reply

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