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Blue Buffalo Gets Slammed by a **** Storm of Lawsuits

Nestlé Purina PetCare Company (Purina) aren’t the only people suing Blue Buffalo, now consumers have jumped on the litigation bandwagon, and Blue Buffalo is getting slammed by a multitude of lawsuits alleging deceptive advertising practices. The growing number of lawsuits filed against Blue Buffalo keep growing, claiming that the company falsely represented that their pet food does not contain certain ingredients – such as chicken/poultry by-product meals and corn – when it appears as if Blue Buffalo’s pet food might actually contain those ingredients.

Because of the number of class-action lawsuits involved, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation has agreed to consolidate seven false advertising class-action lawsuits filed against Blue Buffalo Co. Ltd. for misleading customers about the ingredients in its pet food. They allege that Blue Buffalo misled its customers by claiming its pet food products did not contain any chicken by-products, corn, or grain and led them to pay premium prices for the pet food. The class-action lawsuit was transferred to another court where several related lawsuits making the same allegations will be heard together.

Smoking e-mails

It is safe to assume that Blue Buffalo was aware, at some point, that their pet food did contain the vilified ingredient they based their marketing claim on, when during pretrial discovery—the process by which litigants demand internal documents and communications that could become evidence—e-mails revealed that Purina claims reinforce its allegations. In May, e-mails between a Blue Buffalo ingredient broker (Diversified Ingredients) and a major supplier (Wilbur-Ellis) suggest strongly that they did indeed sell pet food containing a by-product meal. In an 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 by-product 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 ranges.”

Blue Buffalo then claimed they were duped by their supplier, by publicly revealing that contrary to prior assurances, Blue Buffalo admitted that ingredients from their supplier did contain poultry by-product meal after all — proving that the central allegations in Purina’s false advertising lawsuit against them. Despite Blue Buffalo’s admission, no mention was made about taking steps to recall the mislabeled pet foods, nor to compensate the millions of consumers that purchased the falsely labeled products.

Voodoo science

Purina claims that testing of Blue Buffalo’s pet food was conducted in a “highly sophisticated, independent lab,” while Blue Buffalo calls their testing “junk science” and claims the testing was performed with a rudimentary microscope under less than optimal conditions with questionable methods. Regardless, the results of testing and analysis reveal that, in some instances, 9 out of 10 Blue Buffalo products tested contained poultry by-product meal, even though the packaging indicated otherwise. Instead, tests indicated the products contained several signature elements of poultry by-product meal: eggshell, raw feather, and leg scale. Further, that quantities of grain were found in samples of Blue Buffalo’s pet food that were labeled “grain-free.”

To learn more about each case, click on the case information below.

SOURCE: U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in re: Blue Buffalo Company, Ltd., Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation

UPDATE: A number of my links to the individual lawsuits against Blue Buffalo that are pointing to Truth in Advertising (great site, BTW!) have all been consolidated into one post on their site:

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Mollie Morrissette

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

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