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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, 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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