On March 6, pet food ingredient supplier Wilbur-Ellis and an employee were charged with eight criminal counts related to their roles in providing allegedly misbranded and adulterated poultry ingredients to Blue Buffalo, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Those ingredients resulted in the 2014 false advertising lawsuit by Purina after testing revealed the presence of poultry by-product meal in some of Blue Buffalo’s top-selling pet foods.
The allegations against Wilbur-Ellis and the other defendant hold that they used too many chicken feathers and other low-quality ingredients in their poultry by-product meal, and too little chicken meat. The charges include four misdemeanor counts of introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce, along with four counts of introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce. The charges were handed down in the federal courthouse of St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
"These misdemeanor charges arise from shipments that allegedly occurred several years ago out of one of our 32 Feed division locations around the world," Katherine Fordon, corporate communications manager for Wilbur-Ellis, told Petfood Industry. "At that time, the facility was under prior local management. The company took prompt action to ensure this facility operates according to what our customers, and theirs, should expect. At no time were there any safety concerns with this facility, and nutritional standards were always met.
"We look forward to addressing these issues in court." she said.
Blue Buffalo by-product supplier’s claims reduced by judge
On September 27, US District Judge Rodney W. Sippel upheld claims against Diversified Ingredients Inc., the broker that allegedly sold ingredients adulterated with poultry by-product meal to Blue Buffalo, reported Law 360. However, the judge reduced some of the claims to compensation made against the broker by pet food ingredient supplier Wilber-Ellis.
In 2015, Blue Buffalo settled a false advertising class action lawsuit leveled against it because of those ingredients. Under the terms of the agreement, Blue Buffalo had to pay US$32 million into a settlement fund to settle the claims of the plaintiffs. However, the legal battle continued as Blue Buffalo went after the broker and pet food ingredient supplier involved in the case to recoup some of the settlement funds.
Judge Sippel ruled that the pet food ingredient broker must face some of the pet food ingredient supplier’s demands for repayment of liability resulting from the poultry by-product sold to Blue Buffalo.
In the situation Judge Sippel decided on September 27, Diversified Ingredients argued that Missouri law prohibits claims for payment among parties that willingly committed wrongful acts together. Judge Sippel sided with Diversified Ingredients on this legal point, but only in regards to willfull acts.
However, he decided that the claims of wrongdoing against the broker could stand as far as they pertained to the negligent, unintentional inclusion of poultry by-products in Blue Buffalo’s supply chain.
History of Purina and Blue Buffalo legal battles
On May 6, 2014, Purina filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo for false advertising of pet food after testing revealed the presence of poultry by-product meal in some of Blue Buffalo’s top-selling pet foods. The false advertising of pet food lawsuits claimed that some Blue Buffalo products were not consistent with the company’s “True Blue Promise,” which stated that the products are “formulated with the finest natural ingredients” and made with “no chicken/poultry by-products meals; no corn, wheat or soy; and no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.”
Subsequently, Blue Buffalo officially filed a lawsuit against Purina on May 14, 2014. The lawsuit, in response to a lawsuit filed by Purina against Blue Buffalo, claims defamation, unfair competition, false advertising and violations of trade practice statutes.
On May 6, 2015, Blue Buffalo acknowledged in court that a “substantial” and “material” portion of Blue Buffalo pet food sold to consumers contained poultry by-product meal, despite advertising claims to the contrary. Under the terms of the agreement, Blue Buffalo had to pay US$32 million into a settlement fund to settle the claims of the plaintiff class.
A California company that supplies premium ingredients to pet food companies faces a criminal charge in federal court here and accusations that it misbranded its products by using too many lower-quality ingredients, such as chicken feathers, and not enough real chicken and other meat.