Heavy metal lawsuit against Champion Petfoods dismissed

The Judge dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that the case cannot be brought back to court.

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(Andrey Burmakin | BigStock.com)
(Andrey Burmakin | BigStock.com)

On Feb. 7, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Champion Petfoods. The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin judge dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning that the case cannot be brought back to court.

In March 2018, a dog owner in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against Champion Petfoods alleging that lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury contaminated the company’s dog foods. She alleged that this meant Champion had “deceptively marketed their dog food as having various high quality attributes when this was not the case,” according to court documents.

The plaintiff, Kellie Loeb, fed Orijen Original and Orijen Senior to her two dogs from November 2016 through March 2018. She stated that the dog foods were marketed as containing fresh ingredients fit for human consumption, along with other claims. She alleged that the presence of heavy metals rendered these claims false.

However, the amounts of the heavy metals were in the microgram per kilogram range, which may be below tolerable levels established by the National Research Council.

In April 2018, Champion Petfoods filed a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit 

Now, U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller has granted Champion Petfoods’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.

"While it is undisputed that Orijen contains heavy metals, plaintiff has failed to create a genuine dispute as to whether the heavy metal concentrations therein are excessive or dangerous," wrote Stadtmueller in court documents.

The court also noted that it was not presented with any facts that connected the plaintiff’s dogs consumption of Orijen products to any possible illness.

“The court’s opinion is consistent with Champion Petfoods’ position that its foods are safe and that the trace amounts of heavy metals are naturally occurring in the healthy ingredients used by Champion,” said Champion Petfoods trial counsel Dave Coulson, in a press release. “We vigorously fought the allegations in this case and will do the same in any other cases that assert similar claims.”

Heavy metals unavoidable in nature

Small quantities of heavy metals may be unavoidable in foods sourced from farms or the wilderness.

“Mercury is present to varying degrees in water, air and soil, making its presence unavoidable,” Anne Norris, United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) health communications specialist, told Petfood Industry in an email related to another issue. “Although the FDA has not issued specific guidance or set levels for mercury, any level of a substance in pet food must be safe for the animal and it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its product. The agency can take action if it has a safety concern.”

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