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Despite upwards of tens of thousands of consumer complaints and two prior lawsuits filed against the Nestle Purina Petcare Company’s Beneful brand of dog food, California federal judge, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled in favor of the dog food giant, citing failure to prove the product was unsafe and that allegations heavily relied on a veterinarian’s inadmissible opinions.
The lawsuit began after California dog owner, Frank Lucido bought a bag of Purina’s Beneful dry dog food in December of 2014 and began feeding it exclusively to his dogs. About 2 weeks after beginning to feed Beneful, his German Shepherd became violently ill. The first symptoms that Frank and his wife noticed were that the Shepherd was losing hair and giving off an unusual odor. Two days later, a veterinarian examined their dog and found internal bleeding and a malfunctioning stomach and liver, symptoms consistent with poisoning. One week later, on January 23, 2015, Lucido’s wife found their English Bulldog dead in the backyard. A necropsy revealed signs of internal bleeding and lesions on his liver, consistent with those same symptoms the Lucido’s German Shepherd suffered.
As a result of his dogs’ illnesses and thousands more similar complaints of illness and death by other pet parents, Frank Lucido filed a class action lawsuit against the Nestle Purina Pet Care Company on February 5, 2015.
The more than 3,000 complaints against Beneful “show consistent symptoms, including stomach and related internal bleeding, liver malfunction or failure, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, seizures, bloating, and kidney failure,” according to Frank Lucido v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
In an analysis of Beneful samples, the plaintiff’s expert found:
“An analysis of 28 samples [from bags of Beneful suspected of causing illness in several dogs] revealed three types of toxins: propylene glycol; mycotoxins, a fungal mold on grain; and the heavy metals arsenic and lead.
But the level of toxins found in the dog chow did not exceed limits permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. Plaintiffs’ expert analyzed 28 of 1,400 dog food samples from incidents of dogs that got ill after eating Beneful. The sampling was limited because not all dog owners had kept the chow.
The expert, animal toxicologist Dr. John Tegzes, claimed the FDA based its dog chow toxin limits only on short-term exposure and did not consider the effects of long-term exposure.
He said studies used to establish FDA tolerance limits were ‘poorly designed’ and tended to look only at the effects on dogs over weeks, rather than years. While Tegzes could not say definitively that the toxins caused the dogs to get sick, he concluded that chronic exposure to mycotoxins, heavy metals and glycols posed a ‘significant health risk’ to dogs and could adversely affect their health.”
View the entire summary judgement here:
Following the judgement in their favor, Nestlé Purina spokeswoman Wendy Vlieks released the following statement: “Today’s ruling confirms what millions of pet owners already know — that Beneful is a safe, healthy and nutritious dog food that millions of dogs enjoy every day.”
Although the food is advertised as healthy and nutritious, third party testing found dangerous levels of mycotoxins, a toxic secondary metabolite produced by fungus (mold) that occurs in grains, especially corn, a primary ingredient in Beneful dog foods.
Other sources point to propylene glycol, an ingredient commonly found in anti-freeze and a known toxin to dogs and cats, which is also found in Beneful and other Purina brand foods.
Although the judgement sided with Nestle Purina in this case, any pet parents feeding Beneful brand pet foods may want to carefully consider that choice, keep a watchful eye for any unusual symptoms or illness, and research the complaints of other dog and cat owners in order to make an informed decision regarding their dog’s diet.