Back in 2013, we brought you an article inquiring about the possibility of Purina’s Beneful dog food causing pet illness and death, based on thousands of online complaints. They threatened us with legal action, even though we never officially said their products were bad, so we pulled the story. But now they are being taken to court by a man who says Beneful made two of his dogs sick and killed a third.
Frank Lucido had three dogs of different ages and breeds. While his home was being renovated, the dogs were living in three separate environments, and were started on Beneful diets in late December.
In early January, his four-year-old German shepherd began losing her fur and started to smell weird. She became very ill, and a veterinary exam determined that she was suffering from internal hemorrhaging and a malfunctioning liver that were “consistent with poisoning.”
Five days later, his eight-year-old English bulldog was discovered dead in the yard, having suffered from the same internal bleeding and liver failure.
Lucido’s 11-year-old Lab also became ill and is undergoing testing. The Lab and the German shepherd are currently in the care of a veterinarian.
“All three of them weren’t exposed to a singular condition,” Jeffrey B. Cereghino, Lucido’s attorney, told NBC News. “The one constant they had was they were all eating the same dog food.”
Over 3,000 complaints have poured in about Purina’s products. Though most of them seem to be about Beneful, many people have said their chicken jerky products have also been linked to death and illness.
“When there’s been a crescendo of complaints you have to pay attention,” Cereghino said.
Mycotoxins are produced by mold found in grains, which makes up a large part of Beneful. Many of the consumer complaints list symptoms consistent with mycotoxin poisoning. Cereghino says his team will be collecting data and have tests performed on Purina products.
“Cases like these are important because we do invest so much love and time in our pets and they are such a part of our family.”
Licodo’s lawsuit alleges that propylene glycol, a toxin and component of antifreeze, is used in Beneful. (Fireball Cinnamon Whisky was recalled in Europe last year for containing too much propylene glycol.) Purina claims that the kind used in their products is “an FDA-approved food additive that is also in human foods like salad dressing and cake mix.”
Predictably, Purina representatives call the lawsuit “baseless,” and snivel that the company is “the subject of social media-driven misinformation.” But why would thousands of consumers say that their pets were sickened and killed by this specific brand if there was no basis in fact?
In another lawsuit that was settled just last May, Purina and Waggin’ Train LLC created a $6.5 million fund to compensate pet owners whose pets were sickened after eating Chinese-manufactured chicken jerky treats, which were recalled in 2013. Yet company reps still offer canned responses maintaining Purina’s high standards and quality products.
The company’s tagline reads: “Help keep your dog happy and healthy with a perfect balance of real, wholesome ingredients, quality nutrition and great taste found in Beneful® brand dry dog food.”
This has dog-lovers scratching their heads as they ponder how propylene glycol could possibly be considered healthy or wholesome?
According to one online complainant, Kat Deuster, “My friend just lost her service Lab from Beneful treats. She died a painful death from LEAD POISONING! The vet tested everything in the house and yard. He found the treats to be contaminated. Beneful ignored her calls and Walmart removed her from the store for trying to talk to people buying Beneful! She lost her service dog. Her SERVICE dog!”
The company has received an abundance of complaints, but continues to callously brush them aside. Employees claim their products are nutritious and that the FDA has not found any problems. But their citation for that claim leads directly to Purina’s website, not an unbiased third-party site that does independent testing and has no affiliation with the company. Online commenters are advised to call the company’s customer service line, but callers have reported speaking to flustered reps that do not answer their questions with any more detail than what is provided online.
Here is one conversation between a dog owner and a Beneful representative:
Joseph Michael: “I just want you to know that we feed our dog Beneful. After hearing this recent news, and seeing the horrible way you’ve reacted to the concerns of your customers in this forum, we are throwing your product away. I pray we’re doing it in time! We will not be purchasing any more food from your company or your parent company. Please re-think your response to this crisis, and voluntarily re-call your products before it’s too late.
Beneful: “We appreciate you coming directly to us, Joseph. The truth is, we do care, and we’re deeply sorry to hear that you feel like we don’t. We can’t speculate on the reasons for every complaint posted online. We can assure you, however, that we review all information provided to us by consumers and their vets, and we can confidently state there are no product issues with Beneful. The FDA also has not identified any concerns with our products. Because we care, we’d like to hear from you so we can better address your concerns. We hope you’ll have a minute to call our team this morning at 800-877-7551 so we can talk.”
Joseph Michael: “I did call, and I can tell your facility is in total melt-down mode. The individual I spoke to was very kind, and with a VERY shaking voice assured me repeatedly that the food is safe, but that there have been an increasing number of reports of issues with Beneful’s dry food, specifically. We feed our American Eskimo the dry AND the canned. I’m sorry, but ‘increasing numbers of reports’ isn’t very heartwarming, and even though ‘research’ hasn’t pinned it to the food… I am not a believer in coincidences. You’ve lost a customer.”
Some of the symptoms people report seeing in their dogs include, but are not limited to, lethargy, glazed eyes, excessive thirst, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, seizures, tumors, internal bleeding, bloody urine and stool, and liver and renal failure.
Though there have been no conclusive tests performed by the FDA to determine the veracity of these claims, many doubt the integrity of the FDA, as well. Tainted Chinese chicken jerky and other treats and foods have long been slipping under the FDA’s radar. They claim the factories will not allow them to go there to test the products. If this is true, why are these items even allowed to be imported?
Consumers are angry, and are not afraid to let Beneful know how they feel. Here is another exchange between the company and an enraged dog-lover:
Yvonne Johnson: “I have never even considered feeding Beneful because I know the ingredients are absolutely HORRIBLE. I am trying to inform others. Unfortunately, unknowing people automatically believe the cute commercials and buy into the lies. There is the response that the FDA hasn’t identified any problems etc… well all that one has to do is look at the *listed ingredients* and it’s NO WONDER why so many pets are getting sick with this concoction passed off as ‘balanced nutrition!’”
Beneful: “Yvonne, we appreciate you sharing your comments here on our page. Our products are actually complete and balanced nutrition and 100% safe to feed. We formulate our products by studying the ingredients that pets need, and then look to nature for the best ingredients to deliver on them. We then study how ingredients work together, and use the best team players. We hope that you’ll both take a moment to visit our FAQs as well as here: http://puri.na/XMKUih for more info.”
Yvonne Johnson: “BWAHAHAH!!! Beneful/Purina, you are off your rocker! ‘We formulate our products by studying the ingredients that pets need.’ LOL! Because dogs need ground yellow corn, wheat, soybeans, sugar, artificial colors, propylene glycol etc etc etc. HAHAHAHA! ‘Then look to nature for the best ingredients to deliver on them.’ Yeah, because you find those artificial colors in nature. And there are much better sources of nutrition than your GMO grains and fillers. You can’t convince me Beneful. I know the FACTS! Your ‘food’ is a fake concoction mixed up in a lab. It is NOT natural in any way! There are way too many unhealthy, unnecessary ingredients. I don’t need to visit your FAQ or any of your other pages.”
How many more pets will have to suffer at the hands of indifferent and negligent companies and organizations that are not adamantly seeking answers and doing their best to keep harmful products off the shelves? Perhaps this problem is partly due to the fact that Monsanto, who produces genetically modified foods known to cause a number of health problems, has strong ties to the FDA. One of their main genetically modified “crops” is corn, a staple in most human and dog foods. But the main problem customers are having with Beneful is their use of propylene glycol.
If corporations will not ensure the quality of their products, and if the government will not properly monitor them to make certain they are maintaining quality standards, it is up to the public to be vigilant about what we and our pets eat.
Nestle Purina has until April 2nd to respond to Lucido’s class action complaint.