A California consumer is suing the manufacturer of Nutro pet foods for falsely advertising that its ingredients did not include wheat, soy or chicken — elements that trigger sensitivities or allergies in many dogs.
From 2016 to 2019, Alain Michael of Ventura County says he regularly purchased Nutro Limited Ingredient Diets food for his dog. He paid premium prices for it based on the manufacturer’s claim that the pet food ingredients left out items that could cause allergic reactions.
However, he says he stopped buying that brand of pet food when he discovered the claims were false.
“Plaintiff’s independent analysis of the ingredients of the Nutro Limited Ingredient Diets found that the Nutro Limited Ingredient Diets contain material amounts of chicken, wheat and soy using the industry standard Q-PCR method of DNA testing,” his lawsuit states.
The class action targets buyers of these specific Nutro pet foods:
- Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Lamb & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain Free Dog Food
- Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Salmon & Lentils Recipe Grain Free Dog Food
- Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Duck & Lentils Recipe Grain Free Dog Food
- Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Venison Meal & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain Free Dog Food
- Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Large Breed Lamb & Sweet Potato
- Nutro Limited Ingredient Diet Small Bites Adult Lamb and Sweet Potato Recipe
Pet owners often are willing to pay more for products that promote their pets’ health. For some, food allergies are a major concern. Therefore, the lawsuit maintains, these consumers expect accurate labeling to base their purchasing decisions upon. They must rely on the manufacturer’s representations that such products are formulated for their pets’ needs.
However, widespread product testing in recent years suggest that a large percentage of products in this market fail to live up to the claims on their labels with respect to “non-conforming” pet food ingredients, according to the lawsuit. It cites several studies dating from 2014 to 2018, with results showing between 50% and 90% of the various pet foods tested contained ingredients that failed to conform to their labeling.
“Since 2014, virtually all scholarly researchers have found that pet food sold to consumers frequently contains non-conforming ingredients, and significant discrepancies between pet food products’ labeling and their actual ingredients appears to be commonplace among pet food manufacturers,” the Nutro pet foods class action lawsuit states.
Veterinarians often recommend “limited ingredient” foods for pets that have shown allergic reactions to mainstream foods.
The use of that phrase in the Nutro pet food names noted above is meant to appeal to that market, the lawsuit argues.
That representation is bolstered by prominent text on the front of each product bag: “GRAIN FREE,” “NO CHICKEN” and “No Corn, Wheat, or Soy.”
These elements also do not appear in the list of ingredients on each bag.
In addition, the Nutro website states: “These recipes avoid ingredients that commonly cause food sensitivities in pets, like chicken, beef, corn, wheat, soy and dairy protein.”
And yet, contrary to all of that information set forth by the manufacturer, independent testing revealed “significant amounts” of those ingredients in Nutro pet foods.
This has caused damage not only to the consumers who purchase these products, but also to other manufacturers, the plaintiff maintains: “Defendant’s misrepresentations regarding the ingredients in the Nutro Limited Ingredient Diets are material to consumers who purchase this product, passing over products that cost less but do not claim to be made from select, premium ingredients.”
The plaintiff’s primary claim is violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a federal consumer protection regime that supplements state warranty laws.
The lawsuit maintains that the Nutro pet foods are not “merchantable goods” under this federal code because they do not function as “a wholesome limited ingredient food for pets whose owners choose to avoid feeding them wheat, soy or chicken.”
On the state level, the plaintiff is alleging violations of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law and Unfair Competition Law. His general allegations are breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability and unjust enrichment.
He is demanding a jury trial in hopes of winning an injunction against the company; compensatory, statutory and punitive damages; restitution and other equitable relief; and court fees.
The plaintiff is seeking certification of a California Class for this lawsuit.
Do you look for limited ingredients when selecting pet food? Let us know in the comments below.
He is represented by Alex Straus, Lisa White and Arthur Stock of Greg Coleman Law PC; Nick Suciu III of Barbat Mansour Suciu & Tomina PLLC; and J. Hunter Bryson of Whitfield Bryson LLP.
The Nutro Pet Foods Class Action Lawsuit is Alain Michael, et al. v. Mars Petcare US Inc., Case No. 2:20-cv-04845, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
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