Pet food maker Blue Buffalo has agreed to pay $32 million to settle a group of class action lawsuits filed on behalf of consumers who said the company's products made their pets ill. It's thought to be the largest pet food class action settlement ever.
The amount each qualifying pet owner receives will depend on the total amount of Blue Buffalo products purchased during the class period and certain other conditions, the company said.
Blue Buffalo has denied any wrongdoing and says health problems encountered by consumers' pets may have been caused by supplier misconduct.
"More than a year ago, we informed our Pet Parents about the misconduct of a former ingredient supplier and a broker. While we will continue to pursue our claims against them, we decided that it is in the best interest of our Pet Parents and our company to resolve the class actions now," said Bill Bishop, chairman and founder of Blue Buffalo.
The lawsuits claimed that Blue Buffalo had broken its “True Blue Promise,” which specified that its pet foods contained “Only the Finest Natural Ingredients” while not containing certain other ingredients, including:
“NO Chicken or Poultry By-Product Meals,”
“NO Corn, Wheat or Soy,” and
“NO Artificial Preservatives, Colors or Flavors.”
The class action complaints argued that independent tests showed that some Blue Buffalo products did, in fact, contain chicken and poultry by-products. In addition, the tests indicated the presence of rice and corn in some products, including products from Blue Buffalo’s “Wilderness” and “Freedom” product lines, which were advertised as being grain-free.
The settlement agreement is subject to preliminary and final approval by the court.
Still pending is a false advertising claim filed by Nestle Purina, a competing pet food maker. It sued Blue Buffalo in May 2014, claiming that the "True Blue Promise" was false and misleading.