A California man has filed a class-action lawsuit against Purina, alleging that its Beneful brand dog food is responsible for the deaths of up to 4,000 dogs.
The lawsuit, filed by Frank Lucido in a California federal court, contains a grotesque list of symptoms that it claims were caused by Purina’s dog food: “The dogs show consistent symptoms, including stomach and related internal bleeding, liver malfunction or failure, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, seizures, bloating, and kidney failure,” it says.
These charges are neither new nor unique to Lucido’s lawsuit. For years, people have claimed online and in the media that their dogs have gotten severely ill or have died after starting to eat Beneful. Both Purina and the FDA have denied any connection between Beneful and the illnesses. In 2013, Pittsburgh television station WPXI did a story investigating the complaints following the death of Mazey, a 2 1/2 year-old English Mastiff. Based on its own tests, the FDA concluded that Mazey died of an autoimmune disorder called Addison’s Disease.
Mazey’s owners, Scott and Carissa Dority, accepted the FDA’s findings in her case, but they’re far from the only people who have suspected problems with Beneful, as Lucido’s lawsuit shows. On the website ConsumerAffairs.com, there are hundreds of 1-star reviews of Beneful alleging that it caused illness or death in pets.
Lucido and others claim that Beneful is dangerous to pets because of the presence of mycotoxins, which result from the growth of mold. According to The Daily Beast, mycotoxins certainly aren’t the kind of thing that you want to feed your dog, but they’re very difficult to test for. Furthermore, their presence in Beneful hasn’t yet been confirmed. That’s going to be part of the discovery process in Lucido’s lawsuit. “As soon as we are able to, and the federal courts move at a fairly rapid rate, we will get discovery,” Jeff Cereghino, one of Lucido’s attorneys, told The Daily Beast. A consumer protection organization called the Association for Truth in Pet Foods did recently issue a report in which it tested Beneful and seven other brands of pet food for 37 different mycotoxins. Beneful was classified as “high risk” for multiple mycotoxins.
More commonly, pet owners who have made allegations against Beneful have pointed to a food additive called propylene glycol. While propylene glycol is controversial among some experts, it is approved by the FDA and hasn’t been linked to toxicity.
To Cereghino, the most compelling element of the case is the old idea that where there’s smoke, there’s fire — and he took the case because he saw a lot of smoke. “If it’s a hundred or so, it’s like, ‘Okay, a lot of dogs eat Beneful; things happen,'” he told The Daily Beast. “But when you start getting into the thousands… The long and short of it is the complaint pyramid is such that even with the Internet — easy access to complain about things — there’s still a very large percentage of folks who simply don’t complain, or whose vet tells ’em, ‘We don’t know what happened,’ and they’re not drawing conclusions or leaping to assumptions. But when I look at 4,000? Holy hell, there’s a lot of people out here.”
Whether Beneful really is responsible for those deaths — or there’s merely an unfortunate correlation — remains to be seen. Either way, the answer will be of great interest to all pet owners.
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