Purina’s Conundrum: How to Handle The Beneful Lawsuit

How can the pet food company counter the lawsuit?

By now you’ve likely heard about the class action lawsuit against Purina‘s Beneful brand dog food. The suit was filed on February 5 on behalf of over 3,000 people claiming the kibble is responsible for causing their dogs’ illnesses and, in some cases, even deaths.Purina-Beneful

One of the lawyers filing the suit, Attorney James Young, of Morgan & Morgan out of Tampa, Florida, told WCPO:

“We received hundreds of complaints. Nationally, there have been thousands of complaints about dogs who have eaten this dog food by Purina Beneful and suffered very serious side effects, including death…The issues are pretty similar across the board…liver and kidney problems, which results in diarrhea, bloody stool, vomiting, and secondary harm.”

In response to the media madness that has followed the filing of the suit, a spokesman for Nestlé Purina Petcare Company said that the complaints were “without merit,” and went on to say:

“There are no quality issues with Beneful…Beneful is a high quality, nutritious food enjoyed by millions of dogs each day. Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation.”

So far, that’s it: no social media counter-narrative, no press release, no testimonials from satisfied customers or their dogs.

While we can certainly understand the reasoning behind this type of response, we wonder whether it may come off as too dismissive. Purina has responded very differently in the past; in October, it issued an aggressive press release under the “Honesty Is Our First Ingredient” headline when a partner admitted that its products might not be as pure as advertised.

A full-blown recall, which may turn out to be completely unnecessary if the product truly is safe, could potentially create huge losses and an even larger image problem. However, when a lawsuit involves thousands of complaints from across the nation, all with similar details, responding simply with “It’s baseless; the food is safe,” doesn’t exactly send the message that customer’s pets are truly the company’s top priority.

Maybe an internal investigation would show that the company takes its customers concerns seriously. Purina could also take a cue from McDonald’s and create a “here’s how we make the pink slime” video.

It’s not like dog food is appetizing in first place.