Thursday, April 5, 2018

Nestlé PetCare Purina Company: Lawsuit on Beneful Dry Kibble (2015)

Nestlé Purina PetCare Company Headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri

Controversy: Nestlé Purina PetCare Company (Nestlé Purina) manufactures and distributes food product for cats and dogs. It operates as a subsidiary of Nestlé S.A. , which is a food and beverage company that was founded in 1866 and is headquartered in Vevey Switzerland. The current C.E.O. of the company is Ulf Mark Schneider. It operates in more than 70 companies through Europe, Americas, Asia Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa. Its products ranges from baby food, coffee, frozen food to dog food. 

Advertisement four months after
outbreak of lawsuits.

In year 2015, Nestlé PetCare Purina Company was faced with multiple lawsuits on their dog food product, the Beneful Series Dry Kibble. The dry kibble variations named in the suit include Purina Beneful Healthy Weight, Purina Beneful Original, Purina Beneful Incredibites, and Purina Beneful Healthy Growth For Puppies, Purina Beneful Healthy Smile, Purina Beneful Healthy Fiesta, Purina Beneful Healthy Radiance, and Purina Beneful Playful Life. Within these lawsuits from states including California, Massachusetts, Missouri and more, the common allegations was that Beneful was manufactured with harmful toxins like propylene glycol and mycotoxin that caused illness and/or death. In addition to the lawsuits, more than 3000 pet owners had complained through the safety reports of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and about their dogs getting sick after switching solely to Beneful. The most recent death reported was today, April 5, 2018. The dogs that were sick shared symptoms of kidney failure, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach related internal bleeding, weight loss and liver malfunction. Even though this chemical was listed as a safe substance by the FDA, there are research that have shown positive and negative effects of these chemicals. Because the effect of sickness happened after the pets solely consumed Purina, for 3000 times, as a same pattern of sickness, it is highly likely that Purina does have dangerous substances in their dog food. Moreover, on April 21, 2016, the FDA published a report after finding overdosage of cyanuric acid and melamine in six samples of Beneful Series Dry Kibble. However, the only response from Nestlé Purina PetCare Company was an arrogant short statement, saying "Vets know pets get sick for many reasons and the food they eat is often not the root cause".

Individualism: This ethical framework argues that “business actions should maximize profits or the owners of a business, but do so within the law”. Nestlé Purina was unethical because it violated two rules and regulations while attempting to maximize profits. According to the FDA report, six samples of the Beneful Series Dry Kibble had cyanuric acid and melamine ‘above the allowable level’. According to the president of, these were “the two deadliest adulterants in the history of pet food”. Also, the report also stated that the samples collected “contained ethoxyquin; 
[and it] was not indicated on the product labeling”. This violates another tule because the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) required that the full ingredient list to be labeled on food packages but Nestlé Purina did not follow this rule.

A dog consuming dry kibble of the Beneful series.
Stakeholders and Utilitarianism: The stakeholders involved in this case include the dogs from more than 3000 households that have suffered from illness after consuming Beneful. Utilitarianism states that the main purpose of a company is to “maximize happiness in the long run”. However, in this case, happiness is clearly taken away because the dogs that were originally healthy went through pain after eating Beneful. Another stakeholder of this case is the pet owners of these dogs. They had their happiness taken away when their pets, which they treasure as part of the family, suffered illness and/or passed away. These pet owners had to give up their happiness emotionally in order to grief for their pets and financially in order to provide the best medical treatment for their pets. The third stakeholder in this case was the community of pet owners who were still feeding their pets Beneful. Their happiness was taken away because they would become concern of their pet’s health when the news broke out. The fourth stakeholder will be Nestlé Purina's employees and shareholders because the sales of the company was affected, and this put the company's asset and liability at risk, which in turn affects the management of the company. In this situation, Nestlé Purina's happiness was violated because of the loss of company stability. 

A picture on their website stating their slogan: "Your Pet, Our Passion".
Kantianism: Kantianism states that people should be honest and not interfere a rationale of another rational being. Kantianism also states that people should treat another rational being as a means to their end. The company claimed on its website that it maintained “a strict code of standards for buying, storing and processing ingredients used in [their] pet foods”. Kantianism advocates for “autonomy of individuals, honesty and freedom” would say this case was ethically impermissible. Nestlé Purina declared that their dry kibble had safe ingredients when in fact it contained substances that caused tragedy on the dogs’ lives. Moreover, Nestlé Purina also exploited their customers by continuing to deny the responsibility of mistakes in products. This helped protect their reputation so that they could continue earning profit from their customers. However, Kantianism would say this is not ethical because, based on the formula of humanity, Nestlé Purina used their customers as means to their ends. 

An example of the Beneful series dry kibble:
Purina Beneful Healthy Weight
Virtue Theory: Justice, prudence, intelligence and honesty are a few of the many virtues that help business people to flourish within the society. In the perspective of Virtue Theory, Nestlé Purina was not ethically permissible. This is because they did not act in according to prudence when they responded with a commercial where employees who made Beneful Series Dry Kibble were feeding it to their dogs, demonstrating confidence in their products. Even though four months later, the Beneful series might have been safe to consume again, this did not directly address the stakeholders' loss. Rather, the company decided to continue to promote their product to gain profit. This caused a feeling of injustice within concerned customers and showed how the company did not act intelligently when a controversy arose. They also were not intelligent in fulfilling the purpose that they company set for themselves. With the slogan of "Your Pet, Our Passion”, Nestlé Purina did not do what it promised the public with its products. In addition, the dry kibble did not fulfill its purposes of nourishing the health of the pets, as stated on the label on the packet. Also, lying to their customers about the ingredients violates the honesty virtue. Therefore, Nestlé Purina failed to be ethical in the perspective of Virtue Theory.

Carey, Gillam. “California dog owner alleges Purina Beneful pet food can kill.” Reuters, 25 Feb. 2015, Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.

“Company Overview of Nestle Purina PetCare Company.” Bloomberg, 3 Mar. 2018.

“Dog Owners Alarmed at Beneful Lawsuit as Purina Denies Claims.” NBC News. 8 Mar. 2015. Accessed 3 Mar. 2018.

Laine, Samantha. Purina lawsuit: Does one of its products cause pets to become ill? The Christian Science Monitor, 24 Feb. 2015, Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.

“Lawsuit Claims Purina’s Beneful is Poisoning, Killing Dogs.” NBC News. 24 Feb. 2015, Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.

“Lawsuit Claims Purina Beneful Pet Food Sickens Kills Dogs.” CBS News, 25 Feb. 2015, Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.

Lupkin, Sydney. “Lawsuit Claims Beneful Dog Food Kills Pets”, ABC News, 24 Feb.2015.

Salazar, Heather. “The Business Ethics Case Manual.” n.d.  Silva, Daniella. “Purina Backs Beneful Dog Food as Lawsuit Expands Allegations.” NBC News, 14 Jun. 2015, Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.

Thixton, Susan. “FDA Releases Concerning Information About Beneful.” Truth About Pet Food Accessed 4 Mar. 2018.

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