'Biologically appropriate' dogfood label mere puffery, says court

2 minute read

Chloe, a nine-year-old Yorkshire Terrier REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
  • Plaintiffs say Champion's Acana, Orijen brands make false promises
  • Court finds challenged phrases just aspirational
  • And plaintiffs' claims of 'potential' sedative contamination too speculative

(Reuters) - The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday treated Champion Petfoods to another win against plaintiffs who say it is falsely claiming that its premium Acana and Orijen dogfood brands are “Biologically Appropriate,” made with “Fresh Regional Ingredients,” and contain “Ingredients We Love from People We Trust.”

The three-judge panel affirmed that the claims are “mere puffery” or statements of opinion or aspirations by Champion, which would not mislead a reasonable consumer under Colorado law.

The suit, filed as a potential class action in Denver federal court in 2018, said the labels are false and misleading because the products may contain lead and “reground” filler, or use ingredients that are preserved or not locally sourced.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

The plaintiffs also alleged that there was a “potential” the products contained pentobarbital, a sedative sometimes used to euthanize cattle, since Champion had received a contaminated lot of beef tallow from a supplier in May 2018. That claim was too speculative to support a lawsuit, the 10th Circuit held.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys at Gustafson Gluek, Lockridge Grindal Nauen, and Wexler Boley & Elgersma did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Champion spokeswoman Molly Keveney said the company is “pleased” the court “confirmed, similar to rulings by other courts, that Champion’s Orijen and Acana packaging is not misleading and that it is has engaged in responsible marketing practices.” The company is represented by attorneys at Greenberg Traurig.

The lawsuit is one of at least 11 filed across the country since 2018. In six of them, district courts have ruled for Champion or the plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed their actions after less-than-final adverse rulings.

The 7th Circuit affirmed a win for Champion last June, while the 8th Circuit heard another group’s appeal in October.

The case decided Tuesday is Renfro et al. v. Champion Petfoods USA et al., 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-1274.

For the plaintiffs: Kenneth Wexler of Wexler Boley & Elgersma; Rebecca Peterson of Lockridge Grindal Nauen; Daniel Gustafson of Gustafson Gluek

For Champion Petfoods: David Coulson and Dominic Draye of Greenberg Traurig

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.