Nestlé Purina settles jerky lawsuit for $6.5 million
Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. and its Waggin’ Train brand have agreed to a $6.5 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by pet owners in Illinois in 2012. The company makes jerky pet treats—some manufactured in China—that have been implicated in a nearly decade-long U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into jerky-related illness.
Nestlé Purina is not admitting that the treats made pets sick, however. Bill Salzman, director of corporate communications for the company, says, “There is no indication the treats negatively impacted the health of dogs; this resolution allows everyone involved to move forward.” If the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois approves the agreement, it will resolve the disputed claims related to Waggin’ Train jerky products and establish procedures for monetary relief and compensation.
If the deal is approved, settlement class members will be able to claim 100 percent of reasonable economic damages incurred after their pets consumed the implicated jerky treats. Those with a documented injury, a deceased pet, food purchase claims or health screening claims will be compensated upon verification. Without documentation, claims are capped at $300.
Earlier this year, Nestlé Purina “relaunched” its Waggin’ Train products, touting changes to its jerky treat supply and production process. The company stated that it would:
> transfer its Chicken Jerky Tenders to a single-source supplier and manufacturer in China.
> place its own quality inspectors at the plant to oversee the production process.
> increase in the testing of products for the presence of Salmonella, melamine and antibiotics.
> change its packaging to include where the meat was sourced and add serving size recommendations.
“We’ve made significant enhancements from start to finish to ensure the quality and safety of all of our Waggin’ Train treats,” Salzman said in February about the changes.
As it turns out, these changes closely parallel the requirements stipulated in this recently announced settlement agreement. Specifically, the settlement mandates that Nestlé Purina:
> require its supplier to comply with industry-leading quality assurance and quality control practices. These include controls and tracking on the feeding, raising and processing of the chicken and on all ingredients that go into the manufacturing of the products, as well as routine auditing and inspection of supplier operations.
> use FDA-approved protocols to test for the presence of protein, moisture, Salmonella, melamine, antibiotics, di-ethylene glycol and Enterobacteriaceae in each batch of dog treats prior to its release for sale.
> change its packaging to further increase the font size of “Product of China” on its label.
> post a detailed FAQ page related to the products on the company’s website (see waggintrainbrand.com/help).
So was the earlier Waggin’ Train relaunch simply an attempt to preempt the terms of the settlement in a more advantageous way? Nestlé Purina’s not saying. Whether voluntary or court-ordered, though, the changes have resulted in the highest-quality food safety program in the country, according to Nestlé Purina.
“We’ve heard from thousands of consumers who want Waggin’ Train chicken jerky dog treats for their dogs,” Salzman told dvm360 in February. “We’ve worked very hard over the past year to strengthen our already strict quality control measures to ensure Waggin’ Train treats meet Purina’s high standards.”