Purina was forced to refute what it described as “online rumors” that caused a frenzy on TikTok in recent weeks, alleging its Pro Plan food sickened dozens of pets, mostly dogs .
A few days after the company issued a statement in which it said “these false claims could create unnecessary stress for pet parents,” a Purina official said Thursday that there was “absolutely no data showing us that there is any series of problems” with a Purina product.
“Over the past few days, we have seen an increase in the number of consumers who are scared and asking if we have a product recall or problem after seeing this rumor,” spokeswoman Lorie Westhoff said in a statement. E-mail. “In response, we inform them that these rumors are not true and that our food is safe. »
Purina, based in St. Louis and a subsidiary of Nestlé, was responding to unsubstantiated accounts shared in TikTok videos that have racked up thousands of views, and in a public Facebook group with 62,000 members called Saving pets, one animal at a time. The dogs had seizures, vomiting and suffered from diarrhea, according to these accounts, and some died after eating Purina Pro Plan food.
Concerned pet owners encouraged a boycott of Purina. Last week, the Facebook group had received nearly 197 anecdotal reports that animals — 151 dogs and 46 cats — had fallen ill and 51 of them had died.
Purina said there was no evidence to support these reports.
“We know this is a rumor because we have absolutely no data to show us that there is a pattern of problems with any specific product,” Ms. Westhoff said. “As a company that feeds more than 100 million cats and dogs each year, we never take chances with pet health.”
In its statement last week, Purina said the sources of some messages were “well-meaning pet parents who are genuinely concerned and trying to be helpful,” while others “may be trying to create chaos and distrust of certain brands as an opportunity.” to sell their own products.
In 2022, consumers will spend more than $136.8 billion on pets in the United States, where more than 65 million households own dogs and approximately 46.5 million households own cats. according to a Forbes Advisor survey published last week.
These numbers suggest the potential influence that online communities can have on the pet food industry.
Rachel Fusaro, who has 275,000 followers on TikTok, cited reports in recent videos that have racked up millions of views in recent weeks, claiming that hundreds of dogs got sick after eating Purina. Ms. Fusaro, whose website says she has a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciencerefers to some of the descriptions on Saving Pets One Pet @ A Time.
“I am not confirming whether or not there is anything wrong with Purina,” she said. said in a video on TikTok. But she added that she would “personally stop” using Purina products despite the lack of an official recall. Ms Fusaro could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
In response to emailed questions Thursday, Purina said Ms. Fusaro provided no evidence of a link between any illness and any Purina product.
Ms. Westhoff, the Purina spokeswoman, said the company was “considering other ways to resolve this issue directly with those who started the rumor.”
“They have acknowledged in many ways that they have no evidence that there is a problem with Purina products, but they continue to deliberately spread this misinformation,” she said.
The Food and Drug Administration does not have a recent listing of a recall affecting Purina products. Purina’s last voluntary recall was in March 2023, after a “food supplier error” resulted in potentially high vitamin D levels in Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EL Elemental Prescription Dry Dog Food.
Ms. Westhoff said there was “no correlation” between the latest rumors “and the food we voluntarily recalled last year.”
In that case, she said, investigators who followed up on two consumer complaints found the cause was “an error that occurred at a third-party blender.”
“We quickly made the decision to voluntarily recall the product and notified the FDA,” she said.
The FDA said in a statement Thursday that it cannot comment on recent reports of pet illnesses circulating online but that “generally speaking” it is evaluating them to determine whether action is necessary. . He encouraged pet owners and veterinarians to report illnesses or other adverse events associated with pet foods. directly to the agency.