Dog Food Company Accused Of Falsely Advertising It Could Extend Dog’s Life By 30%

As the proud pop of a pup, of course I want him to live as long and happy a life as possible. At the same time, I’d hope that any product claiming to be able to extend my dog’s years has the evidence to back up this boast.

This morning, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it had reached a settlement with Mars Petcare over accusations of false advertising for the company’s Eukanuba brand of dog food.

In May 2015, Eukanaba began a marketing and ad campaign, showing off several labrador retrievers that appeared to be living happy lives well past the typical 12-year lifespan for the breed, like Georgia, who was 17 at the time the campaign ran:
georgialab

It would be one thing if the ad just showed a bunch of adorable, happy old dogs. Where Eukanuba crossed the line, says the FTC, was in implying that other dogs would also live longer if they ate this particular food.

The ads reference a 10-year “long life study” with “astonishing” results.

However, that study didn’t actually prove anything, according to the FTC’s complaint [PDF].

“Among other things, the evidence relied on by [Mars] for its representations concerning the Eukanuba brand dog food consisted primarily of results from a single study, the results of which showed no significant difference in the median age at death of the dogs in the study relative to the typical age at death of dogs of the same breed,” reads the complaint. “Therefore, the representations… were, and are, false or misleading.”

The proposed settlement [PDF] between Mars and the FTC does not penalize the pet food company financially, but does bar Mars from making any misleading or unsubstantiated life-extending claims about Eukanuba or any other pet food.

If Mars intends to make this sort of claim, it must have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate its marketing.

“Two-thirds of all Americans have pets at home, and they spend billions of dollars to ensure that their pets are healthy and well-fed,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Pet owners count on ads to be truthful and not to misrepresent health-related benefits. In this case, Mars Petcare simply did not have the evidence to back up the life-extending claims it made about its Eukanuba dog food.”

As part of the settlement, Mars neither admits nor denies any wrongdoing.