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Blue Buffalo told to alter pet food ads

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An appellate body recommended Aug. 21 that pet food maker Blue Buffalo revise ads that accuse competitors of "fooling" or otherwise misleading the public about their ingredients.

The panel, part of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), upheld an earlier finding by the National Advertising Division (NAD), an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. The division said in March that it found no basis to Blue Buffalo’s claim in TV commercials and other ads that “big name” pet food companies hide the fact that they use “lesser quality” ingredients such as chicken by-products and corn gluten.

The NARB panel concluded that the ads in question convey the "unsupported message" that most or all major pet food companies conceal the truth about their ingredients. The panel "recommended that Blue Buffalo modify the challenged advertising to eliminate this message."

Blue Buffalo, which makes Blue-brand cat and dog food, said it disagrees with the appellate panel’s decision but will comply because it “voluntarily committed to participate in the self-regulatory process of the NAD and the NARB.”

The original recommendation, by the NAD, came in response to a complaint from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, which makes Science Diet pet food. Blue Buffalo appealed the NAD’s decision to the NARB.

Blue Buffalo’s still faces an ad-related battle with another competitor. Purina filed a lawsuit in federal court in May accusing Blue Buffalo of using poultry by-product meal in several “Life Protection” products despite claims to the contrary in advertising, packaging and promotions. Blue Buffalo, which insisted its uses no such ingredients, countered with a defamation lawsuit against Purina.