The Scoop: Purina barks back after social media group blames its pet food for sick pets

Plus: Another Panera Charged Lemonade lawsuit; AI is being blamed for lawsuits.

Social media users are pointing the finger at Purina for sickening their pets -- but Purina denies it

Pet food maker Purina is struggling after a surge of online allegations that their Purina Pro Plan products are causing pets to fall ill and even die after suffering symptoms including “lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, seizures, rapid weight loss and rectal bleeding,” NBC News reported 

The rumors began spreading in Facebook Group Saving Pets One Pet @ A Time. A group administrator says she has received reports of Purina Pro Plan sickening 969 cats and dogs, with 234 reported deaths. As often happens in the social media sphere, the rumors spread beyond their initial home on Facebook and onto TikTok, where the algorithm stoked them into a wildfire. 



But Purina says it can’t find evidence of a problem. 

In a statement posted to their website this week, the Purina team wrote: 

In light of the rumor, our Quality Assurance team has reviewed all incoming consumer contacts, manufacturing, and quality assurance data (this includes ingredient testing, analytical data throughout the production process, and quality assurance post-production testing) for the past year, and we have found no data or trend that would indicate an issue. We continue to stay on top of this situation, and rest assured that if the possibility of a real issue arises, we will act immediately and make sure our consumers have the information they need.     

Purina also says that the Facebook Group administrator has refused to share data, including food samples and vet records, that it says would help them investigate properly. 

“Without more information, we simply cannot investigate despite being more than willing to do so,” a Purina spokesperson said. 

Why it matters: What a nightmare scenario, especially for the people who have lost beloved pets. Whatever the cause of the deaths, no one can find it without cooperation. If Purina is to blame, the company can’t find the source of the problem without more information and cooperation from pet owners. If Purina isn’t to blame, the fixation on them is keeping everyone from finding the real culprit while pets sicken and die.  

Purina’s statement was clear, expressing empathy for pet owners and their fears while not mincing words: It wasn’t them. The brand explained precisely how its teams had gone about investigating the incident, including looking for patterns in the data, and made it clear they were ready to act if they did find an issue. 

This issue won’t go away for Purina soon, it seems. Its path forward requires continued transparency and consistent messaging about its actions, as well as keeping up social listening to understand if a true problem arises and how the accusations have been connected to the brand. 

Editor’s Top Picks: 

  • A human is also complaining about the safety of food, this time at Panera. A third lawsuit has been filed against the cafe chain over their Charged Lemonades, which, in a previous formulary, contained huge amounts of caffeine and were available self-serve in massive cups. A 27-year-old woman with no previous heart conditions said she drank 2½ cups of the Charged lemonade and was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat. She continues to suffer the aftereffects to this day, the Washington Post reported. Panera is already grappling with two lawsuits over deaths allegedly connected to the drink. While it’s since changed the labeling on the product and moved it behind the counter, this incident continues to taint the reputation of a brand once considered healthy and wholesome.  
  • Tech firms have a new enemy to blame layoffs on — though it’s a familiar one for those of us in communications and writing disciplines: AI. Google, Salesforce and Duolingo have all laid off employees and attributed the cause to changing the workforce to focus on AI, Axios reported. Tigran Sloyan, co-founder and CEO of CodeSignal, told Axios that while some companies may be pivoting toward AI and realigning workforces accordingly, it could also be “a nice way to manage the PR element” of the layoffs. How well that will play remains to be seen.  
  • The U.S. has a brief reprieve from threats of a government shutdown. With no time to spare, Congress passed a resolution that will fund the federal government for a few more weeks, ABC News reported. The compromise had been in doubt as a group of hard-right group of legislators attempted to add amendments to deal with an influx of migrants at the southern border. Still, the confidence that the government will continue to operate is short-lived, with funds secured only through March 8. At least for now, an economic catastrophe is averted.  


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