Mars Petcare Settles FTC Charges Related to False Advertising

The company made unproven claims that its product would extend the expected lifespan of dogs by 30 percent

Mars Petcare Settles FTC Charges Related to False Advertising
Image: Pixabay
August 4, 2016

Mars Petcare U.S. has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it utilized false advertisements in peddling one of its products.

The agency's complaint applies to Mars Petcare's ad for its Eukanuba brand dog food. The ad claimed that a 10-year study found that dogs fed Eukanuba could extend their expected lifespan by 30 percent or more. However, the company did not have any evidence to defend their assertion.

"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, in a written statement. Rich is the 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."

The company ran the ads on television, in print, and on the internet in 2015.

"10 years ago, we launched a long life study," one advertisement stated. "What we observed was astonishing. With Eukanuba and proper care, dogs in the study were able to live beyond their typical lifespan." The ad then showed a dog named "Iowa" who was 17 years old, while "the typical Labrador lifespan: [is] 12 years." The implication was that Iowa had lived 30 percent longer than expected for her breed because she was fed Eukanuba.

The FTC alleges that the longevity claims are false or unsubstantiated and that the claim that longevity was proven through scientific evidence is false.

The proposed order settling the FTC's charges prohibits Mars Petcare from engaging in similar deceptive acts or practices in the future. First, it prohibits the company from making any misleading or unsubstantiated claims that its Eukanuba-brand pet food or any other pet food will enable any dogs to extend their lifespan. It also prohibits the company from making misleading or unsubstantiated claims regarding the health benefits of any pet food, and requires the company to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up any claim used in an advertisement.

The agreement also prohibits Mars Petcare from misrepresenting the existence, results, conclusions, or interpretations of any study. It contains compliance and monitoring requirements to ensure the company abides by its terms.