A proposed class action alleges certain 9 Lives, Kibbles ‘n Bits and Meow Mix pet food is misleadingly labeled since the purportedly healthy products contain titanium dioxide and their packaging contains synthetic “forever chemicals.”
The 27-page complaint alleges the maker of the popular dog and cat foods, The J.M. Smucker Company, has known of the health problems posed by titanium dioxide since at least February 2014, when heavyweights in the food industry announced publicly that they would no longer use the additive. Similarly, the suit claims, the J.M. Smucker Company has “long known” of the health problems linked to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are called “forever chemicals” due to their propensity to accumulate in the environment and human body.
Want to stay in the loop on class actions that matter to you? Sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.
The filing charges that although the defendant employs food scientists, nutrition specialists and packaging engineers, the company nevertheless consistently misrepresents the following products as healthy, “abusing the [p]ublic’s trust and failing to inform consumers of the implications of consuming the toxins”:
Kibbles ‘n Bits: Original, Bacon and Steak, Bistro, Mini Bits, Complete and Balanced, and Homestyle; and
Meow Mix: Original Choice, Tender Centers, Irresistible, Indoor Health, Seafood Medley, Bistro Recipes, and Ocean Explosion.
Rather than clearly disclose that the dog and cat foods contain titanium dioxide, The J.M. Smucker Company instead “relies on the ingredient list, which is provided in tightly woven, miniscule block print” on the back of product labels, the suit says. Per the case, “nowhere” on product labels or otherwise are consumers informed that the pet foods also contain PFAS, which have been linked to various cancers, liver damage and immunotoxic effects, among other health problems.
According to the lawsuit, titanium dioxide is an inorganic compound that is “easily powdered” and pure white in color. The compound is relied upon heavily as a pigment in paint, sunscreen and food coloring, among other applications, the case says.
The food industry used titanium dioxide for more than 30 years, but research during the last decade has called into question its “fitness for consumption,” and many manufacturers have thus stopped using the additive, the filing relays.
“The reason for eliminating titanium dioxide is simple: research has shown that TiO2 can pass through biological membranes, circulate through the body, and enter cells. These properties mean it can have seriously detrimental health effects including DNA and chromosomal damage, organ damage, inflammation, brain damage, genital malformations, lesions in the liver and kidneys, and cell neurosis. Titanium dioxide also builds up in the body’s intestinal tract. Ordinarily, the intestinal track [sic] is where nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. However, titanium dioxide cannot be absorbed. When this occurs, the body’s M-Cells absorb these particles and bring them to the innate immune system. Over time, the titanium dioxide particles are incorporated by the innate immune system cells where they will remain without being degraded or dissolved.”
The case stresses that the health concerns linked to titanium dioxide are not limited to human foods. In 2018, Petco, the second-largest pet supplies chain in North America, announced that it would pull from shelves all dog and cat food and treats that contained harmful artificial ingredients, including titanium dioxide. In explaining its decision, Petco cited recommendations from veterinarians, the majority of whom agreed that pet owners should seek out foods free from artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, the suit relays.
From there, the lawsuit says that research by the Environmental Working Group found that two of the defendant’s products, Meow Mix Tender Centers and Kibbles ‘n Bits Bacon & Steak, contained heightened levels of organic fluorine, an indicator of the presence of PFAS. The complaint highlights in a footnote that the J.M. Smucker Company relies on many of the same suppliers for its product packaging and has not substantially or meaningfully altered its products for several years, meaning it is “highly likely” that all of the 9 Lives, Kibbles ‘n Bits and Meow Mix pet foods at issue contain PFAS.
According to the suit, the defendant’s products tested by the Environmental Working Group contained the highest levels of total fluorine, indicating the presence of PFAS, out of nearly every other product tested.
The case contends that consumers were injured by paying full price for pet foods that are “worthless.”
The lawsuit looks to cover all consumers in the United States who, within the applicable statute of limitations period, bought any of the 9 Lives, Kibbles ‘n Bits or Meow Mix products listed on this page.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s free weekly newsletter here.
Camp Lejeune residents now have the opportunity to claim compensation for harm suffered from contaminated water.