Mars PetCare settles with FTC over advertising claims

August 12, 2016

Statements indicating that pet food can extend dogs' lives are false, unproved, agency rules.

Mars PetCare U.S. has settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges that the company falsely advertised the health benefits of its Eukanuba dog food. Specifically, the company claimed but couldn't prove that a 10-year study found that dogs fed Eukanuba could extend their lifespan by 30 percent or more, according to an agency release.

According to the FTC's complaint, the company ran ads for the brand on TV, in print and on the internet making such claims. One of the ads began with the statement, "Ten years ago, we launched a long life study. What we observed was astonishing. With Eukanuba and proper care, dogs in the study were able to live beyond their typical lifespan." It continued by showing a dog named Iowa that was 17 years old, while the "the typical Labrador lifespan [is] 12 years," the ad stated, implying that the dog had lived longer than expected for her breed because of the Eukanuba food she was fed. (Click here to see this advertisement.)

The FTC asserts that the claims made about longevity are false or unsubstantiated. “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,” says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the release. “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.”

According to the proposed order of settlement, the FTC prohibits Mars PetCare from "engaging in similar deceptive acts or practices in the future" and requires the company to have scientific evidence to back up any claims regarding longevity or the health benefits of pet food regarding its Eukanuba brand or any of its other brands.

The order also prohibits the company from misrepresenting the "existence, results, conclusions or interpretations of any study, or falsely stating that the health benefits claimed are scientifically proven," and also contains compliance and monitoring requirements.

From here, the agreement will be open to public comment until Sept. 6, after which the agency will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Comments may be submitted electronically here.