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Hill's Pet Nutrition in $2 Billion Lawsuit

The David and Goliath Lawsuit: Pet Advocate vs Hills Pet Nutrition

Canine DCM Scandal: $2.6 Billion Lawsuit Says It Was Fraud All Along, claims KetoNatural founder.

In this episode of The Pet Nutrition Show, covering pet nutrition and sustainable pet food, Daniel Schulof, founder of KetoNatural Pet Foods, shares why he launched a $2.6billion USD class action against pet food giant, Hill's Pet Nutrition. Hill's, part of Colgate Palmolive, had revenues $4.29 billion USD in 2023. Daniel's company is somewhat smaller.

The lawsuit centres on the issue of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and the FDA investigation in the US into potential links to certain pet food diets. Daniel explains how the FDA's investigation into DCM and grain-free diets led to widespread controversy, significantly impacting his and other companies. He argues that misleading information and cherry picking of data triggered the FDA's investigation, and that this was part of a wider scheme.

After successfully suing the FDA to get access to their DCM documents under Freedom of Information, Daniel sifted through about 20,000 pages of documents.

"What they show is that the investigation was induced by fraud, that in essence, a couple of specific individuals misled the FDA," he told The Pet Nutrition Show.

In any one year, there might be four to six cases report to the FDA, of DCM, tied to pet foods. But in 2018, they received 28.

"The story is where the 28 cases came from and how they were gathered. And that's what's problematic, and that's what's misconduct here. The FDA made it sound, in its initial release, as if the 28 cases of DCM came from a disconnected group of pet owners from, like, around the country, right? Which would of course, justify an investigation, but that's not what happened here. 

What happened here is that 21 of the 28 cases, or 75 percent of them, came from just two people, and they're now defendants in the lawsuit. They're two veterinarians that work at major U. S. universities and that have long established financial track history or track record ties to Hill's Pet Nutrition." Daniel told the show.

Daniel also claimed that the fraud involved is that the 21 cases that those two ladies submitted were cherrypicked.

"There's specific objective email evidence where they both admit that the cases they submitted were cherrypicked to include grain free diets," he told the show.

Daniel described a protocol the vets claimed they were using when treating dogs that came into their clinic for DCM. When the dog came in, one of the very first things they did was put it into one of two buckets. If the dog was eating a diet being made by what they called a reputable manufacturer, for example, Hill's Pet Nutrition, it went into one bucket and they began this DCM treatment protocol. If it wasn't, if the dog was eating a grain free diet, they were going to report that to the FDA.

"They weren't reporting the cases of the dogs that were eating Hill's diets, but they were reporting the cases of the grain free diets. Obviously, that gave a false impression about what those people were actually encountering in their practice," Daniel said.

However, Daniel also alleged that the DCM controversy is emblematic of and a part of a broader scheme that Hill's Pet Nutrition and other companies like Hill's Pet Nutrition have been engaged in for more than a decade.

"The influence that Hill's currently has on the information ecosystem that veterinarians exist in the United States is like airtight, comprehensive… if you're a veterinarian to step outside of that and see it with a sense of perspective, you have to go really far outside. It begins at veterinary school and carries on through the life of their practice. 

And so that stuff, how that all works, is highlighted in depth in the complaint," he says. "For me to some degree, we can think of how much we win in this case by how much the veterinary community and the lay public ultimately come to understand that dynamic."

The Pet Nutrition Show is a weekly podcast hosted by small animal nutritionist Dr Anna Sutton and Planet A Pet Food CEO Amanda Falconer, that looks at nutrition, food hacks, sustainable pet food and more, with researchers and vets from around the world.

The episode will be published on Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, Friday 10th May 2024.

MEDIA RELEASE, 10th May 2024

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