P&G Rolls Out Ads to Quell Consumers' Pet-Food Fears

Launches Blitz in 59 Newspapers, Says Iams and Eukanuba Brands Are Safe

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Procter & Gamble Co. today became the first marketer to launch ads in response to the nationwide pet-food recall stemming from the contamination believed to have killed or sickened thousands of pets.
P&G's full-page ad responding to the pet-food recall doesn't offer an apology, but does describe employees as 'heartsick that any of our Iams and Eukanuba products were involved.'

Click here to read P&G's ad.

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P&G took out full-page ads in 59 daily newspapers today with a letter from employees of its Iams and Eukanuba brands to reassure pet owners that food remaining on the market is safe and that, in particular, none of the brands' dry food ever contained wheat gluten or were affected by the recall.

A 'first step'
The ad campaign, described as a "first step" by a P&G spokesman, comes as the nationwide recall has been extended in recent days to three more manufacturers beyond the original recall of 95 brands produced by Canada's Menu Foods. Menu Foods recalled the brands of wet pet food March 16 after consumer complaints began coming in Feb. 20 and pets in its own internal "taste tests" started dying March 2, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Three more manufacturers issued additional recalls on March 30 and March 31 after the FDA traced to their manufacturing plants wheat gluten from the same Chinese source that supplied Menu Foods.

Colgate-Palmolive Co. recalled some of its Hill's Prescription Diet dry cat food, and Nestle Purina recalled some of its Alpo wet dog food with the affected wheat gluten. Both of those marketers also had some products affected by the original Menu Foods recall.

Del Monte's recalled products
Del Monte Foods on March 31 recalled Jerky Treats and Gravy Train treats for dogs and some Pounce treats for cats. In addition, it pulled some wet dog food and treats it made for private-label brands sold by Wal-Mart Stores and Dollar General.

The FDA still isn't sure exactly how or why the recalled products killed pets, and has still only confirmed 14 deaths, though it has received more than 8,000 complaints of animals sickened by pet food from consumers.

But the FDA and veterinarians at Cornell University have found melamine, a substance used in various consumer products as well as fertilizers in Asia, in the affected food, in wheat gluten that went into it and in the kidneys and urine of animals who died.

P&G workers 'heartsick'
P&G's ad doesn't offer an apology, but does describe employees as "heartsick that any of our Iams and Eukanuba products were involved." P&G said it had offered more customer-service people and a veterinarian support line to handle the crisis, as well as suspending all production at the affected Menu Foods plant in Emporia, Kan.

A spokesman said production continues at another plant that produces Iams canned food in Sioux City, S.D., which was purchased by Menu Foods in 2003 in a deal under which P&G agreed to buy canned food from the company for 10 years. P&G is Menu Foods' biggest customer.

Iams and Eukanuba also convened "a task force of prominent North American veterinary healthcare experts" to review the recall, and P&G's ad said the panel agreed that "veterinarians and pet owners should feel safe recommending and feeding Iams and Eukanuba dry foods."

The P&G spokesman declined to say exactly when the company first heard complaints from consumers about the food, saying: "We've agreed to let the FDA handle all of that because it's part of the investigation. ... But we acted very quickly."

Panel members connected to Iams
Of the seven veterinarians on the panel, three have appeared as endorsers in ads for Iams, another is affiliated with Veterinary Pet Insurance (a company with which Iams has a promotional partnership), another was a speaker at an Iams-sponsored symposium in February, another is a former Iams employee, and the last is a past recipient of a five-year research grant from Iams.

"You'd have to ask them" about their independence, the spokesman said. "But during the heat of this crisis, we brought them in and let them tour our plant, and gave them access to all the information we could provide. ... We're making openness a big thing with them, because they ... are in demand out there among the media to help explain the situation, as most radio listeners and TV viewers are confused."
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