Wysong pet food recall: Way to miss the point

October 22, 2009

In an epic example of missing the point, Wysong pet food company has updated its recall information to include the following Q&A (h/t to reader Sandi Shaw):

I am seeing many bad and scary comments on the Internet. Who am I to believe?

The Internet provides a means for anyone to say anything without regard to merit. We have provided the facts with regard to this incident. We are the only ones who know them.

Is that not totally awesome? I mean, how many companies really are willing to come right out and say something like that?

It seems Wysong took exception to some earlier internet reporting (including, apparently, ours) about its handling of the recall and what some saw as inadequate efforts to notify those who might have purchased the affected foods. And just who was the authority the company invoked to demonstrate it had handled the matter with the highest standard of responsiveness?

The FDA.

No, really:

We did all we could think of to do as fast as we could. This includes contacting the FDA. After days of review by them at our corporate and manufacturing sites, they advised that we could not have reasonably done more than we did. The matter was of small enough consequence that we have even been told by the FDA that a news release is not necessary.

Yes, the villains of the pet food recall themselves, whose efforts to track sick and dead pets were called out in Congress as a national disgrace, who completely failed to keep melamine and related compounds out of the human food chain, who still don’t inspect imported foods even after the seemingly unending series of contamination incidents involving human foods and drugs as well as pet food.

Let me be blunt here. The fact that processed foods can become contaminated is not exactly breaking news. And even companies with good practices and strong quality assurance systems can have problems. In fact, sometimes food we make ourselves at home spoils or becomes contaminated. That’s not the issue here.

The issue is transparency. The issue is rapid and effective corporate communication and good citizenship. The issue is protecting your customers. It’s an issue that’s bigger than the pet food industry — in fact, it’s bigger than industry itself, as it applies to corporations, government, and all kinds of communities.

Do you have a problem? Did something, big or small, go wrong? Be honest. Be fast. Be open. When things go wrong, stand up and make them right. That’s what sets the great institutions apart from the rest.

Whining that bloggers are mean? We call that FAIL.

Filed under: pets, connected,recalls,veterinary medicine — Christie Keith @ 4:27 pm

34 Comments »

  1. “The matter was of small enough consequence that we have even been told by the FDA that a news release is not necessary.”

    Tell that to the pet owners and pets that happen across the “small enough consequence”. I saw a recall on the news tonight for robes. Four women had them catch on fire quickly while cooking. Should they have waited until there was a higher number before recalling Wysong? Evening news a bit over the top since only four women have been affected? Four seems like a “small enough consequence” . . .

    As I recall, Wysong wasn’t that great of a role model during the PFR . . . Shame really since their canned foods used to be a part of my pet’s diet and I used to rec them to friends.

    Comment by straybaby — October 22, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  2. That is one whiner of a press release! Not exactly the type of communication with the public that inspires confidence. I didn’t buy this product before and I can’t imagine why, with an attitude like this, I should ever consider buying any of their products for my pets.

    Honestly, at this point, I want one of Janeen’s tinfoil hats to shield me from transmissions such as this one. If you as a pet food manufacturer haven’t learned the importance of trust between yourself and your customers in this post-2007 pet food recall world, I really don’t want to hear from you at all.

    Comment by Dorene — October 22, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  3. Especially, whining about bloggers who got the news out for them. Oh, but wait. I suppose that’s what they didn’t want to have happen, and never mind the, what’s the term? small enough consequences.

    The very idea that the recall of a product which could cause grave harm to our pets is not news is obscene. That it’s standard practice, is evidence of moral bankruptcy. And Wysong? Once you’re already neck-deep in the hole, it’s a good time to stop digging.

    Comment by Eucritta — October 22, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  4. I put my two geriatric cats on Wysong Geriatrix during the summer. I did the standard several week transition, and they both seemed to like the food, ate it happily.

    When I opened bag number three, the cats started to refuse the food, although they were certainly hungry. They also experienced some diarrhea. I moved them back to their previous food (no transition time) and their appetites returned and stools became normal.

    There could have been many reasons for my cats’ rejection of bag number three (although one of my boys would eat anything offered), but after hearing of the Wysong dog food recall, I contacted the company.

    The response I received assured me that I needn’t worry, they had no reason to believe other products had mold, etc. etc.

    But I can’t share their letter, because they included a “Confidentiality notice” about their copyrighted response.

    Boy, their attorneys are making the big bucks on this one.

    Comment by Patti S. — October 22, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

  5. You have to give them points for consistency!

    Wysong’s attitude hasn’t changed since 2007. They didn’t learn then and they haven’t learned now.

    Comment by mikken — October 22, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

  6. Well said. I’ve got to wonder if these corporations will ever understand that they can’t do business the way they apparently want to: Bunker mentality, burying reports,and doors closed to communication with customers.

    Instead of complaining that we don’t mention all they do to make a bad batch of food get recalled immediately, why not just get in front of the story? Some companies in the food industry were lazy, had poor quality tracking systems,and greedy types decided it was okay to doctor the food. No one was checking anyway. The industry as a whole has lost trust and credibility and that’s not going to change anytime soon, especially if the attitude Wysong has projected is widely held. What don’t they get about thousands of pets dying because of industry failures?

    What they should be doing is reporting everything…scary thought for them maybe. Self regulation doesn’t work…we’ve seen it in banking, insurance, and health care. That’s what has to change.

    Comment by Mary Haight — October 22, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

  7. Wysong. Are you checking in here? I will never buy your products. Ever.

    Comment by Susan Fox — October 22, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

  8. But I can’t share their letter, because they included a “Confidentiality notice” about their copyrighted response.

    Boy, their attorneys are making the big bucks on this one.

    Comment by Patti S. — October 22, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

    Those lawyers may be making big bucks, but they need to be sent back to whatever night law school they crawled out of.

    You cannot copyright a private letter, including one sent by email. If they sent correspondence directly to you (not published on a website, newsgroup, blog or email list), it is your property, and you can do what you like with it. You didn’t sign a contract with them promising to keep anything confidential, did you?

    Comment by H. Houlahan — October 22, 2009 @ 8:15 pm

  9. Being called mean is an insult?

    Comment by Mean Janeen — October 22, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

  10. H Houlahan, I don’t believe you are correct. As I understand copyright law, the author owns the copyright on his words, in whatever format, from creation. Whether or not the words are published or “private” is not material.

    Though in this case, it’s another indication of Wysong’s stupidity. Do they imagine they’d look really good suing someone for reprinting their letter defending themselves ???

    Comment by EmilyS — October 22, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

  11. My advice has always been to STAY AWAY from any dog food company that uses meaningless buzz words in its sale literature, such as “holistic” such as Wysong does.

    For the record, Dr. Randy Wysong the maker of this dog food, is a bit of a crackpot. Did you know he is a creationist and has published a book saying the earth is very young and that there is no such thing as evolution?

    Check it out at >> http://www.amazon.com/Creation-Evolution-Controversy-R-Wysong/dp/0918112028

    Patrick

    P.

    Comment by PBurns — October 23, 2009 @ 4:08 am

  12. Right after reading about the Wysong recall here on Pet Connection, I emailed 2 of our TV stations. To this moment, they still have not reported ‘anything’ (emphasized) about this. So the question is – just how IS the public to know.

    Comment by VJ — October 23, 2009 @ 5:04 am

  13. Wonderful post Christie—exactly to the point! Now to go link this article everywhere I can so Wysong can read more of us whiny pet owners who only want the best for our pets… They do not get the fact that we have issue with the way they handle the problem…not the problem itself..But one thing is certain…we have to continue to whine and write and post…until the message gets through…and the bottom line is affected..

    Comment by Carol V — October 23, 2009 @ 5:08 am

  14. Yo Wysong!, listen up.
    Pet owners who do not trust your lying butt will not buy your products.
    We will tell our friends to leave your crappy mold infested products on the shelf. Then we will talk to people all over the internet about
    how crappy Wysong treats the pet owners, nobody cares if you like it.
    We will make fun of Wysong paid shills on twitter, laugh at whining Wysong press releases and all your advertising dollars will be wasted.

    Trying to cover this up has cost Wysong credibility that Wysong did not have to lose.
    Because the previous jackassery behavior of Wysong already had the company on thin ice and several boycott lists so continuing to treat pet owners with disrespect seems like a really stupid move. Beyond stupid.

    The people who buy pet food ARE the people you must please to stay in business.
    Duh.

    If your product gets shipped and fed to pets before you find any problems then your quality control SUCKS! It is useless and you should shut up about it until you actually have quality control checks that keep the crap
    from being fed to pets.
    Improve your process, take remedial customer service classes and fire the bozo who thought insulting concerned pet owners was a good idea.
    It was not a good idea.

    Comment by notasdumbaswysong — October 23, 2009 @ 5:38 am

  15. Got to agree with Patrick.
    As for copyright, isn’t proper citation of the source the basis used in scientific research? And that they mention a confidentiality clause wow that’s a lot of brass.

    Comment by Paul — October 23, 2009 @ 6:03 am

  16. Wysong totally dropped the ball on this. They don’t realize that the more public they made it,the safer people would have felt about using their products. Instead they just became another company to avoid. As Christie said anyone can have a problem,its how they react to it that makes a difference. Whining that people are getting warnings out when they didn’t isn’t confidence inspiring.

    Comment by Leslie K — October 23, 2009 @ 6:14 am

  17. I also have an issue with Wysong not only changing the info at their website more than once but there are no dates on the info they post..I would love to know when they first put up a notice on their site…was it after Therese contacted (hounded) them?? Was info in the public domain before Therese had that post on the Nutro recall info from a concerned dog owner whose dog had passed after eating Wysong and knew there was to be a recall upon calling them? Would we even know about this if that hadn’t happened?

    Comment by Carol V — October 23, 2009 @ 6:40 am

  18. I was thinking about this last night, remembering how during the worst of the pet-food recall we had to stay up late on Fridays to catch the recall notices. The companies dropped them at that time because that’s when they’re most likely to be missed.

    When lives are at stake, that’s simply NOT ACCEPTABLE from any company that wants us to trust them with the lives of our pets (or our children, or ourselves). Ethical FAIL.

    The Wysong folks seem to have been cut from the same cloth as the pet-food company spokesman who complained that we published information and commentary that “hadn’t been approved by the company mentioned or by the government.”

    First Amendment much, pal? (By the way, Emily, Houlie’s correct. If you send me an e-mail or letter, it’s not yours anymore. I didn’t agree to your legalese at the bottom, so it doesn’t matter. )

    Christie’s point is on the money. Things happen, even to the best companies. And often, those things are out of their control.

    What IS in their control is how to behave in the aftermath.

    As you sow (honest, ethical behavior) so shall you reap (customer loyalty and sales).

    Which will it be, Wysong?

    Do you care about pets and the people who buy food for them? Then quit attacking and work to get your message out to everyone who might have your food in their pantry.

    I can forgive a bad batch. I cannot forgive bad behavior in response to that bad batch.

    The big companies actually got this much better than many of the small ones did. It was P&G’s Iam’s division that blew the whistle on Menu Foods, after all, and triggered the recall. And they and the other big companies were most open with reporters, bloggers — and most importantly, pet-owners.

    I still remember Sergeants — yes, the long-time grocery-store line — calling us to let us know they were pulling a fish food. They called us right away, even as they were hustling to put it on the FRONT PAGE of their Web site. I remember their PR person telling us that the president of the company would be happy to talk to us, and asking me what other bloggers she should call.

    Sergeants cared about people’s fish.

    I have always heard it said that it’s how you behave when things are bad that truly shows who you are.

    Wysong, we know who you are now. And unless you change, you are not a company I’m comfortable with trusting with my pets’ lives.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 23, 2009 @ 7:09 am

  19. I find it interesting that Wysong says FDA told them they could not have reasonably done more than they did…really? And the matter is of such small consequence that no press release was necessary? Im guessing that a person who paid cash for the food & was not advised of this recall and had their dog fall ill, might not feel the same. If its true that FDA said these things, I’d like to know who at FDA is advising them. Wysong has a twitter account, what was so unreasonable about using that to get word out? Wysong has spent so much time writing these 5 different changes to their original statement. What was so unreasonable about just putting out a press release? These companies know full well what media sources to use to market their products, twitter, newspapers, and even press releases when they come out with some new “ingenious” food idea but for some reason they say it was unreasonable to have expected them to do more to get word out when something goes wrong with a product? I dont buy it. I had strongly considered buying this food at one point but Ive now seen how they respond to petowners and I can only assume if I had to contact them due to a potential food problem, I would receive the same negative treatment. Its not the actions and behavior of a company who cares about their customers nor the customer’s pets.

    Comment by Lance — October 23, 2009 @ 7:50 am

  20. Wysong. Not to be heard from in our house.

    Comment by Anita Bedenis — October 23, 2009 @ 7:53 am

  21. well, JD Salinger’s letters would have been printed in full if the owner of the letters also owned the copyright. That’s not how the courts ruled. You own your own words when you put them in writing, whomever you give them to and in whatever form. Letters are not different from book manuscripts or music. Copyright is however, limited by fair use, and the information itself (as opposed to its specific expression) is NOT subject to copyright. So Patti could say, for example, “in a letter Wysong asserts “xyz”. She can’t reprint substantial portions of it, though. http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html Wysong’s claim to confidentiality is a different matter.

    Comment by EmilyS — October 23, 2009 @ 8:11 am

  22. “The big companies actually got this much better than many of the small ones did.”

    One of the small ones got it very right – Canine Caviar’s people were up late at night blogging on Itchmo and others to us to let us know that we should stop feeding their canned turkey and beaver foods immediately. They didn’t have all the information, they didn’t know for sure if wheat/rice products had been added to their canned foods (their grain-free canned foods!) or not, but they didn’t want pet owners to take chances. It was a small run of food affected, but they were there, telling people as much as they knew at the time.

    THAT’S how you show people that you care – you get the information out as quickly as possible to as many people as you can.

    Take notes, Wysong.

    Comment by mikken — October 23, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  23. http://itchmoforums.com/law-and-politics-about-pets/wysong-goes-on-the-offensive-t238.0.html;msg1682#msg1682

    I found this from 2007 regarding Wysong’s statements that outraged many–including me—this was the only place I could find it…#17 just cracked me up…attacking pet forums back then too..(I figured some may not know what the reference to issues in ’07 were)

    http://itchmoforums.com/law-and-politics-about-pets/wysong-goes-on-the-offensive-t238.0.html;msg1682#msg1682

    Comment by Carol V — October 23, 2009 @ 9:10 am

  24. In my opinion, any company who immediately trots out their lawyers to handle something like this and starts talking “Confidentially Clauses”, etc. has something to hide. It seems to me that they know they did something wrong or made a mistake but do not want to take responsibility for it, because it might affect their “BOTTOM LINE” and gosh, we wouldn’t want them to not make their big profit for the year and have their CEO’s have to get a smaller bonus this year :) And so what if a few pets get sick and die or are left with long term health issues….it’s an acceptable risk when compared to the “BOTTOM LINE”. We’ll have our lawyers use the “CONFIDENTIALLY CLAUSES” and threats of suing all the individuals who dare to disparage the Company’s name, these are intimidation tactics designed to keep us quiet. It was so much easier for these companies to keep these kinds of things quieter before the internet became so popular and people started sharing more and more information, because most of the local news media don’t feel that issues like this are news worthy (at least in our area – in 2007 only 1 local news channel mentioned the recall 1 time but never gave any details or ever followed up with additional info, even after we contacted all four local tv stations)

    If we as consumers all stick together eventually big business will have to get a clue and will have to learn to behave more ethically or go out of business. They can’t intimidate all of us.

    Comment by Deb — October 23, 2009 @ 9:32 am

  25. well, JD Salinger’s letters would have been printed in full if the owner of the letters also owned the copyright. That’s not how the courts ruled. You own your own words when you put them in writing, whomever you give them to and in whatever form. Letters are not different from book manuscripts or music. Copyright is however, limited by fair use, and the information itself (as opposed to its specific expression) is NOT subject to copyright. So Patti could say, for example, “in a letter Wysong asserts “xyz”. She can’t reprint substantial portions of it, though. http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html Wysong’s claim to confidentiality is a different matter.

    Comment by EmilyS — October 23, 2009

    News coverage has a different set of issues and so, a different set of rules. Nonetheless, Patti was able to provide the message of the letter without printing it, so the end result is the same.

    A couple days ago I was in a meeting where I was presenting about crisis management in the Web 2.0 age. I was asked how you can control the message on social media.

    “You can’t,” I said, simply.

    If I’d had this discussion thread a week ago, I would have used it in the presentation. You way well believe that public-relations folks and companies learned a lot about crisis-management from the pet-food recall.

    It’s apparent that others didn’t learn at all.

    The only way you can “control” your message to any extent is to be out in front of it — and be honest about what happened, how it happened, and what you’ll be doing about it. The bad news cannot be kept under wraps.

    Shooting the messengers and trashing your customers is not the way to go, trust me.

    Best result: That the customers who trusted you continue to trust you because you put everything you had into getting the word out. Sure, they might go to another brand for a while, but they very well might come back.

    Worst result: Customers who will never trust you again, because you cared about controlling the message and the continued sales of food over the lives of their family members. And were jerks about it, besides. Not only are those customers never coming back, they’re going to go out of their way to tell others to avoid your food.

    The choice isn’t that hard, is it?

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 23, 2009 @ 11:12 am

  26. I get a newsletter from Wysong……funny, but I never did see the mention of any problems in the most recent newsletter. I bet I’m not the only one who gets that newsletter. Nifty way to let people know about a recall…….excuse me, voluntary withdrawal.

    To Wysong & all other PFC out there, listen up: if it weren’t for Itchmo, Pet Connection, Pet Food List & a few other forums & websites, I would never have been aware of all the recalls during the PFR of ’07. I had to call all my friends w/o computers because the recalls were not being announced on TV or anywhere else to my knowledge.

    I was up late every Friday, along with many of you, jumping from website to website to gather up info on the latest recall & then I’d pass the info on either by email or phone call.

    The PFC record of getting the word out during the PFR of ’07 was beyond poor…….the only thing they did well was to release the news late on a Friday night so the word wouldn’t get out for a few more days. It hasn’t improved much since then either.

    Comment by Hannie — October 23, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  27. Back in March 2007, when the bullpucky hit the fan, not only was I here many times a day and on Itchmo, but I was checking the websites of my pet food manufacturers. At the time I was ordering Wysong thru their website as it wasn’t available within a reasonable driving distance. I had chosen Wysong based on their ingredients list and word of mouth/Internet for my cats.
    I was linking constantly with updates to other sites as to what was happening or not, and getting more and more nervous about Wysong which still kept spewing Happy News on their website. I emailed them after a week to cancel my standing order. Got a reply that they would do so. A few weeks later, I got a shipment. Emailed, received no answer and phoned. After a long exchange via phone & email, I got my $$$ back and my standing order canceled and never once an apology or an attempt to address my concerns about the quality of their product.
    My experience taught me this company is inflated with hubris and arrogance.
    Spread the word.

    Comment by Anne T — October 23, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  28. pa: Ain’t touching PB’s statement that Dr. Wysong is a Creationist. I’ll let that speak for itself.

    Comment by Anne T — October 23, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  29. I wouldn’t want buy anything from a creationist, but considering where I live, it’s going to be hard to buy anything if I stuck by that rule.

    Comment by retrieverman — October 23, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  30. It’s simple. If nothing evolves and Jebus put the mold in the bag via spontaneous generation, then it can’t be Wysong’s fault, natch!

    And consumers should take it on faith that all is copacetic. Questioning is for Satanists and secular humanists.

    Remember when all you bought from loopy religious crackpots was really really good peppermint soap?

    Comment by H. Houlahan — October 23, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

  31. Remember when all you bought from loopy religious crackpots was really really good peppermint soap?

    Comment by H. Houlahan — October 23, 2009

    I still do! Got some under the sink. :)

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 23, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

  32. My westie is 7 years old and has been on wysong from the beginning of his life, it is all he has ever eaten. Recently he has been getting diahreha and vomitting. I asummed he was eating his toys or somthing and so would hold his food for a day and his system would settle down. I would give him his wysong and again, diareha and vomitting. This has been going on for a month. I have trusted Wysong implicitly and it did not occur to me that they would sell poisonous food. but that is the only way to describe this stuff. I am switching immediately. What a disappointment. I feel like an idiot for trusting them.

    Comment by Michael — March 18, 2010 @ 5:23 am

  33. Dogs barf, and that’s a given. In fact, barfing easily and promptly is a survival mechanism for an animal who in many places survives by scavenging.

    One barf, no worry. But let me say that reading “for more than a month” made my own stomach heave.

    Folks: better safe than sorry. Don’t keep feeding your pet a product he’s turning down or bringing up. Call your vet, check the net for recalls, REPORT THE PROBLEM and take the food back.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — March 18, 2010 @ 6:26 am

  34. I am confused about what kind of cat food is the best. My cat has ear problems and skin allergies all related to foods I did not know were NOT good for her, such as Whiskas…now I ehar that Wysong is questionable. Has anyone tried the new dry cat food ptu out by Newman?
    just confused at to what to buy that won’t hurt my cat

    Comment by louise ward — July 25, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

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