Another Friday night, another pet food recall: Blue Buffalo again

October 8, 2010

Yes, it’s another Friday night dump-and-run pet food recall, this time from Blue Buffalo. Turns out the culprit in the earlier suspected food-related illness of some dogs eating their food has been identified.

From the company’s release, addressed to “Dear Fellow Pet Parent”:

At Blue Buffalo, nothing is more important than the health and well being of our dogs and cats, so it’s consistent with this guiding principle that we are voluntarily recalling specific production runs of our Wilderness Chicken-Dog, Basics Salmon-Dog and Large Breed Adult Dog products, as we have reason to believe that the products from these runs may contain a higher level of Vitamin D than is called for in our product specifications.

We came to this conclusion after discovering that our ingredient supplier had made a scheduling error and produced a Vitamin D supplement immediately prior to preparing the ingredients for the BLUE products that are in question. We believe that some of the Vitamin D supplement may have been carried over into our products, resulting in more Vitamin D than is called for in our formulas.

While the potential of increased Vitamin D presents no serious health risk, and any negative reaction to these products has been confined to a very small segment of the canine population who appear to be sensitive to higher levels of Vitamin D, we have a zero tolerance for any product that does not meet our specifications. I think you’ll agree that our decision to withdraw these specific products is simply the right thing to do.

From a next steps standpoint, all products with the specific manufacturing dates in question will be removed from retailer’s shelves. If you have any products with the codes shown below you should stop feeding them immediately.You may call Blue Buffalo at
1-877-523-9114 to arrange for return of the product and reimbursement.

These are the ONLY code dates being recalled:

Product Bag Size Best Used By Dates
BLUE Wilderness Chicken (Dog) 4.5 lb., 11 lb., 24lb. JUL1211B, JUL1311B, JUL2611Z, JUL2711Z, JUL2811Z
BLUE Basics Salmon (Dog) 11 lb., 24 lb. AUG2111B, AUG2211B
BLUE Large Breed Adult Chicken 30 lb. SEP 22 11 P, SEP 23 11 P, OCT 26 11 P

The release was signed by Blue Buffalo CEO Bill Bishop, and concludes with this paragraph:

As Blue Buffalo is a family founded and run company, I am personally very upset about this and apologize for any discomfort or inconvenience that this situation has caused you or your pet family members. Product quality and safety have been, and always will be our top priority, and we’ve taken some serious corrective action to insure that this type of human error will never happen again.

The thing is, bad things will inevitably happen, even to good people and good companies. There also has to be good corporate communication, clear and timely. I find it really hard to believe all these things are just coming out on Friday nights by accident.

H/T to powerhouse pet food safety diva Therese Kopiwoda at (who has more info on Vitamin D toxicity and the food at that link), as well as to our own Phyllis deGioia, David Greene and Liz Palika, who were all working on this the minute they saw Therese’s post, along with as reader Heather Houlihan, who got it in our comments before I got this post up. I really have to learn to type faster. Great work, everyone!

Update via Gina: Awesome work on this by the veterinarians at the Veterinary Information Network, without whose persistence in following this story the problem might never have been uncovered. Here’s the story from the VIN News Service. More than “worth a click.”

Filed under: pets, connected,veterinary medicine — Christie Keith @ 2:58 pm


  1. Funny, how they don’t think there are any issues with high levels of vitamin D when Michigan State University has just issued a statement about vitamin D toxicity in dogs that may be related to diet.


    Comment by Kyle — October 8, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

  2. “Dear Fellow Pet Parents”? Gag.

    I have to wonder what they would have done had not the veterinary community suspected there was a problem.

    Actually, I don’t wonder at all.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 8, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  3. Even in humans, Vitamins A and D are two of the few vitamins you can take to excess, because they are stored in fat. Most other vitamins are water-soluble, so the excess comes out in urination.

    Comment by Susanbt — October 8, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  4. Gina, I totally forgot it was Friday until I saw the recall!

    Yea, I like that fellow pet parent thing, too. I guess that’s supposed to mean we’re all in this together? Gag.

    Comment by Therese — October 8, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

  5. I saw this on David Greene’s FB page, and because I don’t think I can express myself any better now than I did then: Kinda weird to qoute oneself.
    “Yanno folks, I don’t care how proactive you are, or how flowery your prose on your website is. If you can’t treat me, your customer, with respect starting with sharing recall information immediately, I will not buy your product. Period. I really don’t care about your excuses. What I do care about is my pets. If one of them gets ill because you’ve pulled a Friday Dump and Run, what on earth makes you think I’ll keep purchasing your food?”

    Comment by Deb — October 8, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  6. Exactly. These companies that do it — whether pet products or not — get a red line through them on my shopping list forever. Saying “Dear Fellow Pet Parent” is lipstick on a pig.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 8, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  7. Deb, at least you won’t have to worry accusations of plagiarism.

    Comment by David S. Greene — October 8, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

  8. I have still never given birth to anything or anyone with fur.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — October 8, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

  9. This past August, there was concern within the veterinary community about hypercalcemia and vit D toxicity in dogs who ate certain types of Blue Buffalo. To the best of my limited knowledge, there has not been any definitive causal relationship established, but affected dogs got better immediately after not eating the Blue Buffalo. Check out the VIN News Service article about it.

    Veterinarians report mysterious link between dog food and hypercalcemia

    Comment by Phyllis DeGioia — October 8, 2010 @ 4:58 pm

  10. What the, uh, heck is a “Natural Evolutionary Diet”? Did they come up with that by moving those little magnetized word thingies around on their refrigerator until they came up with a combination that sounded cool?

    This “pet owner” will never buy any of your products, Blue Buffalo. Ever.

    Comment by Susan Fox — October 8, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

  11. Oh, and thanks for cutting off my 15 minutes of fame, too.

    Comment by Susan Fox — October 8, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

  12. I have and will continue to feed Blue. I have tried about every natural “holistic” dog food on the market that meets what I look for in a dog food, and I keep coming back to Blue because it has simply worked the best for my dogs. You can get mad at a recall and boycott the company, sure. But anything you feed your pet, even human food, is subject to recall. My friends went to feeding a raw diet, saying they never wanted to deal with the “evil dishonest pet food companies again” and their dogs ended up eating contaminated eggs from the recall a month or two ago. Nothing is 100% risk-free. I actually commend Blue, because they are not even required to recall the food or give public notice about it since the possible vitamin D excess still falls within AAFCO standards. Makes me wonder how many companies, even the ones who we praise for having little to no recall history, actually just have let product slide. As for being a pet parent, you’re dang right I am. No reason to get offended, Petco, Petsmart, and most dog food/toy/training/grooming companies also also refer to the pet-owning public as “Pet Parents”.

    Comment by Tabitha — October 8, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  13. Tabitha, ALL food recalls are voluntary, because the FDA has no power to order them. Blue gets no extra points for this being a “voluntary” recall.

    Nothing is 100% risk-free, but Blue has in fact been slow about sharing the information on this problem, which was identified not by Blue’s testing, but by dogs actually getting sick from eating the food. This announcement in particular is yet another “Friday night dump-and-run,” announced at a time when it would miss the news cycle, not get picked up and get the attention it needs.

    As pointed out by others, Vitamin D is something you do not want to be casual about excess amounts because it is known to be toxic in excess. Not just in dogs, but in humans, too, so it’s not a surprise or anything.

    AAFCO standards are bare minimum standards, and while you don’t want to feed a pet food that doesn’t at least meet them, you won’t find many people here who are overly impressed by them as a guarantee of any kind of quality.

    Comment by Lis — October 9, 2010 @ 6:55 am

  14. This sort of thing makes me even happier to be going to pick up my dog’s local, grass-fed/finished raw beef food this morning.
    Gina – love the pig in lipstick comment, so true!

    Comment by Joani Schofield — October 9, 2010 @ 7:27 am

  15. I refer to myself as a “pet parent,” so that’s not what the problem was. It was using the term in context with dropping a recall notice when it’s most likely to be overlooked. As in, “we pretend to care, but really … we don’t.”

    And isn’t it funny when this company finds itself with what it appears to believe is a “PR problem” not a “quality-control problem” people suddenly appear on the blogs to swear their allegiance to the food? And to swipe at another food, or, in this case, a home-prepared diet?

    Funny as in, that simply cannot be a coincidence.

    Based on their corporate behavior going back three years, this is simply not a company I could ever recommend, not matter what their food is like. A pretty package with all the right words, a picture of a wolf and a corporate strategy that’s about hiding until they’re caught, downplaying recall notices and sending out people to astroturf the blogs?


    Proctor & Gamble (maker of Iams/Eukanuba) has a far better record for corporate behavior: Not only did they FORCE Menu to trigger the 2007 recall, but they have worked honestly and hard to let customers know of every problem with their food since. THEIR social media outreach doesn’t spend time using fake customers to swear undying allegiance, but rather to get the word out about a recall.

    I don’t personally use their food, but I certainly commend them on their behavior. Blue Buffalo? Not so much.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 9, 2010 @ 7:28 am

  16. And isn’t it funny when this company finds itself with what it appears to believe is a “PR problem” not a “quality-control problem” people suddenly appear on the blogs to swear their allegiance to the food? And to swipe at another food, or, in this case, a home-prepared diet?

    Funny as in, that simply cannot be a coincidence.

    — comment by Gina Spadafori

    I should think Blue Buffalo’s strategy for dealing with their successive recalls would be to say loudly and publicly “This is bad. We are SO sorry for the pain and fear our product recalls have caused, and we vow to do everything we possibly can to restore your trust and make safety job one, so this doesn’t happen again.” That’s exactly what Toyota (eventually) did earlier this year, and approximately what BP’s transparent PR campaign has been about since the disaster in the Gulf. That, however, is not what Blue Buffalo is doing. It makes me wonder who is giving them PR advice, and why they’re not changing their course.

    Comment by David S. Greene — October 9, 2010 @ 9:29 am

  17. I wondered if the response here to the collective criticism of Blue Buffalo’s recall handling was a “plant”. Especially since I recall reading not long ago of the latest debacle with Jack DeCoster whose infamy is well known that the strain of salmonella in his eggs is one that canids don’t have a problem with. There are many strains of Salmonella, and dogs can safely consume a fair number without illness while we humans can’t. I searched fruitlessly for the citations and hope someone more skilled than I can track the info down. I’d love to see the “plants” hoisted on their own petards!
    We’d all like to see any recall whatever it may be treated as you say, David. Just as I would like to see politicians admit to their peccadilloes right at the onset of the scandal. I am afraid though when it comes to politicians and corporations, this is the stuff of dreams.

    Comment by Deb — October 9, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  18. From what I can see, they do have the recall info on their news page but in order to get to that, you have to click on their “Health & Nutrition” drop down link then go to “Blue News” and its there. So once again, someone has to go searching to find it at their site.

    Comment by Sandi K — October 9, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

  19. Not to mention the wording on a couple of things really irks me. The part about “any negative reaction to these products has been confined to a very small segment of the canine population who appear to be sensitive to higher levels of Vitamin D…” Maybe Im wrong but Im reading this like its the dogs fault…darn those pesky dogs that are sensitive to higher levels of vit d anyway…and its not just higher levels, its called vit d toxicity isnt it?

    And then the other part…”These are the ONLY code dates being recalled” See its not that bad, these are the only dates being recalled. Never mind that the “only” dates being recalled range from July to October. Good grief Blue Buffalo.

    Comment by Sandi K — October 9, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

  20. You know what I find funny? The way some of you think some comments are “plants”. What if they do come from people who genuinely want to comment or ask a question here?

    I posted a question about homemade dog food recipes and my post got deleted. Well, I posted here cause you all seemed to really care about your pets and I read some of you mentioned homemade food, and nobody seems to agree in all the other websites I have checked.
    Plus, I own 2 adults, a puppy and a senior, and I’m scared of not giving them the best nutrition.

    I’m still having head and stomachaches over what is the best (or at least the most DECENT) dry food for my dogs, and seriously, I’m crying for help here! Just because I happen to mention I currently feed them Blue Buffalo doesn’t mean I work for them, for crying out loud.

    Not to mention I don’t live in the US, it’s already hard for me to go there and buy better food than the horrible crap we get here. And the worst thing is that I’m alone in this, cause everybody I know thinks I’m insane for daring to worry about my pets as if they really were part of my family and getting them something better than Purina, oh no!

    Please, guys, don’t immediately mistrust any poster just cause you think it’s a spammer. I apologize for the lengthy post, and I’ll just go back quietly to reading page after page after page after page after page of reviews and google where-to-buy searches of the so-called premium dog foods.

    Comment by Ruth — October 9, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

  21. My bet: the manufacturer for Blue Buffalo is a contract facility that also makes chicken feed. To claim “vitamin D enriched” eggs, the chicken feed company includes large doses of Vitamin D to their feed formula. The excess vitamin D in the pet food was caused by either a failure to clean the machinery or by a vitamin D “enriched” dry ingredient meant for poultry feed being used instead in the pet food.

    Comment by Joy — October 10, 2010 @ 6:06 am

  22. You know what I find funny? The way some of you think some comments are “plants”. What if they do come from people who genuinely want to comment or ask a question here?

    Comment by Ruth — October 9, 2010

    We don’t think they are … we KNOW they are. They’re following a script.

    But Ruth, we do sometimes guess wrong, and I’m sorry we did with you.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 10, 2010 @ 7:41 am

  23. I noticed in the VIN article, it said “”The problem, officials say, likely stems from what appears to be a glitch tied to one of the company’s dry ingredients suppliers concerning a form of vitamin D that’s not supposed to be in the Blue Buffalo foods in question.”

    It implies that it was the form of vit D? So maybe it wasnt the amount of vit D, but the type? I dont know if there is a form of vit D that isnt as well tolerated by dogs or that shoulnt be given to dogs? Its all speculation on my part but the letter from BB says it was higher levels of vit D and the VIN article implies its a form that wasnt supposed to be in the food.

    Comment by Sandi K — October 10, 2010 @ 7:58 am

  24. I’m sorry, too, that we got yours wrong. But one of the reasons they USE this script is because it can so easily look like a genuine comment from a concerned pet owner. If we hadn’t gotten dozens of them in a row, all from brand new users and all using different words to tell a very similar story, we’d have never noticed they were “fake.”

    Comment by Christie Keith — October 10, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  25. These contract manufacturers that produce the cat, dog, chicken, swine etc. feeds all use vitamin premixes. They aren’t using the raw form of vitamins individually. So it appears to be another problem with the vitamin premix, just like the last one with insufficient thiamine from Diamond Foods use of premixes.

    During this same time period, the FDA put out a notice about swine feed having insufficient amounts of Vitamin D:

    In both instances it appears as though the vitamin premix firm is manufacturing the premixes incorrectly.

    Comment by 2ittybittykitties — October 10, 2010 @ 9:24 am

  26. Sandi, if it was the wrong TYPE of Vitamin D, I was thinking it could easily be something like “Hy.D” (brand name) high-dose vitamin d3 supplement used in most poultry feed.

    I can’t remember but did anything ever come of the Vitamin D excesses found in Royal Canin and Nutro a few years back? I mean, did they ever succeed in tracing the source or identifying the problem ingredient?

    Comment by Joy — October 10, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  27. When I say ‘type” I mean the premix, not specific type of d vitamin.

    Comment by Joy — October 10, 2010 @ 9:30 am


    “A veterinarian who works with Blue Buffalo posted a more technical and in-depth explanation of the problem to his colleagues in a VIN message board discussion, though the VIN News Service could not immediately obtain his permission to publicly relay the information.”

    So I am wondering if this will be made public?…any connections here??

    Comment by Carol V — October 11, 2010 @ 4:35 am

  29. So, are they concluding that the problem was with the ingredient supplier, not the manufacturer?

    Comment by Joy — October 11, 2010 @ 5:03 am

  30. I called the hotline at blue buffalo and they were useless….I’m awaiting a call back in about 24 hours from someone who can help me…Ah, where am I??????? I purchased a bag about 3 weeks ago, put the kibble into it’s airtight container and tossed the bag…and with it, most likely the receipt too! According to blue buffalo, if I don’t have either one of these I cannot get a refund! WHAT???? I have almost a full trash bag full of possibly contaminated food and they can’t do anything about it? If you read the memo posted on the company’s website, there’s no mention of having to have the bag or the receipt…Almost $50 down the tubes…I guess I’ll have to start keeping the bags stored in my garage “just in case”…yes, I love america.

    Comment by dee — October 11, 2010 @ 9:13 am

  31. So I am wondering if this will be made public?…any connections here??

    Comment by Carol V — October 11, 2010

    We’re working on it, but VIN discussions are closed to anyone except VIN member veterinarians. If VIN doesn’t release the info, we can’t share the info.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 11, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  32. I want to know who supplies the vitamin premix to Blue Buffalo.

    It was a company called Troux I believe, that supplied the Nutro premix that was all screwed up.

    But what REALLY burns my ass is that this is not a simple mistake. This is a complete breakdown in safety procedures that are obviously being overlooked.

    The premix company did not properly test its finished product.

    Blue did not test the premix when they received it to ensure that it met their specifications.

    Blue did not test the resulting food properly to ensure that it met their specifications.

    OR – and this is more likely – they figured the issue would be brushed off as a few random illnesses and they would never be forced to recall.

    HUGE thanks to all those on the interwebs who track these issues, including those vets who actively participate in VIN.

    Comment by Kim — October 11, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

  33. I would like to thank the VIN and MSU for forcing this “voluntary” recall on a pet food company. I do not do this lightly as I am, and remain, a harsh critic of many Veterinary actions and inaction’s in the matter of pet food.
    However, the fact remains that this was a pet saving action and I applaud it as such.
    Thank you VIN and MSU.

    Comment by E. Hamilton — October 11, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

  34. Just got an update from FDA about BB’s recall. It appears that 2 more codes were added to the salmon, 24 lb:


    Very concerned that this recall may still be “rolling”.

    Comment by 5CatMom — October 12, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  35. Taking into consideration this company’s past performance, I’d say that’s a valid concern.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — October 12, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  36. “Just got an update from FDA about BB’s recall. It appears that 2 more codes were added to the salmon, 24 lb:

    Very concerned that this recall may still be “rolling”.

    Comment by 5CatMom — October 12, 2010 @ 12:58 pm
    Not sure why this info is not on the Blue Buffalo news..not updated there since Oct 8th as far as I can tell….the company must know alot of pet owners are watching..and vets too..

    Comment by Carol V — October 12, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  37. No tweets about it on Twitter either, other than one advising someone to call their customer service number.

    Comment by Sandi K — October 12, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

  38. Yeah, I called yesterday a talked to someone at the “call center” who didn’t have a clue and could barely read the script.

    From the questions she asked, it’s not clear that BB has a clue about what food is affected.

    I finally said, “Wow! That’s a lot of questions. How about I ask you a few!”

    Sorry to be a cynic, but I have a bad feeling about this.

    Comment by 5CatMom — October 13, 2010 @ 3:49 am

  39. Yesterday, I was waiting for my dental appointment, and happened to glance through the current copy of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

    Following page 98 is a beautiful full color advertisement by Blue Buffalo which asks, “Is your big name cat food fooling you?” . . . Blue is made with real meat as the first ingredient, followed by whole grains . .” etc., etc.

    (Yes, I know the recall involved dog food, not cat food)

    Great ad, great magazine. Looks like an expensive ad. And I’m sure everyone has seen BB’s television advertising. That looks expensive, too.

    Here’s the point: If BB can afford all that expensive advertising, why can’t they afford to test the ingredients which go into their food? Or a least have someone read the tags before all the cwrap is dumped into the hopper.

    There’s no denying that a loyal (um, brainwashed) customer base is important, and BB doesn’t seem interested in the quality of their food (my opinion), so maybe they’re hoping to build market share and then sell the company for a billion $’s.

    LOL, just like Natura did. Monkey see, monkey do.

    Comment by 5CatMom — October 13, 2010 @ 4:24 am

  40. @5CatMom I was reading the same issue yesterday. I really liked that ad.

    My cat Sohpia was groomed yesterday and the groomer suggested I start feeding Sophia better quality food. I am now trying to find better food + not very $$$.

    If I had not seen the recall on PC the BB ad could have swayed me.

    Comment by Ericka Basile — October 13, 2010 @ 4:43 am

  41. Ericka,

    Maybe have a lookie at comment #55 by Spartycats on

    For years, we’ve heard “shock and awe” from PFC’s, but no effective change in their business operations.;msg183520

    Comment by 5CatMom — October 13, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  42. Well, they say they have fixed it.


    Their 2010 statement “action to insure that this type of human error will never happen again.”

    I’m not a fan of the word never.

    Comment by Ericka Basile — October 13, 2010 @ 5:54 am

  43. Something very wrong with the pet food industry.

    A single stupid ripples through the entire process and hurts our pets.

    Clearly, some of these companies aren’t really serious about making pet food. Otherwise, they’d be more careful with the manufacturing.

    Heck, they might even get a bit of technical help from a Manufacturing Engineer or a Quality Assurance Manager.

    Guess it’s easier to create beautiful advertising.

    Comment by 5CatMom — October 13, 2010 @ 6:26 am

  44. Well, it is, of course. The magazine doesn’t get sick or die if there’s a typo in the ad.

    Comment by Susan Fox — October 13, 2010 @ 7:25 am

  45. Blue Buffalo says their ingredient supplier made a scheduling error and produced a Vitamin D supplement right before making the dog food.

    It’s unlikely we’ll ever be told the name of the ingredient supplier or the manufacturer ….but doesn’t it seem strange that a vitamin supplement is being made in the same facility as pet food? Unless it’s a vitamin premix for animal feed…

    But even then, contract facilities don’t usually make the ingredients, they order them and add them to the recipes that they manufacture.

    But even if they were telling the truth….what vitamin supplement would they be manufacturing that is so high in vitamin D that just its presence on the machinery could cause enough residue to result in mega doses of the vitamin in the next product that comes in contact with the machinery?

    Comment by Joy — October 14, 2010 @ 10:51 am

  46. Joy, those are great questions, I wish we could get answers. And from 5Catmoms post above with the additional lot dates from FDA, why isnt Blue Buffalo updating their site (albeit not front page) with this info?

    Comment by Sandi K — October 14, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

  47. Joy,

    The Dancing Dog site reported that the “problem” supplement was a chicken supplement.

    Also, I called BB and was told that their contract food company is Chenango Valley. That’s the same contract company that Nature’s Variety had problems with some time ago.

    Sorry, but don’t know who what company supplies the supplement for Blue Buffalo. Maybe someone else does. There are only a handful of supplement companies, I believe.

    Comment by 5CatMom — October 15, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  48. I’m glad my dogs are on a raw meat diet and I only feed free range organic eggs so don’t have to worry about salmonella either from cheap eggs.
    What irks me about Blue Buffalo recall is that people assume that they pay a much higher price for food to be more quality-controlled when in reality it is no better than grocery store brands.

    Comment by Mary Ellen — November 5, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  49. I called Blue Buffalo a few months back to ask about the typical analysis calcium in the food. I called because I tried emailing twice over the course of 2 weeks and got no response at all. When I called I was rather rudely told that they will not give out actual calcium level in the food and there was no staff nutritionist I could speak to. In the last 3 or 4 years I have been researching calcium content in commercial dog foods I have contacted somewhere in the range of FIFTY companies and only TWO have been evasive about this information- Blue Buffalo and Nutro. Every other company I contacted was happy to answer any questions I had about their food, including any mineral %s in the food. This speaks volumes to me!!

    Comment by Stacey Amirov — January 9, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  50. Hey, that’s encouraging! Did you ask for a full nutrtional analysis on all mins, or just Ca?

    Comment by CathyA — January 10, 2011 @ 5:09 am

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