NAD Recommends Mars Petcare Discontinue Certain Claims for ‘Dentastix’ Following Purina

New York, NY – May 9, 2014 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Mars Petcare US discontinue certain express and implied claims made for the company’s Pedigree Dentastix dog chews. The claims at issue, made in print, Internet and social media advertising and on product packaging, were challenged by Nestle Purina Petcare Company, a competing maker of pet products.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Express claims at issue included:

  •  Up to 80% tartar build-up reduction*”
    •  *Average reduction was 47%
  •  “Clinically proven to reduce up to 80% of tartar build-up*”
    •  *Average reduction was 47%
  •  “DENTASTIX® comes in three tasty flavors and is clinically proven to reduce up to 80% of tartar build-up.”
  •  “4 out of 5 dogs over the age of 3 have gum disease.* The other one probably loves DENTASTIX®. DENTASTIX® oral care treats come in three tasty flavors and are clinically proven to reduce up to 80% of tartar build-up.** Smile, it’s DENTASTIX® time.” 
    •  *American Veterinary Medical Association
    •  **Average Reduction was 47%
  •  “4 out of 5 dogs over the age of three have gum disease*, and tartar build-up is a contributing factor. Luckily for dogs, DENTASTIX® are the oral care treats clinically proven to reduce up to 80% of tartar build-up** when used as part of a daily oral care routine.***”
  •  *American Veterinary Medical Association
    •  **Average Reduction was 47%
    •  ***Oral care routine includes veterinary exams and cleanings.

NAD also considered whether the advertising at issue implied that the Dentastix product treats or cures gum disease in dogs.

The advertiser relied on the Summit Ridge Farms study to support its quantified tartar build-up reduction claim. The purpose of the study was to determine “the effect of DENTASTIX on the formation of dental plaque, calculus (tartar), gingivitis, and oral malodor in adult dogs.” NAD determined that the study was well-designed, pursuant to the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) guidelines for mechanical control of plaque and calculus, and elicited statistically significant results. The results of the study (which were statistically significant) showed a mean percent reduction in tartar buildup of 46.7 percent at 28 days.

To arrive at the 80 percent number, NAD noted, the advertiser undertook a post-hoc analysis of the study’s results, pairing the dogs according to its own criteria to determine what percent “up to” tartar build-up reduction claim could be supported based on the results. NAD has questioned the validity of a post-hoc statistical analysis in several previous cases because it deviates from the underlying study’s protocol and ultimately undermines the reliability of the results.

In this case, NAD determined that only one dog out of 26 dogs included in the post-hoc analysis achieved a reduction in tartar build-up of greater than 80 percent. Given that the challenged claim was based on an outlier result, NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the “80%” claims or modify them to expressly state the mean reduction in tartar build-up.

NAD also recommended that the advertiser modify its claims to avoid conveying the unsupported message that Dentastix can treat or cure gum disease.

Mars Petcare US took issue with NAD’s decision and said the company continues “to believe that the methodology used to measure individual performance is scientifically valid and we are disappointed that NAD questioned the post-hoc analysis of data generated by a well-designed and executed study … .”

However, the company said, “out of respect for the self-regulatory process, Mars accepts the decision, and all future advertising