Heinz Knowingly Sold Dog Food Laced With Rubber, Suit Claims

Heinz knew that processed sheep lungs it sold to a pet food company were adulterated with rubber that could choke dogs, a shareholder of Natural Balance Pet Foods claims in court.

Frank Magliato sued H.J. Heinz Co. and Heinz Watties of Hastings, New Zealand, "in his capacity as stockholder representative for the former shareholders of Natural Balance Pet Foods," in Superior Court.

(Dick Van Patten, 85, founder of Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods, of Burbank, is not a party to the lawsuit, which makes no mention of the actor and animal lover, known for playing Tom Bradford in the '70s and '80s sitcom "Eight is Enough.")

In his lawsuit, Magliato claims the multinational food company was aware that rubber rings designed to seal the esophagus of slaughtered sheep had become stuck in internal organs after sheep were slaughtered and their lungs processed.

Heinz also knew that the rubber rings were hazardous to animals but did not give Natural Balance Pet Foods or its customers a heads-up, Magliato says.

Natural Balance used the sheep lung products to make pet food at its Los Angeles facility until May 2012, when it realized the products contained rubber.

Natural Balance "could not continue to use the Heinz defendants' adulterated product, or distribute or sell any product that contained the Heinz defendants' adulterated product because if the rubber rings were swallowed by any pet they would pose a hazard to pets, thereby rendering the resulting products hazardous and unsafe. Potential dangers from selling and distributing products containing the Heinz defendants' adulterated product, include chocking, intestinal blockage, and death," the 10-page lawsuit states.

Magliato claims that if Natural Balance had not recognized that the dog food was adulterated, all of its pet foods could have been recalled. Heinz's negligence would have exposed Natural Balance to litigation from aggrieved dog owners and damaged its reputation as a seller of "high quality and safe pet food."

Heinz boasts on its website that it is "'committed to safe practices'" with "'an unmatched reputation for quality,'" Magliato says in the complaint.

Magliato seeks restitution, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and $400,000 in damages for strict products liability, negligence, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, unfair business practices and fraud, and court costs.

He is represented by Cara Burns of Hicks, Mims, Kaplan & Burns of Santa Monica.

"While Heinz does not comment on pending litigation, the company will aggressively defend itself in this lawsuit," Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said in an email. "As one of the world's premier food companies, we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that our products meet the highest standards for quality and safety every day."

Natural Balance Pet Foods declined to comment.

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