What Does A Lawsuit Against A Veterinary Lab Have To Do With Pet Food? – Truth about Pet Food


Mars, Inc. – of candy fame – is the largest manufacturer of pet food in the world. But pet food is not the only pet business Mars owns. The Mars company owns multiple veterinary hospital chains and diagnostic services (Banfield, VCA, Antech, Blue Pearl, AniCura, Linnaeus, VSH), a veterinary research facility (Waltham Petcare Science Institute) and multiple pet food brands (Pedigree, Royal Canin, Whiskas, Iams, Nutro, Dreamies, Sheba, Cesar, Temptations, Eukanuba, Greenies).

In July 2020, Mars laboratory services company Antech was sued by a small veterinary clinic in Arizona. The veterinary news website VIN News called this lawsuit “A provocative legal case in which a veterinarian alleged that one of the largest veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the world engages in monopolistic behavior by pressing veterinarians into lengthy exclusive contracts while, at the same time, producing unreliable results.”

While this lawsuit is certainly interesting and if allegations are true, concerning – we saw something else revealed in the lawsuit as VERY concerning for pet owners.

The lawsuit complaint explains that Mars diagnostic lab Antech requires veterinary clinics to sign a 6 year contract requiring veterinarians to use Antech for at least 90% of all laboratory testing. This long term contract was explained to be typical in the industry. The lawsuit highlighted Mars aggressive enforcement of the contracts between Antech and veterinarians. The lawsuit did not discuss a potential conflict of interest of a diagnostic veterinary laboratory being owned by the largest manufacturer of pet food in the world.

Quotes from the lawsuit below share Mars Antech’s history of suing veterinarians and in one instance hiring a private investigator to surveil a veterinarian.

Antech also has a pattern and practice of suing veterinarians who attempt to stop using Antech’s services before the end of the term for all expected revenues to be received under the remaining term of the contract.”

Antech uses force, coercion, threats, intimidation and federal lawsuits to keep its veterinarian clients in line paying their annual minimums and exclusively using Antech’s services. Antech has filed over 55 federal lawsuits against its veterinarian clients since February 2013.”

Antech also sent an investigator to take photographs of the IDEXX box on his door as proof that he was not exclusively using Antech and took video of the IDEXX driver picking up the samples. (IDEXX is Antech’s principal competitor.)

Next the lawsuit explains that Mars Antech Diagnostics provided numerous incorrect testing results. Just of few of the examples provided in the lawsuit are quoted below.

Antech provided a negative fecal test result for a dog named “Bella.” After Little Critters requested a recheck, the test result came back positive for Coccidia and listed as a match.”

Antech provided a negative fecal test result for a dog named “Honey.” After Little Critters requested a recheck, the test result came back positive for Giardia, a potential human/zoonotic disease.

And in some cases Mars Antech changed the test results within the patient medical files without following proper protocol. As explanation to the concern of altered test results, the lawsuit provided this:

Veterinarians are obligated by state licensing authorities and good practice to maintain accurate medical records. Doing so is important because, among other reasons, they and others may need to look at patient files to determine what happened to a patient over a course of time. Accordingly, standard practice is to not alter the record of any test result. Rather, if a second test is conducted, it should be clearly labeled as such.
If it turns out an initial test result is incorrect, it is typically “amended,” such that the original result is still evident in the file as well as the amended, corrected result. Alternatively, certain test results are marked as “preliminary,” when appropriate, and then marked as “final,” when everything has been resolved, but again, both results are in the file.

Antech’s testing services frequently interfaces with veterinary practice management software, which maintains the patient’s medical record, via the Antech “Dashboard.”

…if a veterinarian communicates the first test result from Antech to clients and that result is later changed by Antech without clear demarcation, the veterinarian has no record proving that her statements to the client were true at the time of her client communication. The veterinarian is legally responsible to document all findings that lead to diagnoses. These unannounced changes to test results by Antech thus place her license in jeopardy.”

And example of altered test results:

For a dog named “Squeeky,” Antech first reported a positive test result for Cocci and then changed the result to negative with no notification.”

The lawsuit provided example after example of botched laboratory results provided by Mars Antech to this veterinary clinic including examples of Antech going into the digital medical records of patients and changing results of previous lab tests without proper notification to the veterinarian.

Unfortunately the lawsuit was settled in September 2021, we don’t know the details of the settlement.

But…

The lawsuit provided examples of Mars aggressive behavior protecting corporate interests, of incorrect medical tests provided to the veterinarian, and altered medical tests without notification to the veterinarian. So…

What if a Mars owned pet food caused illness or death in pets – as example, what if a Mars owned pet food included high levels of vitamin D (as what happened with Hill’s Science Diet). If a pet that became sick from the pet food was taken to a Mars owned veterinary clinic, would the Mars employed veterinarian link the illness to a company owned pet food brand? Would the veterinarian incriminate his employer (bite the hand that feeds him)? But even if the pet was treated by a private vet clinic, what if the necessary lab testing was performed by Mars Antech that just happened to have access to the pet’s medical records (knowing what brand of pet food the pet ate) – would those lab results be accurate, potentially incriminating a Mars pet food brand?

Could all of the Mars pet businesses work together to cover up a serious pet food issue before FDA or other regulatory authorities were notified?

Of course we don’t know the answer to these questions. But it does make one wonder why some authority hasn’t questioned Mars about the potential conflict of interest between their variety of pet related businesses.

Ask your veterinarian if they use Mars Antech Diagnostics. If your pet becomes ill from a Mars owned pet food, insist the lab work be performed by a lab that is not owned by the pet food. Get a printed copy of the lab results and maintain those records yourself.

Click Here to read the lawsuit complaint.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
TruthaboutPetFood.com
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