Auckland man demands answers from Purina after finding insects in sick dog's food

Arlo had been ill for weeks, with no medication making him feel better.
Arlo had been ill for weeks, with no medication making him feel better. Photo credit: Supplied

An Auckland man who spent hundreds of dollars on vet visits and medication when his pet labrador fell sick wants answers from Purina after discovering it had been eating insect-infested food for weeks.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, told Newshub his dog Arlo had been struggling with stomach and skin problems since late March, which is about when he shifted off Purina puppy food onto the adult version.

Despite spending an estimated $500 taking Arlo to the vet and buying him different antibiotics, Arlo's symptoms didn't ease - and more than a month on, the owner was out of ideas about what might be causing the sickness.

But then he was feeding Arlo last Tuesday when he noticed movement in his dog food.

"The container where some quantities of the kibbles are stored seemed to have wriggly, moving insects, and upon closer inspection turned out to be maggots," the man said.

"It was like noticing worms in your favourite pack of chips after you have finished and feeling like puking and ripping open your stomach to get the worms out."

Auckland man demands answers from Purina after finding insects in sick dog's food
Photo credit: Supplied

It wasn't just live, wriggling insects, either - some of the maggots had also "fused with the kibbles during manufacturing," the man says.

Shocked by what he'd seen, he dug out the second 14.5kg packet of Purina Dog Chow with Real Chicken he'd bought at the same time and opened it up.

Even though it was still sealed shut, the man says it too had maggots in it - some of which were already dead and others that were still moving.

"It was really disgusting… Every scoop I could find one or two maggots," he said.

"It made us cry knowing that we have been so busy that we did not even notice that we are feeding him maggot-infested kibbles while he is going through stomach and skin issues."

Auckland man demands answers from Purina after finding insects in sick dog's food
Photo credit: Supplied

The maggots themselves weren't the man's only gripe, however. The process of complaining to Purina was itself a bad experience that cost him several hours of his time.

Initially he called Purina on their 0800 number and was put on hold. But 15 minutes later, nothing had changed so he hung up and called them back, repeating that several times with the same result.

"I was in a black hole. I spent two-and-a-half hours just trying to get hold of the company representative but I couldn't," he said.

He then called the New Zealand office of Nestlé - the food and beverage giant that owns Purina - and was automatically redirected to Australia. When he finally got through to speak to someone, they gave him the same 0800 number he'd already tried.

Explaining this to the operator on the other end, he was eventually offered a gift card and the opportunity to get his money back.

However the man believes Purina should compensate him not just for what he'd paid, but the vet bills he incurred and the cost to his time of trying to complain.

And he's concerned by the quality control standards at Purina. He points to news stories from other parts of the world about insects in their pet foods as evidence it's cause for concern.

In response to the man's complaint, Margaret Stuart, director of corporate affairs and sustainability for Nestlé Oceania, told Newshub two separate investigations had been launched based on the information the man had provided.

"We… are now investigating this batch at our distribution centre and factory," she said.

"We have reached an initial view on the species of insect, but this preliminary view will also be confirmed by the factory. This will take a few days, and we will advise [the complainant] of the outcome when this is completed."

Arlo with his bag of Purina Dog Chow.
Arlo with his bag of Purina Dog Chow. Photo credit: Supplied

Purina is also taking a closer look at the dog's illness. Stuart said Purina had contacted the vets Arlo had been taken to for their assessment, the timeframe for which would be "dependent on the vet and their review".

But she said the discovery of maggots is unlikely to be a sign of widespread insect infestation in its factory, especially as no other customers had made similar complaints about products from that batch and there had been no sign of unusual activity on Purina's pest surveillance records.

She pointed out some insects can enter packs through the seam after manufacturing or even bore holes through the plastic, which could explain what had happened in this case.

"This means they can enter the product at any point from our factory, through transport, distribution centres, stores or in people's homes. These insects can also be found in foods like flour, cereals and nuts."

Purina says it has pest surveillance, monitoring and control programmes at each of its factories, and keeps records on its surveillance, ingredient testing and on every batch of product.

"We have procedures in place in all our factories to keep our products safe and high-quality," Stuart said.

Responding to the man's annoyance over the rigmarole of making contact with Purina, Stuart said there had been an outage with its 0800 number but admitted that wasn't good enough.

"We're sorry his initial attempt to contact with us didn't meet his expectations, or ours," she said. "We were unaware that our 0800 number had an outage. We're grateful to him for raising this, as we have now been able to rectify this."

Stuart says Purina takes product complaints "very seriously" and will work to investigate them thoroughly.