⚠ Important Blue Buffalo recall information appears below.
Imagine Jack, the giant slayer, cutting a lucrative deal with the giant instead of slaying him. That’s the history of Blue Buffalo pet food.
In 2018, General Mills, the food monolith that also sells Cheerios and Pillsbury, acquired Blue Buffalo for $8 billion. Until then, General Mills pretty much had just sold human food.
It was a daring move, but one that is, so far, paying off. At least if you measure success by a company’s ability to pay the interest on the loan it took out to make an acquisition.
We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, though. Below, we share much more information about the fascinating history of Blue Buffalo — including up-to-date recall information going all the way back to 2007.
Blue Buffalo Quick Facts
Brand line includes: Blue Life Protection Formula, Blue Wilderness, Blue Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, Blue Freedom Grain-Free, Blue Carnivora, Blue Natural Veterinary Diet, Blue True Solutions, Blue Scooby Snacks, Blue for Cats, Blue Healthy Gourmet, Blue Bursts
Where to buy: Latest deals on Blue Buffalo
Company: Blue Buffalo Company Ltd.
Headquarters: 15 River Rd, Wilton, CT 06897
Contact info: 1-800-919-2833, email, website
Blue Buffalo History
So, let’s back up a few years. How did Blue Buffalo, a startup pet food enterprise with an emphasis on natural ingredients, become so successful? And out of all the pet food brands, why did General Mills choose to acquire Blue Buffalo?
Bill Bishop (notice that he and Blue Buffalo have the same initials) started up his pet food empire in 2003. The premise was simple: This would be a nutritious dog food without the types of “filler” ingredients that go into cheaper dog food.
The Bishop family had a beloved blue Airedale named Blue. The dog was a vital part of their family, who loved chasing him around the house. And when he twice beat cancer, Blue became something of a hero as well.
But then Blue developed lymphoma, which spread quickly throughout his body. Upon losing their beloved companion, the Bishops became interested in dog health issues across the board.
Working with a veterinarian and dog nutritionist, they formulated a dog food that has “only the finest healthy ingredients,” according to the company website. Today the company makes a full line of food and treats for both dogs and cats.
An Idea That Caught On, Fast
Blue Buffalo’s popularity and sales rose steadily from its inception.
In 2012, the company brought in $730 million in revenue, more than double its profits from 2 years earlier. Part of Blue Buffalo’s success was an aggressive advertising agenda and in-store marketers.
Blue Buffalo’s success attracted the ire of Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, which filed a lawsuit against Blue Buffalo in 2014 claiming it had falsely advertised a lack of grains and poultry products in its pet food. Blue Buffalo countersued, pointing a finger at the antibiotic content of Nestlé Purina’s jerky treats. (The lawsuits were eventually settled under “mutually agreeable” confidential terms in 2016.)
In 2015, Blue Buffalo went public, selling shares at $20 a piece. It was a good move that dovetailed with investors interested in getting in on the healthy pet food market. Within a week, the company had sold $676 million in shares.
In 2017, profits cleared the $1 billion threshold. This meteoric rise was likely what made General Mills sit up and pay attention, leading to the $8 billion deal to buy Blue Buffalo in 2018.
As of 2020, General Mills was among the top 10 pet food companies in the world, with over $1.4 billion in annual revenue, according to data provided by Pet Food Industry.
Blue Buffalo Warnings & Lawsuits
Before we detail the recall history for Blue Buffalo, we first want to alert readers to the fact that, in late June 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified Blue Buffalo as one of 16 pet food brands that may be linked to heart disease in dogs and cats.
None of those 16 brands have been recalled as part of the agency’s ongoing investigation, though. Most, but not all, of the pet foods are “grain-free” and/or dry (kibble) dog food formulations.
The FDA says this is a “complex scientific issue that may involve multiple factors,” and that it cannot even be certain that diet is a cause of the heart problems. For full details, see our article on the subject.
We also want to point out that despite rumors, there has been no so-called “Blue Buffalo lead recall.” A lawsuit filed in June 2017 claimed that 3 Blue Buffalo dog foods (Blue Wilderness Chicken Recipe for Small Breed Adult Dogs, Blue Freedom Grain-Free Chicken Recipe for Small Breed Adult Dogs, and Blue Basics Grain-Free Turkey & Potato Recipe for Adult Dogs) contained very high levels of lead, but the lawsuit was dismissed by a judge in 2018.
The company had this to say in response to the lead lawsuit:
“Blue Buffalo strongly denies these allegations, which represent the unsubstantiated claims of one person, and have not been supported by any evidence or data.”
More recently, in January 2020, the brand once again came under fire when a customer in New York sued Blue Buffalo for allegedly making her dog overweight and diabetic. Plaintiff Shannon Walton said she had been moved to buy Blue Buffalo dog food because the formula was strongly marketed as being “inspired” by a wolf diet.
However, while wolves eat raw meat almost exclusively, Blue Buffalo–fed dogs eat a lot of carbohydrates, according to her lawsuit.
In the next section below, we discuss Blue Buffalo’s recall history.
Has Blue Buffalo Ever Been Recalled?
Yes. Blue Buffalo has had to issue a number of pet food recalls going back to 2007. Here is a quick overview, and then we will go into much more detail below.
Most recently, in March 2017, Blue Buffalo recalled a single run of Blue Wilderness canned dog food because of potentially excessive levels of beef thyroid hormone (certain Wellness canned dog food was also recalled for the same reason).
A month earlier, in February 2017, Blue Buffalo recalled some cans of its Homestyle Recipe dog food because of possible metal (aluminum) contamination. Also that month, the company recalled wet dog food cups because of a packaging problem.
In May 2016, moisture problems and the possibility of mold prompted a limited recall of some Blue Buffalo sweet potato–flavored dog food.
In November 2015, there was a Blue Buffalo recall on a single lot of some chew bones. The cause was listed as potential salmonella contamination. Less than 3 weeks earlier, also in November 2015, a limited number of Blue Kitty Yums cat treats were pulled from shelves following reports of propylene glycol, which is unacceptable in cat treats under FDA guidelines.
In October 2010, Blue Buffalo voluntarily recalled a few products because of a “sequencing error” made by an ingredient supplier. The supplier had conducted a previous processing of Vitamin D in which some carryover may have contaminated the products.
Finally, in April 2007, as part of the larger Menu Foods/melamine recall that shocked the country, the FDA confirmed the presence of melamine in rice protein concentrate in food manufactured by American Nutrition Inc. for Blue Buffalo. Blue Buffalo denied knowledge or consent of the additive being in the product.
“The obvious question is ‘How could Blue Buffalo not know that ANI was putting rice protein concentrate into our canned food?'” the company said in a press release. “The answer is, we trusted them. In business and in life, we all trust our partners to deal with us honestly.”
“This is product tampering, and it apparently has been going on for some time,” the company said.
As a result of the recall, Blue Buffalo pulled all of its manufacturing from American Nutrition, even including products not listed in the recall.
Bill Bishop lamented the randomness of the 2007 melamine recalls. Before the ordeal, the Blue Buffalo founder said he hadn’t even been aware that rice protein concentrate came from China. “If it was our fault,” he told a local newspaper in Wilton, Connecticut, “I could take it better.”
Below, we list the full details of every single Blue Buffalo recall.
Complete Blue Buffalo Recall List
Cause: Potential for elevated levels of naturally occurring beef thyroid hormone. Announcement: Company press release dated March 17, 2017. What was recalled: Blue Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe Red Meat Dinner Wet Food for Adult Dogs, 12.5 oz. cans, UPC #840243101153, best by June 7, 2019.
Cause: Packaging quality. Announcement: PetSmart announcement dated Feb. 28, 2017 (archived here). What was recalled: The following Blue Buffalo dog food cups:
- Blue Divine Delights Filet Mignon Flavor in Gravy, UPC #84024312035
- Blue Divine Delights New York Strip Flavor in Gravy, UPC #84024312037
- Blue Divine Delights Prime Rib Flavor in Gravy, UPC #84024312039
- Blue Divine Delights Rotisserie Chicken Flavor in Gravy, UPC #84024312041
- Blue Divine Delights Pate Filet Mignon Flavor, UPC #84024312043
- Blue Divine Delights Pate Porterhouse Flavor, UPC #84024312045
- Blue Divine Delights Pate Grilled Chicken Flavor, UPC #84024312047
- Blue Divine Delights Pate Top Sirloin Flavor, UPC #84024312049
- Blue Divine Delights Pate Angus Beef Flavor, UPC #84024312051
- Blue Divine Delights Pate Roasted Turkey Flavor, UPC #84024312053
- Blue Divine Delights Pate With Bacon, Egg & Cheese, UPC #84024312057
- Blue Divine Delights Pate Sausage, Egg & Cheese Flavor, UPC #84024312059
- Blue Divine Delights Pate Steak & Egg Flavor, UPC #84024312061
- Blue Wilderness Trail Trays Duck Grill, UPC #84024312071
- Blue Wilderness Trail Trays Beef Grill, UPC #84024312073
- Blue Wilderness Trail Trays Chicken Grill, UPC #84024312075
- Blue Wilderness Trail Trays Turkey Grill, UPC #84024312077
Cause: Possible metal contamination (aluminum). Announcement: Company announcement dated Feb. 13, 2017. What was recalled: Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Healthy Weight, Chicken Dinner With Garden Vegetables, 12.5 oz. can, UPC #8-40243-10017-0, best by Aug. 3, 2019.
Cause: Possible mold. Announcement: News report dated May 31, 2016. What was recalled: 30 lb. bags of Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Fish and Sweet Potato Recipe dog food, best by April 11, 2017.
Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA report dated Nov. 25, 2015 (archived here). What was recalled: One lot of Cub Size Wilderness Wild Chews Bones, best by Nov. 4, 2017.
Cause: May contain low levels of propylene glycol. Announcement: FDA report dated Nov. 6, 2015 (archived here). What was recalled: 2 oz. pouches of Blue Kitty Yums Tasty Chicken Recipe cat treats, best by either April 24 or July 24, 2016.
Cause: Potentially too much Vitamin D. Announcement: FDA report dated Oct. 8, 2010 (archived here). What was recalled: The following packages of Blue Buffalo dry dog food:
- Blue Wilderness Chicken, 4.5 lb., best by JUL2611Z, JUL2711Z or JUL2811Z
- Blue Wilderness Chicken, 11 lb., best by JUL1211B
- Blue Wilderness Chicken, 24 lb., best by JUL1211B or JUL1311B
- Blue Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Salmon and Potato, 11 lb., best by AUG2111B or AUG2211B
- Blue Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Salmon and Potato, 24 lb., best by AUG2111B, SEP2311P or OCT2611P
- Blue Life Protection Formula Natural Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Large Breed Adult, 30 lb., best by SEP2211P, SEP2311P or OCT2611P
Cause: Melamine. Announcement: FDA report and firm press release dated April 27, 2007 (archived here and here). What was recalled: All of the following pet foods, nationwide, manufactured by American Nutrition Inc. (no dry pet foods were part of this recall):
- Blue Buffalo Blue canned dog food
- Blue Buffalo Blue dog treats
- Blue Buffalo Blue Spa Select canned cat food
Cause: Melamine. Announcement: FDA report dated April 19, 2007 (archived here). What was recalled: Blue Buffalo Spa Select Kitten dry food, 3 lb. and 7 lb. bags, best by MAR0708B. Just over 5,000 bags of this kitten food were produced using rice protein concentrate procured from Wilbur-Ellis, which later tested positive for melamine.
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