The Federal Trade Commission has approved a final Decision and Order settling a dispute with pet food producer Mars Petcare US, Inc. (“Mars”) related to advertisements for Mars’ Eukanuba brand dog food. The settlement arose from an FTC investigation into a number of television, print, and internet advertisements released by Mars in 2015 stating that, with Eukanuba and proper care, dogs could live 30 percent longer than their breed’s typical lifespan. Most of the advertisements cited a “long life study” of Labradors conducted by Mars in connection with these claims.

The FTC filed a complaint against Mars in 2015, alleging that Mars longevity claims were false, misleading, or unsubstantiated, and that the study cited by Mars was false and misleading because “scientific tests do not prove” that Eukanuba expands a dog’s lifespan 30 percent longer. The FTC announced last August that it reached settlement with Mars on these claims.

Pursuant to the Decision and Order, Mars will not make any express or implied representations in future advertising that its pet food products can enable dogs to live exceptionally long lives, can lead to dogs living 30 percent longer than their typical lifespan or contain health benefits unless the representations are supported by sufficient competent and reliable scientific evidence. The Decision and Order does not contain any admission of liability or wrongdoing by Mars.

Takeaway: Companies who wish to promote their products by reference to scientific studies or other specialized evidence should ensure that their evidence is sufficiently reliable and can withstand independent regulatory scrutiny.