ATLANTA - Complaints have been pouring in from across Georgia and nationwide about a popular dog food made in metro Atlanta.
Channel 2 consumer investigator Jim Strickland found pet owners who are convinced a food from a Purina plant in south Fulton County harmed their animals.
Nestle Purina says its kibble, Beneful, is safe. Strickland learned recent state lab tests are clean, but complaints are clogging the blogosphere.
"(My dogs) became very lethargic, both of them; sleeping all day, sleeping all night," pet owner Jan Zmich, of Powder Springs, told Strickland.
Zmich and husband Michael have two dogs and plenty of suspicions about their symptoms.
"You couldn't get them to play. You couldn't get them to do anything but just lay there," Jan Zmich said.
The Zmichs had fed Beneful for five years without incident and without concern. They started to become concerned when, along with lethargy, came a mysterious growth on their dog Tasha.
"I didn't know what it was honestly," said Jan Zmich said. "I didn't think it was the food. I thought maybe they just caught a bug. But then I heard about Beneful."
She found what Strickland found: a recent spike of complaints on the watchdog website consumeraffairs.com. Posters complained of lethargy, vomiting and the occasional tumor.
Kathy Mattes, of Cherokee County, posted on the site about her dog Lucy.
"She was lethargic, and at one point she was having seizures. She had a couple of them," Mattes said.
"You're convinced it was the food?" Strickland asked.
"Oh, very much so," Mattes replied.
The pet owners said their dogs' health instantly improved when they changed foods. Mattes and the Zmichs have disposed of the food at issue, so it couldn't be tested.
"These anecdotal stories; you really got to put the big picture together and see what is the
lifestyle of the dog? The dog could be eating rabbit turds," cautioned veterinarian Michael Good of Town and County Animal Clinic in Marietta.
Good said the spike in complaints may simply be piling on, online.
Purina is out front on the web as well with an FAQ page addressing what it calls "social media-driven misinformation."
Purina sent Strickland an email saying they use the strictest quality control procedures in the industry, and that there are no issues with Beneful.
They refused an on-camera interview and tour of their Fairburn plant.
Last May, state regulators took several Beneful samples, looking specifically for E. coli and salmonella. They found none.
"If there's a problem you should go see your veterinarian, and get to the bottom of the problem before you cast and blame it on the food," Good said.
There are about 500 complaints now on the consumeraffairs.com website. The FDA told Strickland they have about 20 percent as many.
Purina said that number pales in comparison to the 1.5 billion servings of Beneful dogs ate last year.