BBB National Programs Archive

NARB Recommends Doskocil Discontinue Implied Odor Reduction Claims for Cat Litter Pans, Following Van Ness Challenge

New York, NY – May 20, 2019 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has found that Doskocil Manufacturing Company, Inc., doing business as Petmate, did not provide proper support for an implied odor-reduction benefit communicated by its antimicrobial protection claims for Petmate Cat Litter Pans, and recommended that such claims be discontinued.  The advertising at issue had been challenged by Van Ness Plastic Molding Company, a manufacturer of competing cat litter pans, before the National Advertising Division (NAD). The NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Following the NAD’s decision, Petmate sought review by the NARB, the appellate unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation.

The antimicrobial protection-claims at issue appeared on product packaging for Petmate cat litter pans sold under the well-known consumer brand Arm & Hammer.  On the principal package panel, above a product description, the following appears prominently: “With Built-In Antimicrobial Product Protection.” Below the product description, in smaller but still easy-to-read letters, the package states: “Inhibits the Growth of Odor-Causing Bacteria on the Pan” in solid capital letters.  These claims are based on the incorporation into the plastic of an established antimicrobial agent, Microban “Additive B,” supplied by Microban Company.

In its decision, NAD determined that the challenged Petmate advertising conveys a health benefit claim of antimicrobial protection against the possible spread of disease.  The NARB panel did not agree, concluding that when fairly read in context, the challenged package claims do not convey a health-related message.

However, the NARB panel agreed with NAD’s finding that the challenged advertising communicates a strong, implied, odor-protection or odor-improvement message. With regard to Petmate’s scientific evidence offered in support of this message, which consisted of supplier testing showing antimicrobial activity on the surface of the plastic pans, the NARB panel agreed with NAD’s conclusion that such test method does not show whether users of the cat litter pans will detect a difference in the odor emanating from the pan. Thus, Petmate’s testing does not substantiate the consumer relevance of the implied odor reduction claims, and the NARB panel recommended that they be discontinued.

Petmate stated that although it “is disappointed that the NARB panel did not conclude that the test data it considered supported the claim that the antimicrobial treatment on the cat litter pans ‘inhibits the growth of odor-causing bacteria on the pan,’ Petmate agrees to comply with the panel’s decision and will discontinue the challenged odor claim.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD or NARB to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.