The Honest Kitchen Wins Its Battle For Commercial Free Speech
The Honest Kitchen has prevailed in its six-month lawsuit against Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The result of the trial means the pet food company will be granted a license to sell its products in Ohio – and continue to label its products as human grade, without being forced to amend the labeling in any way. The department earlier this year refused to grant a license to The Honest Kitchen, to sell its dehydrated pet food products in the state, citing the fact that the labels were misleading because they describe the company’s pet foods as “human food grade”.
The court has ruled in favor of The Honest Kitchen, citing the company’s right to truthful, commercial free speech. Ohio Department had acknowledged that the pet food products were human food grade, yet claimed that stating the fact on the labels could be confusing to customers, who might be unable to determine if the diets were intended for animals or humans.
The court determined that the labels were not in fact untruthful or misleading and ruled that the company had a constitutional right to make truthful statements about the human grade quality of its products, on the labels.
The Honest Kitchen has been the only pet food manufacturer in the United States to have proven to the Federal FDA that every ingredient it uses in its products are suitable for human consumption, and the products are manufactured in a human food facility. The cat and dog diets are made right along side bakery mixes, and other products for human consumption.
Ohio regulatory authorities originally denied the company a feed license in January, 2007. The company responded by providing documentation to the department, which they refused to acknowledge. The company then requested an internal ‘non-oral administrative hearing’ in February. The hearing officer ruled in favor of its own department and at that point the company decided to hire legal counsel. Lawyers filed a notice of appeal. An appellant brief was filed in August. The judge reversed the decision of ODA and ruled in favor of The Honest Kitchen on November 6th.
“Food Grade and Feed Grade are references to quality of a finished product. Our products are made with ingredients of a quality or grade that makes them safe for a human to consume, yet formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats, in terms of actual nutritional content. They meet the AAFCO nutrient profiles like most other pet foods, but are made with ingredients of a higher grade.” Stated Lucy Postins, the company’s founder.
“We have received so many letters of support for our fight with the regulatory authorities. We even heard of customers driving across state lines to pick up their pets’ food, or having orders shipped to friends in neighboring states, because they were so desperate to continue feeding the products which helped with various conditions their dogs suffer from, on other commercial, feed-grade foods” Postins stated.
Nancy Winrod owner of The Grateful Dog Bakery (N. Ridgeville, OH), one of the company’s resellers, had commented, “I am a small business owner and have had to pull 3 quality products so far…. Yet the companies that sold tainted food are able to continue with their horrendous bi-products, rendered meats, and chemical preservatives. It is SO time the pet food industry turns around in favor of the pets in this state!
The Honest Kitchen was founded in 2002. It proved to FDA in 2004 that its products are legally human food grade and received a statement of no objection to the human food-grade claims, at that time. Business in Ohio is expected to continue as usual, very soon.