Kansas City, Mo. Days after seeking to mollify customers' concerns about Greenies, the company that makes the country's top-selling dog treat finds itself still fighting through the fog.
Joe Roetheli, the chief executive of North Kansas City-based S&M; NuTec, last week told reporters he would reconsider language on Greenies packaging saying the treats were 100 percent edible.
He then said the company's own research showed dogs could digest only up to 85 percent of the treat, which he said was comparable to that of high-end dog food.
Roetheli said the company had since been inundated by phone calls from customers who were now concerned the treats, shaped like a bone on one end and a toothbrush on the other, weren't edible.
"In trying to clarify, we have confounded the issue," Roetheli said Monday in a written statement.
Chris Brandt, the company's general counsel, said in an interview that the company considered the treats fully edible because they were made with human-grade ingredients and didn't include plastic, rubber or other inedible substances.
He said that was different from how well the dog could digest the treat, adding that almost all foods - for dogs or for people - included ingredients the body can't break down and must eliminate as waste.
S&M; NuTec is on the defensive after a series of claims, and one lawsuit, from dog owners and veterinarians that undigested pieces of Greenies led to serious and sometimes fatal obstructions in dogs' digestive tracts.
The company blames the problems on dogs not adequately chewing the treats or owners giving their dogs Greenies that are too big or too small for them.
On Monday, Brandt said the company would switch to the new labels by the end of the year, but he said he didn't have a specific date.