Toxin found in tainted pet food is used in rat poison

An ingredient used in rat poison that causes kidney
failure in cats and dogs and has been blamed for the deaths of at least 14
animals, was found in samples of Menu Foods cat food, New York State officials
said on Friday.

Aminopterin, a folic acid
derivative used in rat poison, was discovered in samples obtained from the
Ontario-based company, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker
said at a press conference.


Use of aminopterin is forbidden in the U.S. because
it can cause cancer and birth defects in humans as well as kidney failure in
dogs and cats, the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets
said.

“We are pleased that the expertise
of our New York State Food Laboratory was able to contribute to identifying the
agent that caused numerous illnesses and deaths in dogs and cats across the
nation,” Hooker said in a release.

Menu
Foods is located in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and has plants in Emporia,
Kansas, and Pennsauken, New Jersey, among
others.

Executives of Menu told reporters
in Toronto on Friday that they will begin testing all suspect raw materials, and
that they consider the possibility of tampering to be
“remote.”

“Some raw material has entered
our supply chain that did not meet the quality that had been represented,” Menu
Foods President Paul Henderson said at a press
conference.

On March 16, Menu Foods’
brands of its cuts-and-gravy wet pet food — marketed under a variety of brand
names, including Iams, Eukanuba, President’s Choice and Nutro Max Gourmet
Classics — were recalled.

The New York
State Food Laboratory found 40 parts per million of aminopterin in cat food
samples, but were waiting to hear from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on
how safe that level was and if it came from the wheat gluten that was previously
suspected of causing illnesses and deaths in pets, Department spokeswoman
Jessica Chittenden said.

The FDA said
previously that wheat gluten, which is used to thicken the gravy in wet pet
food, was the likely cause of
contamination.

Menu would not confirm or
deny earlier reports that identified wheat gluten from China as the suspect
ingredient.

“We’ll systematically go
through every ingredient and eliminate them as a possibility,” said Dr. Richard
Shields, Menu’s executive vice president. “We don’t believe our quality control
was lax.”

TRACKING IT
DOWN

The New York lab obtained the
food samples from a toxicologist at the New York Animal Health Diagnostic Center
at Cornell University, which has been testing samples to identify the cause of
kidney failure in dogs and cats.

The
company, which is majority owned by Menu Foods Income Fund, also makes a number
of different pet foods sold under private label and store brands at companies
including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Safeway Inc. and at specialty pet stores like
Petsmart Inc.

Menu Foods had said the
timing of the complaints coincided with the use of an ingredient from a new
supplier, but declined to name the supplier or the ingredient, which it said it
has stopped using. The company estimates the recall could cost it up to C$40
million.

Asked about compensation for
medical bills of sick pets, Menu Foods’ Henderson said “to the extent that we
identify that the cause of any expenses incurred are related to the food, Menu
will take responsibility for that.”

FDA
spokeswoman Julie Zawisza said it was investigating the finding by New York
authorities. The U.S. agency estimates the recalled products represent 1 percent
of all the pet food sold in the United
States.

Cornell’s College of Veterinary
Medicine Dean Donald Smith said the lab would now test wet dog food for the
toxin.

Units of Menu Foods Income Fund
closed up C$1.20 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, but are still down 32 percent
since the recall last Friday.

(Additional
reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman and Patrick Fitzgibbons in New York; Lisa Richwine
in Washington, D.C.; and Susan Olver in Toronto)


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Posted: 03/23/2007 at 07:14 PM
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Posted: 03/23/2007 at 07:14 PM
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