Pet Food Recall – Food Causing Death

Update on Pet Food Causing Death

Hi there – It’s Dr. Debra here. I wanted to give you another update on the pet food recall. Another recall came to my attention recently – it is for 52 pounds bags of pedigree (see below).

The newest recall is:

The recent statement issued by the California Department of Public Health concerning a voluntary recall of limited bags of 52-pound PEDIGREE(R) Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites is factually incorrect. The CDPH statement, also picked up by numerous Southern California news organizations, incorrectly implies that these bags have been recalled from Costco stores statewide. Mars Petcare US did voluntarily recall a limited number of 52-pound PEDIGREE® Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites bags from limited Costco stores in Northern California and Nevada only.

Costco has notified all of its customers in Northern California and Nevada about this issue directly.

Additionally, one hundred of the 20-pound bags of PEDIGREE® Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites sold in Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada Albertsons locations were also recalled.

Recalled Pet Food – Costco Northern California and Nevada

Product: PEDIGREE® Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites
Size: 52-pound bags
UPC Code: 23100 05110
Lot Code: 831BFCAT02 and 830DFCAT02
Best Buy Date: 07/2009
Best Buy
Date Location: Back of bag

Affected Stores: Northern California and Nevada. In an effort to prevent the transmission of Salmonella from pets to family members and care givers, the FDA recommends that everyone follow appropriate pet food handling guidelines when feeding their pets.

This is just a reminder for you to check the list frequently. I’d recommend that you review it each time you buy new pet food just to be safe.

As you know several brands have been recalled over the last several months. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “the most recent pet food recalls have been undertaken proactively, due to association with involved ingredients and suppliers rather than as the result of complaints that animals that have consumed the food and become ill.”

Pet Food Recall History

It appears that the recalled foods came to the attention of Menu Foods as early as February 20th, 2007. The attention came as reports of kidney failures in pets. Subsequent testing of the products lead to a bigger investigation which included feeding it to pets in which as many as 1 in 6 died after consuming products containing wheat gluten.

On March 16th, Menu Foods recalled 60 million containers of dog and cat food packaged under 95 brands. These foods were produced at two of its facilities. Since that time, the recall expanded to include over 130 brands. Most of the food recalls have been for canned and moist foods however, there have been recalled dry foods and dog biscuits recalled as well. The recall represents approximately 2% of pet foods. According to the American Veterinary Medical Associated, 98% of pet foods are unaffected by this recall.

Initially, the Agriculture Commissioner of New York State Patrick Hooker released information that Aminopterin, a form of rat poison, was found in some cat foods. Since then, it is believed that Aminopterin did not contribute to the deaths.

On March 30th, the FDA announced that melamine, a chemical used as a fertilizer and in the production of plastics, was found in tested samples of recalled pet food from Menu Foods. The substance was also identified in urine and tissue samples taken from sickened cats and from the kidney of one cat that had eaten the recalled food. According to the FDA, “Melamine is primarily used in Asia as a fertilizer but is not approved for that use in the United States. It is used in plastic kitchenware in this country.” Based on recent reports, it is believed that melamine was contaminated in the wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate and corn gluten all originating from China and distributed to the U.S. and Canada.

Initially products were recalled due to the contaminated wheat gluten but subsequent recalls have were due to contamination in the rice protein concentrate and corn gluten contamination. The Food and Drug Administration announced (FDA) that the contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate imported from China was mislabeled and was really wheat flour contaminated with melamine and melamine-related products. Currently many believe that the contamination was deliberate. It is thought that the Chinese added the melamine to the wheat gluten to increase the “protein” concentration of the product making it to appear to have a higher protein concentration than it really had. Melamine is rich in nitrogen which can give the illusion of protein. Recently, tests conducted on contaminated pet food and the necropsies of affected animals have suggested that a combination of chemicals-each alone, seemingly nontoxic, however together form insoluable substances that results in crystals that physically damage the kidneys. Two other melamine-related substances – ammelide and ammelin may also play roles and are under investigation. It is now believed that cyanuric acid, as well as melamine, has been found in urine samples from animals that died.”

It is not possible to test pets for melamine however there are some tests being done can identify the urine crystals. No one seems to know as to how much or if any other compounds were found. They also are not 100% certain if melamine is linked to the illness in deaths of the pets eating the recalled foods.

As you can tell, there are many unanswered questions. Reports are continuously being updated and there is still a lot that we don’t know. The FDA’s investigation remains active as they continue to investigate the problem and ensure that all contaminated product is removed from the market. According to the FDA, they are currently testing 100 % of wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate, corn gluten, corn meal, soy protein, and rice bran being imported from China for these contaminants.

The preliminary reports indicated that the affected foods caused over 16 deaths and may have caused illness in hundreds of others. Menu Food acknowledges receiving complaints of sick pets as early as February 20th. There have been no verified updated numbers but my guess is these numbers are high. Some reports have suggested as many as 3,600 deaths as of April 11th.

The food recall includes recalls from several companies with over 130 different brands and more than 5300 pet food products. The pet food recall affects both canned and dry formulas as well as treats.

They do know that the compound involved is causing kidney failure and it seems to affect cats worse than dogs. The most common signs of kidney failure are: vomiting, not eating, drinking more, urinating more and/or lethargy.

Pets affected with renal failure are treated with fluid therapy and supportive care.

If your pet is eating or was eating one of the recalled foods and is experiencing any symptoms, please call your veterinarian immediately. We recommend testing and treating all affected pets! If caught early, kidney failure can be treated successfully in some pets. For more information read about Kidney Failure in Dogs and Kidney Failure in Cats.

If you suspect your pet has been affected by the food – please read these steps to help your veterinarian with your pet’s diagnosis: Go to Advice to Pet Food Owner After National Recall.

Contaminated Animal Feeds

April 22nd, 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they continue their investigation of imported rice protein concentrate which was found to be contaminated with melamine and melamine-related compounds. FDA determined the rice protein was used in the production of pet food and a portion of the pet food was used to produce animal feed. Based on information currently available, FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating pork from swine fed the contaminated product would be very low.

At this time, we have no evidence of harm to humans associated with the processed pork product, and therefore no recall of meat products processed from these animals is being issued. Testing and the joint investigation continue. United States food safety officials stated on May 7th that there was a very low risk to human health from consuming meat from hogs and chickens known to have been fed animal feed supplemented with pet food scraps that contained melamine and melamine-related compounds. For more information on this, go to Joint Update: FDA-USDA Update on Tainted Animal Feed

If Your Suspect Your Dog Has Been Affected

If you suspect your pet has been affected by the food – please read these steps to help your veterinarian with your pet’s diagnosis Advice to Pet Food Owner After National Recall. This article gives recommendations and resources for veterinarians. If your pet has been affected, please print both articles and take them with you when you see your vet.

I sincerely hope that your pets are not affected. If you have any questions, send them to me. I won’t be able to respond to every email but I’ll try to include answers to your questions in my next update.


Dr. Debra