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ARGH!!! Seriously, what the ever-loving HELL is wrong with Menu Foods, the FDA, and ANY other company or agency involved with this disaster?!?! Sorry, but my frustration level has truly reached an all-time high after reading this most disturbing opening line in Menu Foods THIRD, yes THIRD recall list:

Prompted by reports from the US Food and Drug Administration as to the presence of melamine in cans of cuts and gravy pet food produced in Menu Foods’ Canadian production facility, Menu Foods undertook an accounting of all recalled wheat gluten supplied by ChemNutra Inc. to Menu Foods in the United States.

In this day and age with technological advancements running rampant, there is no, and I mean NO excuse for not being able to track anything at the drop of a hat. In this case that would mean Menu Foods should have done this “accounting” ages ago, along with the tracking of the tainted wheat gluten and ANY company affected by it being notified and recalling ALL their affected foods off the shelves—not days or weeks later.

And here is today’s Nutro press release recalling ALL wet pouched and canned foods made with wheat gluten.

Undoubtedly there is more to the story, but sorry folks, I have a raging toothache (so not fun) so I will research and post more later. I did want to make sure to at least get the latest Menu Foods and Nutro recall lists mentioned and posted for those who may not have heard about them. Click here for the most recent updates. (Well, as quickly as I can catch up with the never-ending stream of them.)

Pick a number. Any number between 14 and say, oh, how about 39,000? Well, it seems that is about as concrete as ANY number you’ll get regarding just how many poor, innocent pets have died due to the tainted wheat gluten used in possibly millions of containers of recalled pet food. The FDA and Menu Foods continue to stand by their statistic of 14-16 pets dead (majority of those from Menu Foods own “tasting trials”), while online pet web site, Pet Connection, had registered 3,598 owner-reported pet deaths by 4/9/07. Then to add even MORE mystery to the already shrouded in secrecy pet food contamination story, is what has the internet all abuzz: two “somewhat” different versions of an AP story by Andrew Bridges. I took screen shots of each and will also save the entire stories on a page on this blog so you can compare the differences yourself. And goodness knows how many more times the story might change. Kind of makes you wonder what sort of pressure Andrew Bridges and/or the Associated Press might be receiving (if any), and by whom?

Here’s the first version:

 

Then there is this later version:

 

 


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Happy Birthday, ASPCA!

 

 

 

While the latest development in the pet food contamination scandal ended up taking me away from the blog entry I was going to do on today being ASPCA Day, I can’t go without acknowledging the organization and its incredible work on behalf of animals, such as the beautiful one pictured here in a birthday tiara, my dearly departed Bailey. I adopted her from a shelter in June of 1992, and I was unbelievably fortunate to share 14 1/2 memorable and loving years with her. There are thousands upon thousands of animals in shelters RIGHT NOW, just waiting for you to open up your heart and your home. Trust me, doing so is something you (and the pet) will not regret. Just ask my current shelter boy pictured below, my goofball Rudy!

So let’s all gather ’round and sing a hearty version of “Happy Birthday” to the ASPCA, celebrating their 141st year of looking out for those who cannot look out for themselves; our furry, feathered, and finned friends (and any others that don’t fall into those categories ;)). While we all celebrate this fabulous occasion and “Go Orange for the Animals” in some form or fashion today, let’s also do our best YEAR ROUND to assist the ASPCA in its various efforts to end animal cruelty and find loving homes for all those pets who need them. Keep up the good work, ASPCA!

Menu Foods (Menu Foods US recall, Menu Foods Canada recall) and Del Monte have expanded their “voluntary” recall of pet food and pet treats to include items whose date of manufacture goes back to November 8th, 2006. That was when Menu Foods first began using wheat gluten provided by ChemNutra Inc., the company who imported the tainted wheat gluten from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd. in China. (See prior post here.) The initial recall by Menu Foods on March 16, 2007 was for food products manufactured from December 3, 2006-March 6, 2007.

On 4/6/07 Purina updated the FAQ section of their 3/30/07 press release to state:

The FDA announced April 5 that Menu Foods is expanding the dates of its recall of all chunk and gravy pet food products it produced. Has anything changed with regards to the range of Purina products affected?

  • No. Purina previously directed that all Mighty Dog 5.3-oz. pouch products were to be removed from shelf, regardless of date code. Because Menu Foods produced Mighty Dog pouch wet dog foods, the date range of recalled Mighty Dog pouch items now includes products produced between November 8, 2006, and March 14, 2007. Consumers should not feed products within these affected date codes. ALPO Prime Cuts in Gravy canned dog food, which was recalled by Purina on March 30, were produced at a Purina facility and are not affected by the Menu Foods announcement.No other Purina products are affected by the recall. No other Purina dog food products, no Purina wet or dry cat foods and no Purina treats are included in this recall nor have been impacted by the contaminated wheat gluten.

Since they have now narrowed down the tainted wheat gluten to a specific importer, with specific dates of use for pet food processing, I’ll cross my fingers that this is the LAST of the constantly changing recall lists. (Updated lists here.) Of course the way this situation continues to evolve, I don’t suppose I would be too surprised to see more products added. But we can hope, right?

I previously posted about the steps some of our government officials are taking in getting to the bottom of the pet food contamination disaster. Here is the press release from Sen. Dick Durbin’s office regarding the impending U.S. Senate oversight hearing:

DURBIN ANNOUNCES SENATE HEARING ON PET FOOD CONTAMINATION
Thursday, April 5, 2007
[CHICAGO, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced the U.S. Senate will hold an oversight hearing on the ongoing investigation and the regulatory mechanisms that govern the pet food industry as the widespread recall of contaminated pet food continues.

“Many cats, dogs and other pets, considered members of the family are now suffering as a result of a deeply flawed pet food inspection system,” said Durbin. “The FDA’s response to this situation has been tragically slow. Pet owners deserve answers. The uncertainty about what is safe to feed their pets has gone on far too long. I want to learn exactly when the FDA knew about the contamination, who is inspecting pet food manufacturing plants, and whether we need to force the FDA to update their regulations to protect our pets. Most importantly, I want to hear how the FDA is going to work to resolve the current crisis and ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Durbin, a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, is working with Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), the Chairman of the Subcommittee, to schedule the hearing shortly after the Senate returns from recess next week. Hearing witnesses will include FDA officials who will be questioned on the timeline of the investigation, the source of the contamination, and the agency’s regulatory and inspection responsibilities. The hearing will also include outside experts who will discuss the current state of the pet food industry, as well as regulatory or resource shortfalls that led to the widespread recall of tainted pet food.

While the FDA is reporting 15 animal deaths due to poisoning, the agency has received more than 10,000 complaints over the last several weeks. Reports of the actual number of animal deaths due to tainted food vary widely from other sources.

Durbin is urging the FDA to take action in three specific areas:

  • Delay in reporting. Menu Foods, Inc. first noticed a potential problem on February 20, 2007 but did not contact FDA until March 15, 2007. In the meantime, other companies were selling tainted product and the supplier wasn’t aware that it had provided wheat gluten contaminated with melamine. Durbin wants companies that delay reporting to the FDA and endanger human and animal health to face penalties.
  • Lack of inspections. The Emporia, Kansas Menu Foods facility where many of these products were made had never been inspected by the FDA. The agency has been relying on the states to conduct inspections, but the FDA has jurisdiction over all pet food manufacturing facilities and the ultimate responsibility to ensure facilities comply with FDA standards. Where there should be federal regulation, there is instead a patchwork of state inspection systems and voluntary guidance. Durbin wants to require the FDA to work with the states to establish a standardized set of regulations and inspection requirements.
  • Incomplete data and reporting from the FDA. Blogs and nonprofit websites have filled a gap and become the most efficient way to share information on contaminations. Durbin wants to direct the FDA to create a similar information sharing system that would allow state veterinarians, pet owners and others to alert the FDA of possible contaminations.

    TimelineOn March 16, 2007 Menu Foods, Inc. initiated a voluntary recall of 60 million cans and pouches of wet pet food. The recall involves 42 varieties of cat food and 53 varieties of dog food made at its Emporia, Kansas facility between December 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007.

    The FDA, which has jurisdiction over the regulation and inspection of pet food processing facilities, announced the recall on March 17, 2007. According to FDA, it was first notified of the contamination on March 15, 2007.

    In addition to the Menu Foods recall of 95 different labels of pet food, the recall was expanded between March 16 and March 31, 2007 to at least 4 more makers of pet food, all well-respected premium brand companies – Nestle Purina, maker of Alpo; Hill’s Pet Nutrition, maker of Prescription Diet; P&G Pet Care, maker of Iams and Eukanuba; and Del Monte.

    On March 26, 2007, in response to reports that Menu Foods and FDA were underreporting the number of animal illnesses (acute kidney failure) and deaths attributed to the contamination, Durbin and Congresswoman DeLauro sent a letter to Andrew von Eschenbach, Commissioner of the FDA, requesting that within 15 days the FDA provide information on the number of pet food manufacturing inspections and violations, a detailed timeline of the situation, an analysis of FDA’s oversight of pet food manufacturing facilities and a report of actions taken since the recent pet food recall. A response is due by April 10, 2007.

    On March 30, the FDA discovered that the source of the contamination was a melamine-contaminated batch of wheat gluten imported from China by a Chinese company called Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd, which is based in Wangdien, China. The same day, in response to the Xuzhou discovery, FDA issued guidelines blocking imports of wheat gluten from that company and stepped up inspections of all Chinese wheat gluten shipments.

    On April 3, Nevada-based ChemNutra announced that it was the firm that had imported the contaminated wheat gluten and that it then provided the gluten to pet food companies. According to ChemNutra, all the wheat gluten went to pet food companies and should not be in the human food supply. ChemNutra initiated a nationwide recall of the contaminated wheat gluten product on April 2, 2007.

  • Sometimes you just do NOT want to be right about something, and many of us did NOT want to be right about the list of recalled items expanding over time, nor did we want to be right about the tainted wheat gluten making it into human food processing plants. Yet here we are with yet ANOTHER recall notice from the FDA today, added to the alarming report this week from the Boston Globe.

    The recall today affects another branded and private-label pet food manufacturer, Sunshine Mills Inc., and includes: Nurture Chicken & Rice, Nurture Lamb & Rice, Pet Life Large, Pet Life Extra Large, Pet Life Large Variety, Pet Life Large Peanut Butter, Lassie Lamb and Rice (AKA Natural Way Dog Biscuits baked with Lamb & Rice), Pet Life People Pleasers Dog Treats, Companion’s Best Multi Flavor Biscuit, Stater Brothers Large Biscuit, Ol’Roy Peanut Butter Biscuit, Ol’Roy 4 Flavor Large Biscuit, Ol’Roy Puppy Biscuit, Champion Breed Peanut Butter Biscuit, Champion Breed Large Biscuit, Perfect Pals Large Biscuit, Stater Brothers Large Biscuit. I will add the code information with other recalled pet food information on the Pet food recall info/posts page.

    I noticed the FDA has revamped their Pet Food Recall page, which is a sad sign to me that this situation is going to be with us for some time. I also found this Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts page, which I hadn’t seen before. Oh, and can I just vent for a moment and ask all the affected companies and the FDA to STOP SAYING that other products are safe and we do not need to worry! Kind of hard for us to buy into that idea since practically every other day we’re getting news of more items being recalled. Just tell us, once and for all, the names of all companies which received the tainted wheat gluten so WE, the consumers, can make our own decisions about what is and isn’t safe. Simple request, in my opinion.

    ***Just got another recall notice (American Bullie A.B. Bull Pizzle Puppy Chew and Dog Chew [made from all American beef pizzle]) from the FDA in my mail, but this is another SALMONELLA-related one (not Menu Foods-related), similar to this one from 3/25.***

    Really quick programming note that I, unfortunately, JUST found out about. Flipped on the TV and discovered that Anderson Cooper 360° is going to report from China regarding the pet food recall. Just now airing here on the West Coast, but maybe those in other time zones can check it out on a replay or perhaps they’ll have some info on his CNN site. Off to watch!

    —Okay, I watched the segment and while I am grateful that they are helping to keep the spotlight on this situation, I was a bit disappointed in how short the segment was. It was about 5 minutes into the show, and was only about five minutes in length. They did replay the segment later in the show (about 90 minutes into the two hour show) and included with that airing some emails viewers had sent in thanking CNN for airing a segment the night before. I had missed the previous night’s segment, but did just find this video on CNN’s site about the company (Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd.) that the FDA listed as the supplier of the tainted wheat gluten. If you type in “pet food recall” into the media player search engine, you’ll get about 6 other videos on the topic. I didn’t see one up yet from tonight’s Anderson Cooper 360° show. NOTE: I usually use Firefox, but had to open up Internet Explorer to get the media player to operate properly.

    While tonight’s segment was short, it did at least point out the ridiculous inconsistencies in the pet death statistic the FDA continues to stand by (14 pets dead…and didn’t Menu Foods already tell us most of those were from their own tasting trials?), even though the FDA has said it has received approximately 10,000 complaints, and Pet Connection has had over 3,000 pet deaths recorded to their database by pet owners.

    Also explained in fairly good detail was the melamine connection and how it may have affected the kidneys in pets. The University of Guelph (Canada) was mentioned, so of course I just HAD to head to their web site to see what I could dig up, and found this interesting list when I entered “melamine” in their search engine.

    Again, while I wish the segment tonight was longer (apparently last night’s show focused on the situation more), I am very grateful to CNN for not letting this story slip on down the “Top Story” ladder.

    So it looks like we now have not only the name of the company that provided the tainted wheat gluten to Menu Foods, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd., but we are now also hearing from the importer of that wheat gluten, ChemNutra Inc., by way of a press release (included below).

    So one would think we’re getting all the answers now, right? Wrong. It only becomes more muddled when Xuzhou Anying now says they did NOT manufacture the wheat gluten, but had actually bought it elsewhere! Read more here. This whole supplier, importer, broker, thing really has me questioning who the heck really knows what goes into our food and who do we assume will regulate that for us? The FDA? Not feeling the love OR the trust on that front.

    Another alert poster to this blog, Joe from Friday Morning After (Thanks, Joe!), linked to an article on the thread “Who provided Menu Foods wheat gluten?“, which supports our fear about the tainted wheat gluten getting into our human food supply (or at least the plants which process our food), and not just in the pet food supply. It is now being confirmed in this article by Diedtra Henderson, with the Boston Globe.

    ROCKVILLE, Maryland: The tainted wheat gluten that triggered a massive pet food recall also ended up in processing plants that prepare food consumed by people, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said…

    Now did any of us REALLY think that there was NO possibility that this would happen? I think not.

     

    However, there is this report from CBS news which conflicts the Boston Globe report. In this article Stephen Miller, CEO of ChemNutra Inc., says that none of the contaminated wheat gluten ended up in human food manufacturing plants. ChemNutra Inc. was the importer of the tainted wheat gluten from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd., which was the company who provided the wheat gluten to Menu Foods.

    Here is the press release from ChemNutra Inc. dated April 3, 2007:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 3, 2007

    CHEMNUTRA ANNOUNCES NATIONWIDE WHEAT GLUTEN RECALL
    Las Vegas, NV… April 3, 2007… ChemNutra Inc., of Las Vegas, Nevada, yesterday recalled all wheat gluten it had imported from one of its three Chinese wheat gluten suppliers – Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd.
    The wheat gluten ChemNutra recalled was all shipped from China in 25 kg. paper bags, and distributed to customers in the same unopened bags. The bags were all labeled “Wheat Gluten Batch No.: _______ Net Weight: 25 kg Gross Weight: 25.1 kg Made in China”. The batch numbers included in the recall are 20061006, 20061027, 20061101, 20061108, 20061122, 20061126, 20061201, 20061202, 20061203, 20061204, 20061205, 20061206, 20061208, 20061221, 20070106, 20070111, 20070116, and 20070126.

    Each ChemNutra shipment had the certificate of analysis information from the supplier, including batch number and the supplier’s content analysis and test results. ChemNutra shipped from its Kansas City warehouse to three pet food manufacturers and one distributor who supplies wheat gluten only to the pet food industry. ChemNutra’s shipments commenced November 9, 2006 and ended March 8, 2007. ChemNutra did not ship to facilities that manufacture food for human consumption, and the distributor ChemNutra shipped to supplies wheat gluten only to pet food manufacturers. The total quantity of Xuzhou Anying wheat gluten shipped was 792 metric tons.

    ChemNutra learned on March 8 from one pet food manufacturer that the wheat gluten it had sold them – all from the Xuzhou Anying – was among ingredients suspected as a potential cause of pet food problems. ChemNutra immediately quarantined its entire wheat gluten inventory and assisted this customer’s investigation.

    After that manufacturer issued a pet food recall, the FDA immediately commenced a thorough investigation of ChemNutra’s wheat gluten, including documentation analysis, inspection, and laboratory testing. ChemNutra cooperated fully with the FDA and immediately notified its other three wheat gluten customers about the FDA’s investigation. Those customers had all purchased smaller amounts of the Xuzhou Anying wheat gluten commencing in January, 2007.

    On Friday, March 30, the FDA announced they had found melamine in samples of the wheat gluten ChemNutra had imported from Xuzhou Anying. The FDA did not inform ChemNutra of any other impurities in the Xuzhou Anying wheat gluten, nor of any impurities in the wheat gluten from ChemNutra’s other two Chinese suppliers.

    The toxicity of melamine is not clear. However, since melamine is not approved by the FDA for pet food, it should absolutely not have been in wheat gluten. ChemNutra is extremely concerned about the purity of all of its products. The company is particularly troubled that the certificates of analysis provided by the above-named supplier did not report the presence of melamine.
    ChemNutra wants to ensure its products are safe. Consequently, in addition to its ongoing cooperation with the FDA, ChemNutra will be conducting its own independent, analytical tests of wheat gluten from all of its suppliers.

    Yesterday ChemNutra sent recall notices to all four of its direct customers. If any other company received bags of recalled wheat gluten from the lot numbers referenced above, please call ChemNutra at 702.818.5019.

    Consumers who have questions about the pet food they should go to the FDA’s website at http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01590.html. This website lists all brands of petfood involved, with links to the manufacturer who should be contacted with questions.

    4/6/07: Here’s an interesting article about China actually getting into the investigation process.

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    POSTS for 3/17-8/22:

    • 3/18/07: Science Diet has added some of their foods to the voluntary recall list. Pets HAVE died and others are suffering severe health problems, so PLEASE check this new list AND the ones I listed above. Thank you! Science Diet Recall (On 3/30/07 Science Diet recalled feline m/d)
    • 3/18/07 10:15PM PST: The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is even posting information which shows just how far-reaching this has become. They even have a web page with information on how to register adverse reactions/consumer complaints. I appreciate that so many of you are reading as much as you can about this and staying on top of the situation. What wonderful owners your pets have! 🙂 And PLEASE continue to spread the information to AS MANY folks as you can, and have THEM stay on top of it as well. I’ll definitely continue to add information as I find out about it.
    • 3/19/07 11:10 AM PST: Looks like Menu Foods has another press release, which interestingly enough says it’s not for US newswire services, whatever THAT really means. It’s in PDF format and can be accessed from their main recall page.
    • 3/20/07 11:20 AM PST: It is disconcerting to hear that in February, Menu Foods apparently was notified of the problems with pets eating certain Menu Foods produced food, did their own testing in which approximately 17% of the tested pets died, yet it wasn’t until March 16th that the recall was announced?!?! I am obviously no expert on how these things work, but it sure seems to me that the motto of “better safe than sorry” should have been in place LONG BEFORE March 16th! Menu Foods recall notice states:

    “We take these complaints very seriously and, while we are still looking for a specific cause, we are acting to err on the side of caution” said Paul K. Henderson, President and CEO, Menu Foods. “We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that our products maintain the very highest quality standards.”

    Seems to me that “acting to err on the side of caution” would have meant alerting consumers about the problems MUCH sooner than they did. According to news reports, Menu Foods was alerted by pet owners about deaths and renal failure on February 20th, Menu Foods began their own tests February 27th where between 15%-20% of the pets they tested died, yet the recall was not announced until March 16th, THREE WEEKS AFTER they were first alerted of the deaths and health issues?!?!

    I certainly hope to hear SOME type of logical explanation SOON from Menu Foods, but until then all I can assume is that $$$$ (especially since in their initial press release on 3/16/07 they repeatedly mention how much the recall could cost their company) and probable financial loss is what had Menu Foods dragging their feet, while their consumers were unknowingly feeding their beloved pets food which could possibly kill them, if not leave them with painful health issues and enormous veterinary bills which many owners cannot truly afford. I worked in the veterinary field for nearly 7 years and know the high cost of health care for pets, along with having had expensive medical situations with my own pets. But that is what pet owners do, they care for their pets as if they were members of their family, which they are (just four-legged instead of two-legged), and will put themselves into debt just to make sure their pets get the best care possible. Unfortunately there will be pets whose health care costs related to the issues from the tainted food will be too high for some owners to absorb, and they will then have to make the heartbreaking choice to have their beloved pet euthanized.

    Come on Menu Foods, let’s get cracking on finding some solutions here. I think everyone understands that “accidents” and “mistakes” do happen in life, which might possibly explain how the food became tainted in the first place, but the part I’m having the hardest time understanding right now is why the recall took so long to be announced to consumers. What do you have to say Menu Foods? You have countless pet owners looking to you for answers.

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