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Recall of pet food alarms owners

Vets report a surge in calls after many big-name brands are pulled from shelves.

March 19, 2007|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

Worries about food safety hit America's pet owners last weekend as they came to grips with a dog and cat food recall affecting 88 brands of mostly canned "cuts and gravy" selections.

In all, about 60 million cans and foil pouches of items made by Streetsville, Canada-based Menu Foods Income Fund were being recalled.

As the food became linked to at least 10 recent animal deaths, pet owners began making nervous calls to their veterinarians and flooding the Canadian company's phone lines. Many of the best-known U.S. brands of pet food are on the recall list.

Patrick McElroy was annoyed and a little nervous Sunday while playing with his dog Eli at the Silver Lake dog park. "I did recently just buy three to four cans of Mighty Dog," he said. "I guess I'm just going to throw it out and not think about it. It's not even worth the chance."

McElroy expressed anger at the recall, particularly at a time when there have been increasing reports of contaminated foods.

"It's indicative of the trend of the entire country -- not just dog food but human food too. If my dog ever died, I'd be outraged."

The large number of brands affected -- all made by the same company at a Kansas facility from Dec. 3 to March 6 -- also caught people's attention.

The list included big names such as Iams, Eukanuba and other private-label brands sold at major retailers. Nestle Purina PetCare Co. and Hills Pet Nutrition Inc. also voluntarily recalled some of their products made by Menu Foods.

"Oh my god, Eukanuba, too?" said Victoria Levy, 31, of the brand she occasionally buys for her teacup Yorkshire terrier. "That's so disturbing. When they put food on the shelves, you trust that it's safe."

On Sunday, an investigative team from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration collected more samples from the Menu Foods plant in Emporia, Kan., for testing and analysis. No cause had been identified.

Menu Foods spokeswoman Sarah Tuite said the complaints from consumers coincided with use of a new ingredient from a new supplier, but she declined to give more details until tests confirmed the problem. The company has stopped using the ingredient.

Most retailers have pulled the recalled products from their shelves. Now the FDA is encouraging consumers to check the company's website at www.menufoods.comfor specific recall information, including Universal Product Codes. They should purge their cupboards if necessary, said David Elder, the FDA's enforcement director. Distribution of the food appears to be nationwide and not necessarily isolated to a specific region.

The company's stock Friday dived nearly 26% on the Toronto Stock Exchange when news of the recall surfaced. The company said the recall could cost it $40 million.

The FDA is tracking reports of sick pets, Elder said. Local FDA offices can be reached through the agency's website at www.fda.gov.

Local pet clinics reported a surge in calls, and some veterinarians said they had treated potential cases. The recalled food may be causing kidney failure, whose symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy.

Joel Pasco, a Costa Mesa veterinarian, said he treated a Yorkshire terrier Saturday that had suffered intermittent vomiting for a week. It had been fed one of the recalled pet foods. Lab tests were due back today.

"Those are common symptoms in dogs, whether it be spoiled food in a garbage can or food that was poisoned when it came out of the can, which is extremely rare," Pasco said.

Los Angeles pet owner Charles Marder fears his Belgian shepherd Ranger may have become sick after eating nine cans of recalled Iams food last week.

"He would just throw himself on the floor and start whimpering," said Marder, who took Ranger to the vet Thursday. "He would just be laying down and then just defecate."

After he heard about the recall, Marder made another appointment.

Greg Collins, 40, said he immediately checked the list. "I was like, 'Whew,' " he said. "Your dogs are your kids. Knowing the way owners are, they'll do like I did and they'll scramble to see which brands were responsible."

kimi.yoshino@latimes.com

For a more detailed list of recalled items, go to latimes .com/petfood.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Off the shelves

Menu Foods is recalling 88 brands of gravy-style dog and cat food. Specific lot numbers can be found at www.menufoods.com. The brands are:

Dog food

* Americas Choice, Preferred Pets

* Authority

* Award

* Best Choice

* Big Bet

* Big Red

* Bloom

* Bruiser

* Cadillac

* Companion

* Demoulas Market Basket

* Eukanuba

* Food Lion

* Giant Companion

* Great Choice

* Hannaford

* Hill Country Fare

* Hy-Vee

* Iams

* Key Food

* Laura Lynn

* Loving Meals

* Meijers Main Choice

* Mighty Dog

* Mixables

* Nutriplan

* Nutro Max

* Nutro Natural Choice

* Ol'Roy Canada & US

* Paws

* Pet Essentials

* Pet Pride -- Good 'n Meaty

* Presidents Choice

* Price Chopper

* Priority

* Publix

* Roche Bros

* Save-A-Lot

* Schnucks

* Shep Dog

* Springfield Prize

* Sprout

* Stater Bros.

* Total Pet, My True Friend

* Western Family

* White Rose

* Winn Dixie

* Your Pet

Cat food

* Americas Choice, Preferred Pets

* Authority

* Best Choice

* Companion

* Compliments

* Demoulas Market Basket

* Eukanuba

* Fine Feline Cat

* Food Lion

* Foodtown

* Giant Companion

* Hannaford

* Hill Country Fare

* Hy-Vee

* Iams

* Key Food

* Laura Lynn

* Li'l Red

* Loving Meals

* Meijers Main Choice

* Nutriplan

* Nutro Max Gourmet Classics

* Nutro Natural Choice

* Paws

* Pet Pride

* Presidents Choice

* Price Chopper

* Priority

* Save-A-Lot

* Schnucks

* Science Diet (limited)

* Sophisticat

* Special Kitty Canada & US

* Springfield Prize

* Sprout

* Total Pet, My True Friend

* Wegmans

* Western Family

* White Rose

* Winn Dixie

--

Source: The Associated Press

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