Monday, April 30, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Well, it was going good until that last comment.
The value of Menu Foods Income Trust Fund units recovered slightly this week as short sellers reduced their positions in the belief the worst of the pet food recall might be coming to a close.
(I don't believe this is the case, time will of course tell)
But problems at the underlying operating company, Menu Foods Inc., are far from over.
A month after issuing one of North America's largest pet food recalls, the Mississauga-based company faces a slew of lawsuits from angry consumers and an uncertain future.
The recall affects 60 million units of "cuts and gravy style" dog and cat food, sold in cans and foil pouches. They're sold under a variety of brand names through virtually every major supermarket chain, pet specialty retailer and mass merchant in North America, from Wal-Mart to Loblaws to Petsmart.
Production for one of its biggest customers, Procter & Gamble's Iams/Eukanuba brand, remains halted.
Well that's good news.
All of which will have "a significant impact" on the company's financial results this year, chief executive officer Paul Henderson acknowledged in a press conference last month. The hit could reach $40 million, the company estimated.
Investors will get a better glimpse of the initial cost once the company publishes its quarterly results for the period ending March 31. The period includes the first two weeks of the recall.
The company has yet to announce when it might release those results. By law, it has until May 15 to do so.
But the impact on Menu Foods and the wider pet food industry could last much longer as it struggles to regain consumers' trust amid reports the death toll reaches into the thousands.
"We expect to see a severe financial impact on Menu's business," Mary McKee, an analyst with CIBC World Markets, wrote in a research report shortly after the company issued the recall March 16.
She cited both the immediate cost of the recall, future cost of defending itself against legal action, and the longer-term damage to its reputation.
Officially, only 16 pets died as a result of consuming wet pet food containing "adulterated" wheat gluten imported from China. But veterinary groups in Canada and the U.S. report the number is far higher.
The ingredient, used to thicken wet pet food sold in cans and pouches, was found to contain melamine, a substance used to make plastic, fertilizer and fire retardant. U.S. investigators are probing the possibility it was deliberately added to boost the protein content of the wheat gluten to accepted levels.
On March 16, the day Menu Foods announced the recall, its unit value plunged 25 per cent.
It was a tough blow for a company that had just completed a major turnaround. Already hammered by federal tax changes that hurt all income trusts last fall, Menu Foods had recently recovered from a difficult period that saw sales and profits hurt by a rising Canadian dollar and higher aluminum costs.
Few pet food owners had ever heard of Menu Foods before the recall. That's not surprising, given that all of its business involves making pet food for sale under other retailers' and companies' brands.
Founded in Streetsville 35 years ago by Donald Green, who bought the plant from Quaker Oats Co., Menu Foods was largely a regional player until former Loblaw executive Robert Bras got involved in 1977.
Bras, who had worked alongside Dave Nichol at Loblaw, saw Menu Foods' future in the burgeoning market for private label. Once scorned by consumers as cheap second-rate products, store brands were just emerging as an attractive alternative to big national names. Cheaper than the big brands, but more profitable for the stores, it was a win for both retailers and consumers. Nichol was a big part of that story as the marketing whiz behind Loblaw's President's Choice label.
By the time Menu Foods went public in 2002, it boasted $234 million in sales, based on an annual compound growth rate of 21.2 per cent a year. Its customers included most of the top supermarket chains, mass merchants and pet specialty retailers, from Wal-Mart to Petsmart.
But some original owners, now in their 70s, were seeking to cash out. The company went public amid the income trust craze, raising $129 million. Soon after, Bras unexpectedly died.
Serge Darkazanli, a director of Menu Foods General Partners and former CEO of Westfair Foods Ltd., came out of retirement to head the company.
Over the next two years, Menu Foods invested heavily in new plants and equipment, according to its annual information form filed with regulators last month. The company expanded further into foil pouches, a new style of packaging favoured by higher-end brands. It bought a wet canned food manufacturing facility from P&G/Iams in South Dakota and entered an exclusive five-year contract to meet the pet food giant's needs.
It raised another $85 million (U.S.) in senior secured notes and $36.5 million in trust units to pay down debt and fund further expansions, including the purchase of two warehouses in Kansas and New Jersey.
But by mid-2005, the company was in trouble, breaching covenants with lenders as it missed targets amid a rising Canadian dollar and higher aluminum costs. Darkazanli retired and was replaced by Henderson.
During 2006, the company initiated several price increases and sales and profits improved. In February 2007, it had renegotiated the terms of its loans and secured senior debt.
The future looked rosy.
The North American market for pet food, at $15.5 billion a year, seemed to have nowhere to go but up as more households adopted pets and more pet owners shifted to premium brands.
While the recall has set the company back, analysts said, Menu Foods' sheer size may be its saving grace.
The company dominates the $3.2 billion a year wet food segment. Its rivals are mainly local or regional players who can't compete effectively for space on national retail shelves.
As well, it's no longer alone in this mess. Two rival pet food makers, Del Monte Foods and Nestlé-Purina, have disclosed problems in their own facilities with the same ingredient in the weeks since Menu Foods first came forward.
Menu Foods "continues to enjoy the confidence and support of its creditors and lenders," said spokesperson Sam Bornstein.
Monday, April 9, 2007
Misnavigating The Pet Food Crisis
Marc E. Babej and Tim Pollak
The tainted pet food crisis has roiled a passionate market. And the story isn't dying: As the recalls mount, and the threat moves from cuts-in-gravy to staple dry food and even to treats, feeding pets seems like Russian roulette. How have the pet food companies involved reacted? Too little, too late--and, for the most part, the wrong way.
For most pet-owning families, their pets are family. This is hardly news to the nation's pet food manufacturers, but it might as well be. They've been strangely, almost eerily, silent. Such behavior consumers might expect from a big, impersonal corporation, but not from the people who make the food for their beloved pets.
A recent tour of their Web sites was almost surreal. As you might expect, the worst offender was Menu Foods, maker of the majority of the food affected by the recall. Rather than a heartfelt apology, the Menu Foods site displays puppies joyfully eating out of bowls emblazoned with the corporate name.
The consumer brands aren't doing much better. The home pages of Hill's Pet Nutrition, Del Monte Foods and Nestlé Purina PetCare offered links to press releases that sound like the product of a chemist, a lawyer and a publicist huddled around a conference table. MasterFoods trumpeted its non-involvement. Iams also led with good news: "This recall does not affect any Iams or Eukanuba products marketed outside of the U.S. and Canada." But what about their North American customers? Two more clicks, and buried in a page of technical copy is the following line: "We want you to know that we care deeply, and we continue to take action on your behalf." Sounds good--but what actions are they taking?
To Iams' credit, so far alone among this caring crew, it ran a national newspaper ad acknowledging the crisis. It expressed the sentiment that its employees were "heartsick that any of our products were involved," but provided little in the way of reassurance to jittery pet owners. Worst of all, the ad said nothing of substance about the steps being taken to ensure this would never happen again.
So far, pet food brands have been hiding behind each other, feeling secure in the knowledge that their collective market dominance leaves pet owners with few options. Sure, there are alternatives--high-priced organic specialty foods such as Merrick or Abady, or the fresh, refrigerated dog foods being rolled out to national retailers by Freshpet. Even homemade recipes have been getting a lot of attention. But these options can't possibly satisfy the hunger of an estimated 100 million America dogs and cats.
What should the industry be doing?
First, say you're sorry. Act like you really care about the animals. You may not think you owe an apology, but in pet owners' minds, you do.
Second, offer to replace the pet food in people's pantries, even it it's not your brand. Every new recall announcement creates more doubt about the food that's already out in the market. It might not be the cheapest solution, but it would buy a lot more goodwill than an ad campaign.
Third, stop being defensive. Simply reassuring people your other products are safe isn't very reassuring. After all, a few weeks ago, you were de facto assuring that all your products were safe. Do you trust the guy who says "just trust me" right after he messed up? Probably not. To regain consumers' trust, pet food brands have to give consumers reasons to trust that their food is safe.
Fourth, offer some substance. Explain what really happened, and what specific steps you are taking now to prevent something like this from happening again.
Fifth, send a message from the top. Jim Burke, the legendary head of Johnson & Johnson (nyse: JNJ - news - people ), personally managed the 1982 Tylenol crisis. The pet food manufacturers are all hiding behind their brands--to wit, the full-page ad signed by "The Employees of Iams and Eukanuba Pet Foods," not by A.G. Lafley, the CEO of Procter & Gamble (nyse: PG - news - people ), which owns both brands. The pet owners of America deserve to hear from the CEOs to whom they entrust the health and well-being of their pets. There are differences between this crisis and Tylenol's, but there is no less need for corporate courage, integrity and leadership.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
The fear and outrage surrounding the death of beloved Fidos and Fifis around the country from contaminated pet food isn't going away. Another recall was announced on Thursday, as officials added pet treats made by Sunshine Mills, a company based in Red Bay, Alabama, to the list of retracted products, because of the possibility it may have used contaminated wheat gluten. And Menu Foods Ltd. — which announced its first recall of 60 million dog and cat food products packaged under various brand names three weeks ago — extended the recall date to foods made between Nov. 8 and Mar. 6.
Since the scare began, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed 16 pet deaths, although anecdotal evidence suggests thousands more may have died because of the poisonous food. The FDA points to the inexplicable appearance of melamine, an industrial binding chemical used in plastic furniture, cookware, and in fertilizers overseas, as the likely cause. Lab tests found it in wheat gluten, a gravy thickener used in wet pet food. (Melamine is also used in human food such as baked goods and meat substitutes, but there is no indication the tainted wheat gluten has made it into human food.) "The association between melamine in the kidneys and urine of cats that died and melamine in the food they consumed is undeniable," says the FDA on its website. "Melamine is an ingredient that should not be in pet food at any level."
Still, the FDA says it cannot be sure melamine is the culprit. Here are the chief unanswered questions in the continuing pet-food mystery.
What Caused the Deaths?
Richard Goldstein, associate professor of medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, who is part of a Cornell team investigating the cause of death, says he would not normally expect melamine to kill a pet. Research on melamine's effects on animals is very limited: only a few dated studies have been done on dogs and just one on cats, which showed limited poisonous effects and no kidney damage. And melamine has a very low level of toxicity to rodents. "It looks like it [the melamine] is causing direct cell death in the kidneys and this is not something we would have expected to happen," says Goldstein. "I don't think it's pure melamine. Maybe there is some kind of reaction with the metabolism of melamine that would cause this."
A growing number of complaints about sick and dying animals who ate only dry food, which typically does not contain wheat gluten, is another reason some authorities question whether melamine is the real culprit.
Bruce Friedrich, Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has urged the FDA to test for excessive levels of vitamin D; last year a manufacturing error led to too much of the vitamin in Royal Canin pet food, causing kidney failure and death in several animals. But Goldstein says excessive vitamin D is unlikely, since blood tests would show high calcium levels, which haven't been found. Says an FDA spokesman: "Our analysis of the premix indicates that vitamin levels were appropriate." Other theories floated to explain the bizarre deaths are aminopterin, or rat poison, which would cause the kind of kidney damage seen. An Albany lab found the substance in two pet food samples of canned foods, but the FDA has ruled these out because no other lab has been able to confirm the results.
Are Pet Food Standards Tough Enough?
The FDA, which is in charge of regulating pet food, claims the standards are as stringent as those for human food. But some authorities disagree and the FDA website admits they have limited enforcement resources. "The FDA is an agency under siege with no money and resources," says Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University, who is writing a book on pet food. "They're not going to make pet food the priority when they have so much to do to make human food safe." That's disturbing news to animal lovers, since many furry pals are part of the family. The FDA requires that pet food must be pure, wholesome, sanitary and safe to eat — but the agency has no obligation to approve the food before it goes to market. "The FDA doesn't inspect the plants or the food, but leaves that up to AAFCO [Association of American Feed Control Officials], which is a body that has no regulating power," says Friedrich of PETA. "So it really becomes self-policing."
Critics of the pet food industry point to two factors that may contribute to unsafe food: the centralization of the process for making food and the use of unsanitary material from rendering plants. The recall brought to light that the wheat gluten, which was eventually recalled, came from a single Chinese company but ended up in over 100 brands of pet food. ChemNutra Inc., based in Las Vegas, bought 873 tons of gluten from the Chinese company, farmed it out to three pet food makers and one distributor that services the industry. A highly centralized process may be cheap, but "at that size and scale if something goes wrong it goes wrong big time," says Nestle.
Rendering plants, which boil down dead animal carcasses from slaughterhouses into fats and proteins, sell cheap material that often ends up in pet food. The "meat" in your cat's kibbles could be any kind: there's no law against even using rendered material from cats and dogs in pet food. Plants can mix in anything from road kill to supermarket deli meats, and investigations by KMOV-TV in St. Louis and the Los Angeles Times have suggested that pets killed in animal shelters just might make it into the slop. The Pet Food Institute, whose members create most of the dog and cat food sold in the U.S., told the Times that pets are not allowed in their products. But the FDA has admitted to finding "very, very low levels" of sodium pentobarbital — the chemical used to euthanize animals — in some brands of dog food. Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the U.S. said the allegations need more scrutiny. "The pet food industry is not the most transparent of industries and it has been really difficult for the public to obtain information," he says.
What Should You Feed Fido?Besides staying away from recalled products, pet owners might want to consider using natural food from smaller companies. "I would suggest feeding pets organic instead of commercial dog food from big companies who are focused on filling food at the cheapest price," says Friedrich from PETA. Some pet lovers are bypassing store food altogether, serving up home cooked meals — everything from bone-shaped biscuits to homemade hamburgers. Sales of cookbooks for cats and dogs have increased dramatically, according Nielsen BookScan. But Goldstein of Cornell warns against cooking for your pet. "I would hate for people to stop using commercial pet food, because it's the healthiest diet in the long term for dogs and cats who need multiple vitamins at the proper ratios."
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
As of 5:12 a.m.. PT: 3,057 pets have been reported as deceased to our PetConnection database. Of these, 1,657 are cats, and 1,400 are dogs.and
Every time we see the 12-14-16 “official” number of dead pets the FDA has reported in the media … we wonder what happened to the ability of most in the media to report a story.
The Oregon state health veterinarian reports 35 dead pets, and Oregon has 1.2 percent of the U.S. population.
Now, the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association is reporting 38 dead pets, and Michigan has 3.4 percent of the U.S. population.
Even the FDA will no longer speculate on the numbers dead, saying in a media conference last Friday that more than 8,800 reports had been made to the FDA, but ” we have not had the luxury of confirming these reports.”
So … can we get off the 16? Most of those animals died in the feeding trial, by the way.
We knew it was just a matter of time... first two paragraphs quoted below...
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.
While agency leaders offered assurances Monday that the U.S. food supply remains safe, they said they cannot yet completely rule out contamination of human food by the suspect wheat gluten, which contained melamine, a chemical found in plastics and pesticides.
And here is a great post on the political blog dailykos.com.
Want to know more about wheat gluten?
Monday, April 2, 2007
The pet food recall has scared the nation.
More than that, it has seriously placed the credibility of not only the pet food companies but that of our own government at issue.
Despite Menu Foods having been responsible for the deaths and sickness of hundreds of pets, they're encouraging the public to keep buying their product because after all, while they recorded nearly a $6 million profit in the last quarter of 2005, for sure their bottom line is going to take a hit in the first quarter of 2006.
Pet food companies like Purina were busy saying buy me, buy me, we're not part of it only a few days later to have Purina tell us that they too were included, recalling one their Alpo Prime Cuts in Gravy, a popular dog food. And then followed Del Monte, and Hill's. Who can you trust anymore?
It seems that virtually every day another company joins the recall and the $64,000 question remains, just what company is the one that the FDA says is the one to whom melamine-contaminated wheat gluten had been shipped which manufactures dry pet food. They refuse to name the company and in our view, that's totally irresponsible, to say the least. If the government in the body of the FDA knows a company's products may contain contamination, they have a responsibility to tell the public so that the public stops using that product.
Just what is the priority of the federal government, trying to save the lives of helpless pets or looking out for the bottom line of pet food manufacturers? Never mind, we think we already know the answer.
In this particular problem, it is said that cats are more susceptible because of their size. What if the contamination affected food for human consumption? What if 16 human beings had died? What if the entire human population was at risk because of imported wheat gluten instead of "ONLY" the entire nation's pet population?
Where is the outrage? Is it because people say, so what, it's only an animal? This is a country that condones using animals for laboratory testing. Why is the Congress and the President apathetic towards this issue? What if it's found that this same wheat gluten used in pet foods is being using in foods for human consumption? How do we know it's not. We as a nation should be more concerned about what the government is NOT telling us than what they are.
... Apparently FDA wasn't concerned enough to tell the public who the manufacturer is they have identified whose dry food is contains the contaminated wheat gluten. Hill's, the only manufacturer so far to have called dry cat food, says it's not them.
In this pet food recall, at first we were told it was confined ONLY to 95 brands of wet dog and cat food, that absolutely dry pet food was safe. Wrong, the federal Food and Drug Administration then identified melamine in wheat gluten used in dry cat food produced by Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. of Topeka, Kan., and on Friday, that food was recalled. Just think how many pets may have been affected.
Worse yet, just think how many pets continue to be affected because their owners have diligently watched the recall list and think they are feeding their pets safe foods only to be informed within days that that food too is being recalled.
How safe are we, how safe are our pets? FDA officials tell us that while wheat gluten is also used in some human foods, they have supposedly found no indication that the contaminated ingredient had been used in foods for human consumption.
To reiterate, the scary part to us isn't what they're telling us, it's what they're not telling us. After all, the government is pretty good at cover-ups, particularly when they are protecting entire industries, in this case, the pet food industry. Dog and cat food sales in the U.S. reached over $14.3 billion in 2005, according to the Pet Food Institute that represents manufacturers of commercial pet foods.
The president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called for the resignation of Andrew von Eschenback, FDA commissioner, after the FDA refused to name the dry pet food maker. http://www.peta.org/pdfs/IGCFax.pdf
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk says that two independent laboratories are claiming that the FDA was wrong when it determined that the agent causing kidney failure in cats and dogs was wheat gluten contaminated with melamine. FDA has yet to recall the dry food that is reportedly killing dogs and cats. What are they waiting for? To see how high the death toll will rise? Do they feel secure because they think they can't be held liable, that cats and dogs are considered personal property and that there can be no damages awarded by a court for emotional distress, intentional emotional distress caused by our own government?
Although the FDA says that melamine was found in pet food and that it may have been the ingredient making animals sick, PETA points out that at the FDA news conference on March 30, the agency did not report the fact that the New York Department of Agriculture and a top Canadian agricultural laboratory -- Animal Health Laboratory at the University of Guelph - both dispute the FDA's finding.
"A house-cleaning of the FDA is overdue," writes Newkirk. "Cherished animals are dying horrible deaths because of a fat, callous industry, and you have forfeited the public trust by siding with it to the detriment of the public."
PETA has also called for criminal investigations of Iams, Menu Foods and other companies to determine if there were delays that may have caused more suffering and deaths of animals. Menu Foods president Paul Henderson has already confirmed that the company delayed its recall until weeks after the first complaints were made about the pet food, in order to confirm that cats and dogs were dying from eating the pet food and not from other reasons.
PETA has charged that Menu Foods reportedly knew of this potentially deadly food as early as Feb. 20. When reports surfaced that its dog and cat food might have caused severe illness in customers' animal companions, PETA spokesmen say Menu quietly conducted lethal toxicity tests to confirm the contamination. Dogs and cats were allegedly forced to ingest toxic and lethal food in Menu's laboratory before the company announced the recall of pet food from stores nationwide nearly one month after the initial illness were reported. During this critical time, countless animal companions may have been at risk of getting sick, and many may have died, PETA says. http://www.peta.org/
While the finger pointing for the contaminated wheat gluten has been directed at China, on Monday China denied that the pet food ingredients exported to the U.S. are to blame for the pet food recall.
And now (some of) the press finally starts covering this like a real story. (Thanks Carol!)
Tainted Wheat Gluten Sold as "Food Grade"
by David Goldstein
Del Monte Foods has confirmed that the melamine-tainted wheat gluten used in several of its recalled pet food products was supplied as a "food grade" additive, raising the likelihood that contaminated wheat gluten might have entered the human food supply.
"Yes, it is food grade," Del Monte spokesperson Melissa Murphy-Brown wrote in reply to an e-mail query.
Del Monte issued a voluntary recall Saturday for several products under the Gravy Train, Jerky Treats, Pounce, Ol' Roy, Dollar General and Happy Trails brands.
Wheat gluten is sold in both "food grade" and "feed grade" varieties. Either may be used in pet food, but only "food grade" gluten may be used in the manufacture of products meant for human consumption. Published reports have thus far focused on tainted pet food, but if the gluten in question entered the human food supply through a major food products supplier and processor, it could potentially contaminate thousands of products and hundreds of millions of units nationwide.
Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine said the FDA is not aware of any contaminated gluten that went into human food but said he could not confirm this "with 100 percent certainty." Wheat gluten is a common food additive used as a thickener, dough conditioner, and meat substitute. It is widely used as an additive in commercial bakery items and special purpose flours.
The FDA announced today that it has traced the contaminated wheat gluten to a single processor, Xuzhou Anying Biological Technology of Peixian, China, but has not released the name of the U.S. distributor who supplied the product to Del Monte, Menu Foods, Nestle Purina, and Hills Nutritional. In all, more than 70 brands and over 60 million cans and pouches of dog and cat food are now part of this massive recall, as well as at least one brand of dry cat food.
Public statements have indicated that the contaminated gluten was distributed by a single U.S. company, but since the FDA refuses to name the supplier, it is not yet known if this company also supplies human food manufacturers. It is also not yet known if Xuzhou Anying sells direct to food manufacturers in the U.S. or abroad.
While cats seem particularly susceptible to the effects of melamine poisoning, there is little research on the substance's human toxicity. Unless and until the FDA determines otherwise, one cannot help but wonder if our sick and dying cats are merely the canary in the coal mine alerting us to a broader contamination of the human food supply.
Sunday, April 1, 2007
If the calls and letters to the FDA won't do anything, and calls and letters to the media won't do anything...
lets put all our support behind the people who ARE starting to do something. Time for more calls and letters to Congress and the Senate.
From Gina at petconnection.com/blog this morning:
I’m trying to get confirmation from C-SPAN, CNN and Fox that at least one of them will air Sen. Durbin’s media conference 1:30 p.m. CT today in Springfield. Here’s contact information if you want to urge full coverage:
- C-SPAN: firstname.lastname@example.org
- CNN: http://www.cnn.com/feedback/dotcom/
- Fox: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,77538,00.html
And speaking of political action (which we have been, click here), reader Mike reminders everyone that:
[…} every Rep will be up for re-election in ‘08, and one-third of the Senators. What’s going into my letters will be some statement to the effect that “I will be supporting a candidate on election day Nov 4 who is working to further this legislation…..”
From Steve posting over on petconnection.com last week:
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) sent a letter to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration March 23 asking for full details of the investigation into the pet food contamination.Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) sent a letter to the president and CEO of Menu Foods Income Fund March 23 asking for detailed information explaining the contamination and subsequent recall of Menu Food’s pet food products.
Saturday, March 31, 2007
I will once again update the Pet Food Tracker - as soon as I get back from the store.
March 31, 2007 07:14 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Del Monte Pet Products Voluntarily Withdraws Specific Product Codes of Pet Treats and Wet Dog Food Products
SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As a precautionary measure, Del Monte Pet Products is voluntarily recalling select product codes of its pet treat products sold under the Jerky Treats®, Gravy Train® Beef Sticks and Pounce Meaty Morsels® brands as well as select dog snack and wet dog food products sold under private label brands. A complete list of affected brands and products is below.
The Company took this voluntary recall action immediately after learning this morning from the FDA that wheat gluten supplied to Del Monte Pet Products from a specific manufacturing facility in China contained melamine. Melamine is a substance not approved for use in food. The FDA made this finding as part of its ongoing investigation into the recent pet food recall.
The adulteration occurred in a limited production quantity on select product codes of the brands below. This recall removes all Del Monte pet products with wheat gluten procured from this manufacturing facility from retail shelves.
No other Del Monte Pet Products treats, biscuits or wet dog food products are impacted by this recall, and no Del Monte dry cat food, dry dog food, wet cat food or pouched pet foods are subject to this voluntary recall. The affected products comprise less than one-tenth of one percent of Del Monte Pet Products’ annual pet food and pet treat production.
Del Monte Pet Products has proactively engaged and fully cooperated with the FDA since the start of its investigation. The adulterated ingredients were used in limited production over the last three months for those items identified by specific product codes. Del Monte Pet Products has not used wheat gluten from this manufacturing facility in China in any other pet products except those described below.
Consumers should discontinue feeding the products with the Product Codes detailed below to their pets.
Del Monte Pet Products are 100% guaranteed and all returned product will be refunded.
Del Monte Pet Products customers can visit our website (www.delmonte.com) or contact our Consumer Hotline at (800) 949-3799 for further information about the recall and for instructions on obtaining a product refund....
As part of the pet community, we value the health and well-being of pets, and we deeply regret this unfortunate situation. We will continue to take any and all actions necessary to ensure the quality and safety of our products.
Who are the members? Click on the links for Company and Contact information!
Since 1958, the Pet Food Institute has been the voice of U.S. pet food manufacturers. PFI is the industry's public education and media relations resource, representative before the U.S. Congress and state and federal agencies, organizer of seminars and educational programs, and liaison with other organizations. PFI represents the manufacturers of 97 percent of all dog and cat food produced in the United States.
PFI is dedicated to:
- Promoting the overall care and well-being of pets.
- Supporting initiatives to advance the quality of dog and cat food.
- Supporting research in pet nutrition and the important role of pets in our society.
- Informing and educating the public on pet proper feeding and pet care.
- Representing the pet food industry before Federal and State governments.
Active Members - makers of dry, canned, and semi-moist dog and cat foods and treats for dogs and cats. Click here for a list of Active Member webpages.
Affiliate Members - suppliers of ingredients, equipment, and services to the pet food industry. Click here for a list of Affiliate Members websites
A lot of people have a lot at stake. Don't mistake them for being on the side of pets or pet health, take a look at their March 23rd press release - almost exactly what Menu Foods said. (Trust us while we kill your pets.) Um, no thanks.
The industry, the problem, the background : not sure where they've been in all this, but some good info here:
From API (Animal Protection Institute)
What most consumers don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a convenient way for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered “unfit for human consumption,” and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, heads, hooves, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.
The pet food market has been dominated in the last few years by the acquisition of big companies by even bigger companies. With $15 billion a year at stake in the U.S. and rapidly expanding foreign markets, it’s no wonder that some are greedy for a larger piece of the pie.
- Nestlé’s bought Purina to form Nestlé Purina Petcare Company (Fancy Feast, Alpo, Friskies, Mighty Dog, Dog Chow, Cat Chow, Puppy Chow, Kitten Chow, Beneful, One, ProPlan, DeliCat, HiPro, Kit’n’Kaboodle, Tender Vittles, Purina Veterinary Diets).
- Del Monte gobbled up Heinz (MeowMix, Gravy Train, Kibbles ’n Bits, Wagwells, 9Lives, Cycle, Skippy, Nature’s Recipe, and pet treats Milk Bone, Pup-Peroni, Snausages, Pounce).
- MasterFoods owns Mars, Inc., which consumed Royal Canin (Pedigree, Waltham’s, Cesar, Sheba, Temptations, Goodlife Recipe, Sensible Choice, Excel).
Other major pet food makers are not best known for pet care, although many of their household and personal care products do use ingredients derived from animal by-products:
- Procter and Gamble (P&G) purchased The Iams Company (Iams, Eukanuba) in 1999. P&G shortly thereafter introduced Iams into grocery stores, where it did very well.
- Colgate-Palmolive bought Hill’s Science Diet (founded in 1939) in 1976 (Hill’s Science Diet, Prescription Diets, Nature’s Best).
Private labelers (who make food for “house” brands like Kroger and Wal-Mart) and co-packers (who produce food for other pet food makers) are also major players. Three major companies are Doane Pet Care, Diamond, and Menu Foods; they produce food for dozens of private label and brand names. Interestingly, all 3 of these companies have been involved in pet food recalls that sickened or killed many pets.
Many major pet food companies in the United States are subsidiaries of gigantic multinational corporations. From a business standpoint, pet food fits very well with companies making human products. The multinationals have increased bulk-purchasing power; those that make human food products have a captive market in which to capitalize on their waste products; and pet food divisions have a more reliable capital base and, in many cases, a convenient source of ingredients.
The Pet Food Institute — the trade association of pet food manufacturers —has acknowledged the use of by-products in pet foods as additional income for processors and farmers: “The growth of the pet food industry not only provided pet owners with better foods for their pets, but also created profitable additional markets for American farm products and for the byproducts of the meat packing, poultry, and other food industries which prepare food for human consumption.”
The Recalled Pet Food Tracker for National Brands has been updated:
- Alpo cans (3-30)
- Hills Prescription m/d DRY Cat Food (3-30)
- Parent Company information has been added next to each brand
- Brands are listed by order of Parent Company, so are in a different order
- Page numbers
Take this into stores to make sure products are not still on the shelves. If they are, call the FDA (phone numbers included). Then contact your local media.
Clicking on the link will open the file for easy printing, right click on the link to open in a new window.
If for some reason you’re still feeding your pets canned food by any of these companies, at least stop feeding any ‘gravy’ varieties.
Here's the release (released at MIDNIGHT!!! These companies are out. of. control. )
I couldn't agree more with what Itchmo said, especially the stuff in red:
Nestle Purina PetCare Company today announced it is voluntarily recalling all sizes and varieties of its ALPO(R) Prime Cuts in Gravy wet dog food with specific date codes. The Company is taking this voluntary action after learning today that wheat gluten containing melamine, a substance not approved for use in food, was provided to Purina by the same company that also supplied Menu Foods. The contamination occurred in a limited production quantity at only one of Purina's 17 pet food manufacturing facilities.
The FDA announcement stated that one other manufacturer received the same wheat gluten. After the Hills announcement, and now Purina, we would like to know who else is using this tainted wheat gluten. And for the love of our pets, pet food companies, please speak up now to save our pets’ lives. FDA, do you even know who is using this food?
It’s like a cancer that is spreading.
*Sarcasm* Purina, thanks for releasing your news in such a timely fashion — especially doing it in the middle of the night. We appreciate you taking the time to do it on the 2 week anniversary of the Menu Foods recall. How thoughtful. We would like you to know that the Official Pet of Itchmo will be tossing out his Purina ProPlan food.
P.S. Hours after this posting, the FDA site still did not have this news listed. (3/31 4 am EDT)
Friday, March 30, 2007
To quote one of my favorite characters on TV (Matlock) - JACKASS.
Here's what he and Menu Foods had to say for themselves today. (right click on the link to open it in a new window so you can come back here afterwards and read more.)
If you're not angry yet, read this, and the things they had to say for themselves 9 days ago. http://playingbig.blogspot.com/2007/03/pet-food-recall-menu-foods-president.html
Note to readers: sensing a bit more emotion in my posts today? Yep, that's right. You are. Even after getting away from it for awhile and watching 10 episodes of Heroes yesterday I'm angry all over again today. And I'm okay with that.
I figured out some tools to manage the anger, rather than having it manage me. I'll post some helpful tips on that later today or tomorrow, including an audio you can listen to if you're furious and need a break from it.
as for paul henderson - we're in it for the long haul. And we will see you prosecuted for criminal charges before this story is over.
And this is only the beginning.
We now know melamine has been found in wheat gluten. We now know this SAME wheat gluten was shipped to (at least) one manufacturer of DRY pet food.
FDA won't release the name. Um, Hello FDA - we have a right to know NOW. You really don't want to mess with pet lovers.
Apparently this manufacturer is so behind-the-times that they don't know whether they've used any of it yet in pet food. Um, I don't believe you. You're LYING.
So take note.
To: Menu Foods, the FDA, Pet Food Manufacturers, and assorted huge conglomerates that make pet food.
From: Me, and hundreds of thousands of pet owners
You're LYING and we know it. We're not stupid. And we're pissed. And we're grieving. You made a mistake thinking this would blow over. You severely underestimated the nature of our love for our pets. We will find the truth, and we will make you pay.
Some of us will do it the 'light / love-based' way - by focusing on our pets and by taking our business to organic pet food manufacturers or making their food ourselves.
Some of us will do it the 'dark / fear-based ' way - by legal action and protests and boycotts and pushing for congressional hearings and criminal prosecution. Just wanna repeat that last one - CRIMINAL prosecution. Because that's what you are. Heartless CRIMINALs.
Me? What camp will I be in? I'll be in both.
Light - because I have to maintain that energy - it's who I am. And because I will go crazy if I totally give in to the anger I feel at you.
Dark - because that's all you'll notice. And because I've got enough anger at you for 40 lifetimes.
For all the coverage you need on today's news, see http://www.petconnection.com/blog/.
I'll add links and quotes later. One you must see now though, because it is absolutely chilling:
In an FDA press conference this morning, a reporter asked the FDA’s Dr. Stephen Sundlof if people could be feeding unsafe food to their pets right now, because the FDA won’t reveal the name of a company - that makes dry “kibbled” food as well as “wet” pet food - that received wheat gluten from the same source Menu did.
The response? “It is possible, but I think we’ve been following every lead that we can. My sense is that we have gotten most of it under control.”
You're LYING. And you're WRONG.
And you should see this one right away too.
Karen Roebuck of the Pittsburg Tribune-Review, who broke the story earlier this morning that melamine, not aminopterin, had been found in the tested foods, asked if any of the wheat gluten had found its way into the human food supply.
The response: “At this point we are not aware that any of that went into human food.” They do know the company that supplied the contaminated wheat gluten, and are tracking its shipments, but they aren’t disclosing the name of the company.
They are, however, doing “100 percent review and sampling of all wheat gluten from China.”
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Is it 'proof'? Maybe not. But it sure as hell convinces me.
Number of Specific Cat Food Brand Reported:
Science Diet: 5
Special Kitty: 3
Royal Canin: 1
Number of Specific Dog Food Brand Reported:
Science Diet: 4
Natural Balance: 1
Trader Joe’s: 1
This is a summary (PDF file) of the pet foods recalled by 5 of the most commonly found National Brands (Iams, Eukanuba, Science Diet, Nutro, Mighty Dog) . (Other brands will be added soon... in the meantime make sure to check http://www.menufoods.com/recall/ for brands not yet listed here.) The summary is 4 pages, and includes FDA contact information for every state.
Take this into stores to make sure products are not still on the shelves. If they are, call the FDA (phone numbers included). Then contact your local media.
If the media won't do it, and the manufacturers won't do it, and the retailers won't do it, we need to check store shelves ourselves!
Clicking on this link will open the file for easy printing, right click on the link to open in a new window.
NEXT Project: Pet Food Tracker for Premium Natural and/or Organic Brands that have nothing to do with Menu Foods
(www.petfoodtracker.com and www.petfoodtracker.blogspot.com coming soon)
This morning from the PetConnection database (8:30 a.m. PT): 2,237 deceased pets (1,257 cats, 980 dogs). These are self-reported numbers, as you all know by now.Why do I say it's still just the tip? Because none of the agencies involved in this seem to know what they're doing. Tragically, because of this, the numbers reported to the press are low, the numbers they report are low, so the story isn't covered the way it should be. Hasn't been from day one and still isn't.
Cats and dogs are dying unnecessarily this week because these agencies don't have their shit together. This cannot happen again.
Petconnection.com discusses this today, and calls for action. (Most bold and highlighting in red is mine)
Throughout the unfolding pet-food crisis, the vetcetera blog has provided the necessary counterpoint to what we’ve been reporting here on Pet Connection. In thoughtful, well-reasoned posts, that blog (written by a veterinary practice manager whose wife is a board-certified feline specialist) has looked at what we were doing and questioned the good and the not-so-good of it. His contributions have been valuable, especially his evaluation of what our PetConnection database of self-reported numbers really means.
This story has always been about the numbers. It is the nature of business to downplay bad news, and the nature of government to proceed with bureaucratic caution. But when thousands of pets are being sickened and killed, the need for the swift sharing of information is essential.
We were told early on that sick and dead pets should be reported to the FDA. Next, we were told that they should be reported to the FDA and that veterinarians should report to their respective State Veterinarians, who would then report to the FDA.
How well did that work?
Anyone who called the FDA directly knows how hard it was to get through. So what about the veterinarians who tried to report to the state?
Breaking truly new reporting ground — OK, we’re a little in awe, and wish we’d thought of it — vetcetera looked at the actions of the State Veterinarian in each state. And found, in most cases, they were in full-on Heckuva Job, Brownie mode. In other words, they made the FDA look good by comparison. With the notable exceptions of Oregon and Georgia, few states made much effort to share critical information, to let veterinarians know they should report in, or to take reports volunteered by veterinarians.
This is beyond scandalous. Getting and sharing this kind of information is a serious issue of national security. Veterinarians are a critical component of the public-health system. Even if you don’t care about animals, you ought to care about the ability of veterinarians to be part of a system that reports developing problems with animal health.
Because, well, some of those problems can quickly become human problems. Anyone ever hear of Bird Flu?
We must push for a national system to for the rapid two-way sharing of information on a health crisis among our animals.
Today, call or write (don’t e-mail — they bat those away like gnats) your elected representatives at the state and national level and demand a system be put in place.
Okay, you all catch that Bird Flu reference? If this situation doesn't already scare you, it should.
And maybe "Bird Flu" is the magic phrase needed to get this situation handled better.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc., Announces An Update On The Voluntary Participation in Menu Foods' Nationwide U.S. recall of Specific Canned Cat Foods.
Topeka, Kansas (March 27, 2007) - As you know, Hill's makes all of its products with an overriding commitment to the health and well-being of pets. With this in mind, on March 21 we notified you of our decision to issue a voluntary precautionary recall of a very small number of canned cat food products in the United States that were manufactured by Menu Foods, which had announced a recall. This involved a very small portion of Hill's total product line.
To ensure that our customers continue to have absolute confidence in all of Hill's products, Hill's has decided to voluntarily withdraw from the market all Science Diet® Savory Cuts® Feline products.
THESE ARE THE ONLY PRODUCTS PRODUCED BY MENU FOODS FOR HILLS PET NUTRITION. NO OTHER HILL'S SCIENCE DIET PRODUCTS AND NO PRESCRIPTION DIET PRODUCTS ARE AFFECTED.
"My first thought: I've seen reports online by vets based on their own tests and autopsies that seemed to indicate a different/additional cause. I still believe there will be more bad information to come."
I didn't want to be right on this one.
NEW YORK, March 27, 2007—Since Menu Foods announced its massive pet food recall on March 16, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) has been flooded with calls from concerned pet parents and animal welfare professionals alike. Call volume at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), which is based in its Midwest Office in Urbana, Ill., has increased significantly over the past 10 days—approximately 14 percent—and the ASPCA’s veterinary toxicologists have been carefully analyzing data from these calls.
Today the ASPCA reports that, based on these data, clinical signs reported in cats affected by the contaminated foods are not fully consistent with the ingestion of rat poison containing aminopterin that, according to Menu Foods, is at the “root” of the contamination issue.
“We’ve seen reports coming in from all around the country that animals that were eating the contaminated foods are definitely suffering from renal failure,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president with the ASPCA, who manages the ASPCA’s Midwest Office, including the APCC. “But the data that we’ve been collecting do not conclusively prove this connection, which is why we strongly recommend that those involved in the investigation continue to search for additional contaminants.”
Dr. Hansen continued, “Aminopterin has been used to treat cancer in people, since it is able to disrupt rapidly-growing cells. In animals, it should result in effects that mimic this function, and these include bloody diarrhea, bone marrow suppression, abortion and birth defects. Further, renal damage—which has been seen in the affected animals—can occur at high doses.
“However, to be consistent with the effects of aminopterin, we should also be seeing a significant number of affected pets showing the accompanying signs of severe intestinal damage, as well as bone marrow suppression, including ‘leukopenia,’ which is a serious reduction in white blood cells.
“This is the missing connection that we want to alert veterinarians around the country to. We are asking all veterinarians treating cats affected by these products, to report their findings to the U. S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).”
Although Menu Foods announced last week that aminopterin was at the “root” of the contamination issue, the FDA, the agency leading this investigation, has not corroborated this finding.
“There are so many inconsistencies in the purported link between aminopterin and the animals affected, that we urge veterinary toxicologists and veterinary pathologists at diagnostic laboratories to continue looking for additional contaminants,” said Dr. Hansen. “Only continued rigorous testing will uncover the real reason or reasons for this crisis among our pet population.”
The ASPCA strongly recommends that pet parents should have their pet examined by their veterinarian if any signs of illness occur following consumption of the recalled foods, including loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in water consumption or changes in urination.
Adverse effects or deaths of pets conclusively linked to eating the contaminated foods should be reported to the FDA at http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html.
Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a wealth of resources at http://www.avma.org/aa/menufoodsrecall/default.asp.
Now we can turn our attention back to the next thing - getting the poisoned recalled food off the shelves.
I'll have something posted back here later today that will make it easier to check shelves in your area.
Monday, March 26, 2007
So, back to contacting the AP. Here's a link to the Names, phone numbers and email addresses of every AP Bureau Chief - one for each state. It's on the AP website... happy typing and calling.
Added at 12:00pm MT: I heard back from the reporter, forwarded that information to petconnection.com and now understand from them that Dr. Becker is in touch with AP members and is working with them so they are able to present the full story.
Added at 10:21am MT: I just emailed the AP Reporter who wrote the article my local paper ran on Saturday. I also emailed the New York City and Albany AP Bureau Chiefs. I'll keep you updated... If USA Today can report the full story, why can't the AP?
The AP and other media are still not reporting the real numbers. It's time to change that. Here's my email to them, feel free to copy it. It's not the best I can do, but it's the best I can do right now. (Note: I left out any 'quote' formatting so it's less likely to turn to gibberish when you cut and paste.)
Once you send it to the AP, go into your Sent Items folder, and forward it to your local News Media. See below for what I said.
To: AP email@example.com
Every day I watch the news and wait for the AP to issue a report that has something other than the carefully manipulated numbers presented by Menu Foods.
Why are you not reporting these numbers? I am losing more faith in your service every day, as are thousands of pet owners who ARE aware of the magnitude of this story.
And because the AP is not reporting the correct numbers, the following is happening, as reported on petconnection.com
"This afternoon, we got an e-mail from a person in the news
department of a radio station, who pointed out to his boss that
other media — such as USA Today and ABC NewsClick to view image —
have been reporting a potentially much higher death rate, and asked
to change the AP's "rip-and-read" radio copy. He was told he could
not, and until the AP decides to do more than parrot the FDA line,
the story will remain largely under-reported. That means it will
If you love a cat or a dog, please read the following, go to the petconnection.com blog and then report the real story!
BEGIN FULL TEXT OF Latest entry at http://www.petconnection.com/blog/
The Associated Press continues to report 16 dead pets, without even mentioning the possibility that there are hundreds if not thousands more. So does Newsweek, in this otherwise excellent piece on how to feed pets, featuring the esteemed Dr. Tony Buffington of the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
So far, both the Animal Medical Center (the “Mayo Clinic” of veterinary hospitals) and Banfield The Pet Hospital, with more than 600 locations all connected by a central database, have both gone on the record saying there could be thousands of pets sickened or killed by recalled food.
So what’s up, AP?
This afternoon, we got an e-mail from a person in the news department of a radio station, who pointed out to his boss that other media — such as USA Today and ABC News — have been reporting a potentially much higher death rate, and asked to change the AP’s “rip-and-read” radio copy. He was told he could not, and until the AP decides to do more than parrot the FDA line, the story will remain largely under-reported. That means it will soon die.
From tomorrow’s edition of USA Today, now up on its Web site:
The Food and Drug Administration has received more than 4,400 calls from pet owners about the recalled, contaminated dog and cat food that has reportedly sickened and injured animals across the
But the agency has yet to follow up on the calls, so it doesn’t know how many represent sick animals or simply concerned owners, says Stephen Sundlof, director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Many pet owners are questioning the reported number of animals that have died from consuming contaminated pet food found in some of the more than 60 million recalled cans and pouches.
Menu Foods, which produced the food, has listed 16 deaths: 15 cats and one dog. The FDA is listing only 14 confirmed dead.
There are still questions about how many animals have died. With no national reporting system for animal injury or death, official numbers are impossible to come by.
However, data from the nation’s largest chain of pet hospitals, Banfield, suggest it is as high as hundreds a week during the three months the food was on the market.
During that time, the more than 600 Banfield hospitals in 43 states saw 200 to 250 cases of kidney failure in cats above the usual number that would have been expected, says Hugh Lewis, president of Data Savant, Banfield’s data collection arm.
During that period, Banfield vets saw 100,000 cats. Extrapolating to the entire cat population of the
Our self-reported database, by the way, is now reporting 1,716 dead pets as of
I honestly have to wonder: Would the Associated Press accept only official government information if the deaths were people? Is this because these are “just pets”?
As long as the AP continues to report only 15 dead pets, the story will not be taken seriously. And that means there will be little interest in changes.
Report your pet’s loss to the FDA. Also, ask your veterinarian to report your pet’s loss to the state veterinarian for reporting to the FDA. Additionally, if your pet has eaten one of the recalled foods and become sick, add your pet to our database.
And yes, Menu Foods has now recalled all of its previously recalled labels, regardless of manufacturing date. Here’s a longer explanation of why, from the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA says it’s not because foods beyond the recall range are suspected of being tainted, but because it’s easier to pull entire brands off the shelves instead of checking each can or pouch. In any case: Don’t buy or feed these brands, regardless of manufacture date.
Bottom line: We want your pet to be counted, everywhere. And we want your pet’s death to count for something, in hopes that in realizing the true scope of the problem changes will be made so something like this is less likely to happen again.
END FULL TEXT OF Latest entry at http://www.petconnection.com/blog/
Forward to Local Media:
On the Pet Food Recall…
I’ve been staying on top of this story since the beginning, and would really like to see more complete coverage in the (insert name of your local media here). The scope of this is much larger than the AP or any agency has reported. See my email to the AP below. The numbers of deaths is already in the thousands.
Probably the best site for you to get the real information is www.petconnection.com/blog Their most recent entry is pasted below in the email to the AP.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Have you found recalled products at a retailer in your area? Post a comment here or Click Here to Email me with the details. Include the Retailer name, city, and if possible the products found.
These Products should not be on shelves (I'll add the flavors soon. For now, right click on the links to open up a separate window)
All 5.3 ounce Pouches recalled
Hill's Science Diet CAT
5 Savory Cuts Feline canned products
19 Cat Pouch Products
6 Pouch Products
16 12.5oz Canned Products
12 Select Bites 3 oz Pouches
8 Cat Slices and Flakes in Cans, both 3 and 6 oz
10 Select Bites 5.3 oz Pouches
4 Small Bites 6 oz Cans
9 Chunks 13.2 oz Cans
8 Morsels in Gravy 3 oz Pouches
5 Cat Cuts and Flaked in 3 oz Cans
8 Bites in Gravy 5.3oz Pouches
5 Chunks in Gravy 5.5 oz Cans