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Poison found in recalled pet food

Soumitro Sen and Laura Brown
and Mark Johnson

Rat poison was found in pet food blamed for the deaths of at least 16 cats and dogs, but scientists said Friday they still don’t know how it got there and predicted more animal deaths would be linked to it.

After the announcement, Menu Foods – the company that produced the food expanded – its recall to include all 95 brands of the “cuts and gravy” style food, regardless of when they were produced. The company also said it would take responsibility for pet medical expenses incurred as a result of the food.

In western Nevada County, stores had already taken affected brands off the shelves when the recall was announced last week.



Nutro canned and pouched food was the only affected brand carried at The Pet Mine in Grass Valley, and those are gone, store manager Jolena Salzwedel said.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls recently from people with concerns. We are more than happy to help people figure if the food they are feeding their pets is infected or not,” Salzwedel said.




Veterinarian Karen Indreland has run blood work on several animals at her Brighton Greens clinic, but so far, the pet maladies she has seen are not related to the contaminated pet food.

“We’ve definitely had some concerned calls,” said Indreland, who has been in the field for seven years. “It’s scary. It’s the biggest recall I’ve seen.”

The substance in the food was identified as aminopterin, a cancer drug that once was used to induce abortions in the United States and is still used to kill rats in some other countries, state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker said.

The federal government prohibits using aminopterin for killing rodents in the U.S. State officials would not speculate on how the poison got into the pet food, but said no criminal investigations had been launched.

The pet deaths led to a recall of 60 million cans and pouches of dog and cat food produced by Menu Foods and sold throughout North America under 95 brand names. Some pets that ate the recalled brands suffered kidney failure, and the company has confirmed the deaths of 15 cats and two dogs.

The latest death, a Yorkshire terrier named Pebbles, occurred Thursday. The dog died of kidney failure after eating some of the food. Her owner, Jeff Kerner, said he was contacting an attorney because he wanted to prevent another pet tragedy.

“Before they put this stuff in the bags, there should be some kind of test,” said Kerner of Sherman Oaks. “I can’t just let it go. Even if they just change the law.”

The company expanded the recall – which initially covered only cans and pouches of food packaged from Dec. 3 through March 6 – after the FDA alerted it that some products remained on store shelves.

There is no risk to pet owners from handling the food, officials said.

The Food and Drug Administration has said the investigation into the pet deaths was focused on possible contamination of wheat gluten in the food.

But pest control experts said it would be unusual for the wheat to be tainted.

“It would make no sense to spray a crop itself with rodenticide,” said Bob Rosenberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Pest Management Association. He added that grain shippers typically put bait stations around the perimeter of their storage facilities.


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