Tainted Pet Food Still on Shelves

 |  Apr 13th 2007  |   12 Contributions


This just adds to that wonderful trust we all have for these guys, doesn't it? And notice the pet food industry lackey says that the main problem is communication. No, the problem is that some in the pet food industry import food supplies from countries with no or little control over their safety or quality.

Thanks to MSNBC for this update.

Tainted pet food still on shelves, FDA says
Officials urge store owners to double check for recalled products

WASHINGTON - Federal officials still cant give the all clear when it comes to the nations pet food supply, though they assured lawmakers theyre aggressively checking stores and suppliers.

The Food and Drug Administration said it had inspected about 400 stores nationwide and still found some dog and cat food products affected by last months recall by Canada-based pet food maker Menu Foods Income Fund and other manufacturers. The agency asked retailers across the country to be vigilant in removing all products associated with the pet food recall, which began on March 16.


Stephen Sundlof, director of the agencys Center for Veterinary Medicine, told lawmakers during a hearing that thousands of government and private sector workers around the country have responded to the contamination. Yet, he told lawmakers, he could not rule out the discovery of more tainted food.

We do believe weve got the vast, vast majority off the market," Sundlof told members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

A call for inspections
Last month, Menu Foods recalled 60 million cans of dog and cat food after the deaths of 16 pets, mostly cats, that ate its products. The FDA said tests indicated the food was contaminated with an industrial chemical, melamine.

At least six pet food companies have recalled products made with imported Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical. The recall involved about 1 percent of the U.S. pet food supply.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the contamination showed that pet food as well as human food is at risk because of significant gaps in the system of regulations and inspections that governs the food industry. In particular, he said, the latest contamination shows that too few pet food manufacturers are being inspected.

It appears that there is a light federal presence in this area and instead we rely on a patchwork of state inspection systems and voluntary guidance," said Durbin, who requested the hearing. He also wants a new database for veterinarians and pet owners to report concerns.

Elizabeth Hodgkins, a veterinarian, said pet food labels should not be able to make safety claims without rigorous ingredient testing by the manufacturer or the company that supplies the manufacturer. She said such testing does not occur.

The pet food safety crisis is not an unfortunate aberration but part of mounting evidence of a systemic breakdown," Hodgkins said.

In addition, Durbin questioned why Menu Foods took so long to notify the FDA after the company first noticed test animals were getting sick and refusing to eat their food.

I think that companies that unnecessarily delay reporting and endanger human and animal health should face penalties, severe penalties," he said.

Durbin also asked FDA officials about a report some of the contaminated wheat gluten made it into human food. The FDA did discover wheat gluten imported from a different Chinese source that coincidently bore a lot number similar to some of the tainted wheat gluten, said Steven Solomon, of the FDAs Office of Regulatory Affairs. The FDA asked an unidentified company to halt distribution of products made with the ingredient until testing revealed they were free of contamination, Solomon said.

We did those tests very rapidly," Solomon said. All those tests were negative. All the wheat gluten from other suppliers has all tested negative to date."

Company absent from hearing
Menu Foods was asked to attend the hearing, but it requested that the Pet Food Institute, a trade association for the industry, appear instead. The institutes president, Duane Ekedahl, told the committee that pet food already is perhaps the most highly regulated product on store shelves. He noted that manufacturers are governed by the FDA and the Agriculture Department as well as authorities in all 50 states.

Pet foods are safe," Ekedahl assured the committee.

Ekedahl said the pet food industry was also forming a commission made up of industry and government officials to investigate how the pet food became tainted and to recommend steps that can be taken to improve safety.

If you take one thing away from my remarks today, please understand this," Ekedahl said in written testimony. The answer to this problem is not additional regulation, rather it is enhanced communication."

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