Menu Foods CEO's Remarks at Today's News Conference
The following statement comes directly from the Menu Foods site. Thanks to Jeannette for barking it in.
As you read through this piece you'll notice that Henderson takes absolutely NO BLAME for the injuries to and deaths of what now appear to be thousands of pets. Instead, he keeps falling back on that old corporate tactic of claiming to have run the business by current industry standards.
Maybe Menu did keep to the letter of the law. But how is routinely buying food materials from a country with sub par storage and shipment processes of those processes keeping with the spirit of the law? It is no secret that Chinese food production and storage safety is not in line with North American expectations. I'm not being racist or judgemental here. I'm being factual. We're talking food here, human and pet. Food. Not plastic geegaws, clothes or anything else that stays outside of the body. FOOD.
Maybe different toxins are showing up because there ARE different toxins in the wheat. Could it be that there are more than one or two poisons in the Chinese wheat and gluten Menu imported?
And yes, I understand that Menu and other similar companies are not required to test for melamine or other dangerous but relatively rare contaminants. Why not? Because the North American public expectation is that these kinds of companies will take reasonable care in where they get their products. Did Menu take reasonable care? I am not a food professional but it sure doesn't look that way to me.
It looks to me that Menu Foods went to the cheapest source possible and went right past local and regional suppliers which had more expensive and safer food stocks. That's like your local restaurant looking for the cheapest suppliers of meat and fish to keep their costs down. They might be cheaper but do you really want to eat there?
And Dogsters have barked in reminding us this issue is not and should not be about cost. Just because one person feeds a less expensive food is no reason for them to expect that all they can get is questionable food. When you walk into a less expensive restaurant, do you expect to put your life in danger with unsafe food? I'd hope not. You expect you won't be eating expensive cuts of meat or caviar but you don't expect your $6 meal to put you in the hospital or kill you. The same should be said for pet food. Cheaper may not be the absolutely tastiest but it should not be dangerous!
REMARKS BY PAUL K. HENDERSON
PRESIDENT AND CEO, MENU FOODS INCOME FUND
TO A NEWS CONFERENCE
MARCH 30, 2007
Ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you for your attendance, and for your continuing dedication to this disturbing and emotional story.
I am Paul Henderson, President and CEO of Menu Foods. With me today is Randall Copeland, Executive Vice-President of Sales and Marketing, and a thirty-year veteran of the pet food industry, having spent a good portion of that time in plant operations.
This afternoon, I have a brief opening statement and then we will take a limited number of questions. For the sake of those listening in by phone, please do not begin asking your question until you have a microphone in hand.
One week ago, some of the dedicated researchers who had been investigating this matter reported the discovery of a single, toxic compound in our pet food. That, seemingly, cleared the way for us to address the problem, deal fairly with the pet-owners who had been injured, put our business back together, and move on.
In the intervening week, other top scientists have been unable to validate the findings. That is, they were unable to find the toxin called aminopterin in our pet food, or in any of the component ingredients. It was also brought to our attention that some veterinary experts held the view that aminopterin was inconsistent with what was being observed in dogs and cats.
There is an entirely different story today.
As you heard earlier from the FDA and Cornell University, a compound called melamine has been identified as being present in the food that caused the pet illnesses and deaths.
Melamine has been found in the finished product that was the subject of recall and has not been found in other Menu Foods pet food outside of the recall. Menu Foods only manufactures wet pet food.
Melamine has been found in the wheat gluten from a new supplier in the United States, who sourced this wheat gluten in China. This is the same ingredient that Menu Foods made reference to in its recall press release of March 16. Melamine has not been found in the wheat gluten that we obtain from our other suppliers.
The recalled product is unfit for consumption by pets. It contains melamine.
The pet food that we have manufactured after March 6 is safe and healthy. How do we know this?
First, it contains no melamine. Secondly, it contains none of the suspect wheat gluten.
Thirdly, all of the testing that has been conducted, including the routine taste tests that were underway prior to the discovery of this problem, have demonstrated that those products not associated with the suspect wheat gluten performed very well and in a manner consistent with historic norms.
Menu Foods has been in operation for more than 35 years. Our plants are modern, run by dedicated, experienced and well-trained employees. We operated with good manufacturing practices and are routinely audited by well recognized, independent experts on food safety and sanitation. Its clear from our customer base that we must meet the most rigorous quality standards in the industry in order to be allowed to produce these products for some of the worlds largest brands. That is how we have confidence in our abilities to produce quality products.
With all of these quality standards, how did this happen? Quite simply, one suppliers product was adulterated with a material that is not part of any known screening procedure for wheat gluten. The important point today is that the source of the adulteration has been identified and removed from our system.
Needless to say, we have a great deal of interest in finding out why we were supplied with this kind of product. This is a subject of very great interest to us and our lawyers and you can expect that we will be following up. For litigation purposes, we cannot elaborate at this time.
Let me be clear on this - we have removed that problem from our system. Our recall is well underway and products produced today are being made with known, quality and tested raw materials.
As a result, I can say with complete confidence today to consumers, to our customers, to governments that Menu Foods continues to uphold the high standards for which we have been known since 1971.
Our products are safe. We continue to engage in the highest levels of monitoring and testing in the pet food industry. These tests will be expanded as a result of this experience.
A final word on melamine. We have had correspondence with the FDA and we know that they are diligently following-up on the supply of the suspect wheat gluten. It is not our place to name the supplier as we do not want to interfere in any way with the important investigation they are conducting.
What we know today is that the products made by Menu Foods are of the highest quality, are safe, and will be returning to store shelves across North America in the coming weeks and months.
Now, as we did last time, I think we can anticipate some of your questions.
Does Menu have something it wants to say to any pet owners who have suffered a loss?
All of us at Menu Foods want to express our sympathy to those people who have suffered with sickness and loss of pets.
We are pet-people and we have almost 1,000 caring employees who are dedicated to making food that is safe, nutritious and palatable.
We are proud of our employees and the hard work, loyalty and diligence they have demonstrated in these trying times
We are angered that a source outside of the company has apparently adulterated the product causing this regrettable loss.
We are grateful to our customers and retailers who have been so responsible in the quick removal of affected product from the market and ask their continued diligence to assure that affected product is not accidentally restocked in their systems.
What is your reaction to the FDAs Announcement earlier today?
We believe the announcement today by the FDA supports the products and the procedures used by Menu Foods in the recall. We are pleased that they have acknowledged that the nature of the adulteration could not have been identified by detection methods used by the industry and by their acknowledgement that no violations occurred.
One area that has made this recall particularly confusing is that Menu Foods executed the recall before there was a known scientific cause for the illness experienced by pets and with very few reported incidents from the field. We believe todays press announcement by the FDA again supports our actions. The actions we took out of an abundance of caution undoubtedly saved many lives.
The FDA has reported that the adulterant found in the wheat gluten has only been found in wheat gluten from one specific supplier of that ingredient. This is the ingredient referenced in our recall announcement of March 16.
What is the immediate priority for Menu Foods?
Our first priority is the recall. We have implemented procedures to work with our retail customers to effectively clear all recalled product from the supply chain before each customer can receive new products. These new products have ingredients that we know are clear of the adulterant that was found in the single source of wheat gluten.
In light of the FDAs findings, what are Menus next steps for getting back to business?
We look forward to returning to supplying safe, palatable cuts and gravy product for consumers. Our traditional loaf products do not contain any of the suspect ingredients and only two of Menus four plants have ever had the suspect ingredient in use at any time. All of our products produced after March 6 have been clear of the suspect wheat gluten.
We are working with our partners to help make it easy for consumers to know that they are purchasing only products that are clear of the suspect wheat gluten, in order to ease their mind and provide assurance of safety.
I will now take questions. Only those with a microphone may ask questions, so raise your hand if you have a question.