Menu Pet Settles Pet Food Class Action Suit

Have you been wondering what happened to the Menu Pet Recall class action suit? The answer is it was just settled this week. Thanks to...

Joy  |  Apr 5th 2008


Have you been wondering what happened to the Menu Pet Recall class action suit? The answer is it was just settled this week.

Thanks to ConsumerAffairs.com for this update.

Menu Foods Settles Pet Food Class Action
Thousands of dogs and cats sickened by contaminated pet food

By Lisa Wade McCormick
ConsumerAffairs.Com

The company behind the largest pet food recall in United States history — one blamed for the deaths and illnesses of thousands of dogs and cats in North America — has agreed to settle lawsuits with pet owners.

Menu Foods Income Fund announced the tentative settlement on Tuesday.

The Canadian-based company said it could not disclose terms of the agreement, which is subject to the approval of U.S. and Canadian courts.

“It’s a comprehensive settlement,” Amy W. Schulman, a lawyer for Menu Foods, told MSNBC. “It would resolve all the claims.” The lead attorney for pet owners agreed and said she’s confident a final agreement will be reached.

Tuesday’s settlement comes just a little more than a year after Menu Foods recalled 60 million containers of tainted pet food.

The company took that action after dogs and cats across the country suffered kidney problems or died after eating the company’s food.

Menu Foods initially blamed the contamination on a chemical called Aminopterin, which is used as a rat poison and to treat cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) later discovered the chemical melamine in the imported wheat gluten used in the pet food. Melamine is used to make plastics.

Unapproved chemicals
In December, veterinarians blamed the dogs’ and cats’ deaths on the combination of two chemicals FDA officials found in the tainted pet food: melamine and cyanuric acid, which is used to chlorinate pools.

Neither chemical is approved in pet food.

Veterinarians said those two chemicals can combine and form crystals in the dogs’ and cats’ bodies. And those crystals can impair the animals’ kidney function.

“Either one of those chemicals alone wouldn’t cause these (deaths),” Dr. Barbara Powers, immediate past president of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) and director of Colorado State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, told ConsumerAffairs.com. “It has to be the combination of the two.

“So it’s not melamine alone.”

Pet owners in 19 states — and Ontario — filed dozens of lawsuits against Menu Foods in the weeks that followed the March 16, 2007, nationwide recall of dog and cat food. Those cases were consolidated in a federal court in Camden, New Jersey.

The lawsuits alleged unfair and deceptive trade practices, negligence in failing to provide adequate quality control and breach of implied and express warranties. Some consumers also claimed they suffered emotional trauma after their pets became sick or died.

Pet owners sought compensation for their veterinary bills.

Companies named in the lawsuits — besides Menu Foods — included Del Monte Foods Inc. of San Francisco; Nestle of Stamford, Conn.; Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati; Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd. in Pixian, China; and Suzhou Textile Import and Export Co. in Jiangsu, China.

Those defendants — and Menu Foods product liability insurance company — will cover the costs of the settlement.

Menu Foods’ estimates the nationwide recall cost the company $53.8 million.

The company said pet owners with potential claims should not contact Menu Foods regarding the tentative settlement. When a final agreement is reached — and claims are processed and approved — the administrator of the settlement fund will notify pet owners.

U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman set a May 14 hearing in New Jersey to consider the settlement. A final hearing date in Canada is not yet scheduled.

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