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Dangerous Chemicals in Recalled Pet Food

Dangerous Chemicals in Recalled Pet Food

Hundreds of deaths of cats and dogs have been caused by kidney failure that has been linked to the presence of two chemicals in imported ingredients.

December 2, 2007 —

In early 2007, owners began reporting that their cats and dogs mysteriously died after eating tainted pet food. Menu Foods issued a recall, but for months, it was unknown why pets were having kidney failure. Veterinarians began to share information and the FDA found melamine (used to make plastic) and cyanuric acid (used to chlorinate pools) in the food. Neither is approved to be used in pet foods and raises questions about how pet food is produced and how owners can protect their pets from future problems.

In March 2007, pet food company Menu Foods issued a recall. Since then, other companies have followed suit. By spring, the two chemicals were discovered in imported rice protein and wheat gluten. The chemicals can form into crystals that impair animals' kidney functions. Dr. Barbara Powers, former president of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) explained: "Either one of those chemicals alone wouldn't cause these [deaths]. It has to be the combination of the two.

Since March, the FDA has been flooded with thousands of calls about dogs and cats falling sick after eating pet food. The FDA confirmed 16 pet-food related deaths, though the AAVLD has confirmed over 300 pet deaths. Powers and others have explained, however, that it is likely that hundreds more pets have died from the pet food, but the AAVLD could not confirm the cause of these deaths for various reasons.

Consumers hired a private laboratory to conduct tests on the pet food and found acetaminophen, a pain killer, in some samples. Dr. Powers of the AAVLD explained, however, that the private lab was not an AAVLD lab and questioned the findings. The AAVLD is hoping to receive additional federal funding in order to respond quicker to problems of tainted food. Some owners were still using the pet food for months after the recall because of the lack of information. Others are furious with pet food companies because they did not test their products before packaging them.

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