Friday, March 30, 2007

Pet Food Recall: 2nd Chemical Found

The FDA cannot confirm the presence of aminopterin in the recalled pet foods, but announced today it found a second chemical possibly responsible for kidney failure. Melamine is a chemical used in the manufacturing of plastics, and was found in the affected wet food, in the kidneys of animals, and in the wheat gluten imported from China.

It is not clear exactly which of these chemicals, if any, is causing kidney failure in cats and dogs. The FDA also announced that a maker of dry pet food potentially received a shipment of contaminated wheat gluten. Obviously that referred to Purina and Hills, who expanded the recall to certain Alpo and Science Diet products.

CNN has an update.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kidney Treatment Centers for Pets

The Washington Post reports on the differences between acute and chronic kidney failure, concluding "if your pet ate any of the tainted foods recalled by Menu Foods and is not showing symptoms, that does not necessarily mean your pet is safe."

Newsweek offers an interview with an expert with an interesting perspective on issues about pet food safety and feeding dogs and cats in general.

As noted in an earlier post, the UC Veterinary Medical Center-San Diego's unit for treating acute and chronic kidney failure is one of only two veterinary clinics in California and five in the nation equipped to provide dialysis for cats and dogs.

Another source of advanced veterinary care is the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine feline renal transplantation program. A cat kidney transplant costs $8,000.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Pet Food Contaminated by Rat Poison

ABC News reports on the pet food recall:

"A source close to the investigation tells ABC News that the rodenticide, which the source says is illegal to use in the United States, was on wheat that was imported from China and used by Menu Foods in nearly 100 brands of dog and cat food."

The name of the chemical is aminopterin. A press conference is scheduled for later today by experts in New York, whose food laboratory found the contaminant.

[Update] New York State officials confirmed in a news conference that the name of the chemical is aminopterin. Menu Foods confirmed they do not know where or how it entered the supply chain to contaminate its wet foods products (see complete list at The company said it will take responsibility for pet owner bills for cases they determine are related to the recall.

Officials continue to investigate and expect the number of affected pets to increase.

The New York State Food Laboratory equipped to discover the toxin is a member of the food emergency response network setup by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11. Aminopterin and other chemicals like Aluminum Phosphide and Ammonia are on a DHS list of extremeley hazardous substances.


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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Expect More Bad News From Pet Food Recall

Read the latest on the recall here.

March 22, 2007 - A pet food recall almost one week old continues to grow in scope. Menu Foods, the largest supplier of wet pet food in North America and private label manufacturer for widely used brands and retailers including Iams and Wal-Mart, still has not figured out the cause.

Official statements by the FDA refer to 16 pets dead, but the true number will most likely be much higher. Cat and dog owners who used the recalled brands are advised to stop immediately and go to the vet for tests. Menu Foods says it fielded 47,000 phone calls over the weekend, but most news reports tell of people unable to contact the company due to overloaded phone lines.

Sixty million packages of wet dog and cat food were recalled, representing 1% of all pet food sold in the United States. Menu Foods own tests showed an alarming mortality rate of 1 in 7, meaning 7 out of 50 animals that ate their food died. Using highly conservative numbers, Dillon Media LLC estimates a minimum number of total deaths that still has three zeros after it, as reported in The Economist. That said, it is important to remember that the vast majority of pets in America are safe.

Anecdotal evidence is beginning to back this up, with six lawsuits already reported in four US states and Canada, reports over 800 pet deaths in their self-reported database, and news organizations around the country have no problem finding affected people to interview. Many pet owners lost a cat or dog weeks ago, only realizing the cause after the recall was announced.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported this morning that the FDA is not asking vets to report suspected cases of recall-related deaths. This is a mistake. In the lightly regulated industry of pet food manufacturing, official documentation of the toll of this pet disaster will help craft the regulations and legislation that will inevitably follow. The last pet disaster - hurricane Katrina - resulted in new federal and state laws incorporating pets into disaster planning. [Update Mar 23: this FDA FAQ encourages vets to file cases]

This one exposes the manufacturer as a weak link in the chain. Few people probably knew just how many brands Menu Foods produced until they were forced to post the affected labels on their website. Private label pet food manufacturers tend not to name their customers. In fact, Doane Pet Care, who manufacturer's Wal-Mart's Ol' Roy dry dog food, does not even mention on its website that it is owned by Mars Inc. Doane is not involved in this recall.

Read the latest post on this topic here.

Click on a Label to learn more about the topic:

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pet Food Recall Update: Affected Brands

Menu Foods fixed their website and posted the affected brands at

Thirty-eight different cat food labels and 46 brands of dog food are listed.

The FDA has posted additional information.


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Friday, March 16, 2007

Pet Franchises writes about some popular pet franchisees, including pet services like daycare, grooming and training. Check it out here. But if you're interested in buying a pet business or franchise, don't forget to research the entire industry first with independent market research.

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PR Strategy Needs a Recall

Menu Foods, one of the largest pet food manufacturers in North America, announced a recall this morning but failed to name affected brands, saying they will be available tomorrow morning on their website that currently doesn't function. Since they make pet food for Wal-Mart (WMT), Safeway (SWY), Kroger (KR), and many more, people were left understandably confused.

So far, Proctor & Gamble Pet Care (PG) and Safeway have taken the proactive move of recalling their labels possibly affected by their manufacturer, possibly compelled by Menu Foods vague press release that resulted in Friday night newscasts in major cities across the nation asking questions but getting no answers.

Purina (Nestle), Hills (CL), Petco and PetSmart (PETM) also made proactive moves before the affected brands were announced.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Pet Industry News

PetSmart, Inc., the nations largest retailer of pet supplies, announced 2006 fiscal year results. Net sales in 2006 grew 11% from the previous year, to $4.23 billion. Pet services sales and revenue continue quarterly growth above 20%, generating $376 million in revenue in 2006.

The company will close all 180 State Line Tack departments, exiting the equine business to make room for higher margin pet supplies or PetsHotels.

Earlier this month, PetSmart increased its number of stores in Canada by 58% to 42 with the acquisition of 19 Super Pet stores.

One current advertising campaign directs users to the Nutrition Selector on the website, featuring highly differentiated premium dog and cat foods. Pet food is the largest segment of the industry - American's spend about $14 billion each year on pet food - and a primary driver of the consumer into the store.

Petco, the nation's second largest pet specialty retailer, went private last year but refuses to sit, expanding on services and pampering themes. The company announced a nationwide fashion show marketing campaign, and was reported to be exploring the mobile grooming business in Las Vegas.

Central Garden & Pet, the largest supplier of pet items to PetSmart, Petco, Wal-Mart, Target and many others, has been impacted recently by rising grain prices and Wal-Mart's decision to stop selling live fish. But it continues to innovate and grow across many segments of the industry, winning nine New Product awards at the 2007 Global Pet Expo.

Nestle, the world's largest food company, will open its first pet food factory in China this year as it tries to take a bite out of Mars Inc's Chinese market share. Mars has been in China for 10 years, and sells a lot of Pedigree and Whiskas to the local market through an alliance with a Chinese company, in this case Effem Foods (Beijing) Co. Ltd. Nestle may benefit from newer foreign ownership regulations.


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