Canines.Mobi

Rat poison found in tainted pet food

March 23, 2007, 1:35PM
Rat poison found in tainted pet food

By MARK JOHNSON Associated Press Writer
© 2007 The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — Rat poison was found in the pet food suspected of
causing kidney failure that killed at least 16 cats and dogs, but
scientists still don't know how it got there, state officials said
Friday.

The toxin was identified as aminopterin, which is used to kill rats
in some countries, state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker
said.

Aminopterin is not registered for killing rodents in the United
States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, though it
is used as a cancer drug. State officials wouldn't speculate on how
the toxin got into Menu Foods' now-recalled pet food but said no
criminal investigations had been launched.

Scientists at the New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center at
Cornell and at the New York State Food Laboratory tested three cat
food samples provided by Menu Foods and found Aminopterin in two of
them. Hooker said they would test individual components of the pet
food, as well. The early test results were released to give
veterinarians a better idea of how to treat sick animals.

"Any amount of this product is too much in food," Hooker said.

Aminopterin, also used as a cancer drug, is highly toxic in high
doses. It inhibits the growth of malignant cells and suppresses the
immune system.

In dogs and cats, it can cause kidney failure, according to Donald
Smith, dean of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Food and Drug Administration has said the investigation into the
pet deaths was focusing on wheat gluten in the pet food. Wheat
gluten itself would not cause kidney failure, but the common
ingredient could have been contaminated, the FDA said.

Bob Rosenberg, senior vice president of government affairs for the
National Pest Management Association, said he had never heard of the
substance before Friday.

"It would make no sense to spray a crop itself with rodenticide,"
Rosenberg said, though he said grain shippers typically put bait
stations around the perimeter of their storage facilities.

The pet deaths led to a recall of 60 million cans and pouches of pet
food produced by Menu Foods and sold throughout North America under
95 brand names. There have been several reports of kidney failure in
pets that ate the recalled brands, and the company has confirmed the
deaths of 15 cats and one dog.

Menu Foods last week recalled "cuts and gravy" style dog and cat
food. The recall sparked concern among pet owners across North
America. It includes food sold under store brands carried by Wal-
Mart, Kroger, Safeway and other large retailers, as well as private
labels such as Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba.

The company, already facing lawsuits, planned a media teleconference
for later Friday, a spokesman said. It is majority owned by Menu
Foods Income Fund of Streetsville.

A complete list of the recalled products along with product codes,
descriptions and production dates was posted online by Menu Foods
and is available at http://tinyurl.com/2pn6mm. The company also
designated two phone numbers that pet owners could call for
information: (866) 463-6738 and (866) 895-2708.

A spokesman for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he was
not aware of any criminal investigation involving the tainted food.
FBI spokesman Paul Holstein in Albany said Friday he was not aware
of any FBI involvement in the case.

"I don't know where we'll go from here," he said.