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March 21, 2007

Experts on pet food recall: Don't panic, but check the pantry

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A recent pet food contamination could affect Hoosier pets and pet owners unless they check to make sure they don't have any recalled products on their shelves, according to Purdue University experts.

Pet food manufacturer Menu Foods has recalled 51 different types of wet canned foods for dogs and cats that may contain a contaminant that has yet to be identified. While this makes the stores safe, Indiana pet owners could have purchased recalled products as recently as March 18, said Bob Geiger, feed administrator with the Indiana State Chemist office located at Purdue.

"While stores should have taken affected products off their shelves, Hoosiers need to make sure that any food they have recently purchased isn't included in the recall," he said.

Menu Foods manufactures items for companies under many different brand names, so affected foods might not have the Menu Foods name. Consumers can view a list of recalled products online at http://www.menufoods.com/recall or they can call Menu's recall hotline at (866) 895-2708.

Geiger and Robert Waltz, head of the Indiana State Chemist office, said that so far they have received about 20 calls from people asking about their pet foods and have heard of five pets dying in Indiana since the recall. At this point, however, none of the deceased pets were known to have eaten any of the recalled products, Waltz said.

Leon Thacker, director of Purdue's Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab, said he hasn't heard of any Indiana pet deaths in which contaminated food was verified, although that doesn't mean pet owners shouldn't be cautious.   

If a pet shows signs of illness and you are worried it might have eaten a recalled product, Thacker advises owners to call their veterinarian. In this case, pets that have died after eating contaminated food have experienced kidney failure, which includes symptoms such as lethargy or unusual fatigue, decreased hunger, vomiting, or increased thirst or urination.

Since the March 16 Menu Foods' announcement, 10 pets have been confirmed to have eaten contaminated product before dying. Testing continues to identify the potential contaminant.

Thacker said that the recall should be put in perspective. Considering the large amount of recalled pet food that was on the market, few pet deaths have been directly linked to eating the food. Therefore, if you find your pet has eaten a recalled product, replace the food and watch your pet for signs of illness. If no symptoms appear, Thacker said there is likely no cause for alarm or for taking your pet to the veterinarian.

"While Indiana pet owners should be cautious and make sure to check the list of affected products, I don't think they need to worry that the whole pet food supply is in danger," Waltz said.

If an owner suspects a pet has died after eating a contaminated food, Thacker requests they call the Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab at (765) 494-7460. Thacker said the information is needed to know if animals are dying from this contamination in Indiana and, if so, what else might be done to prevent additional deaths or future contaminations.

The recall pertains to food made at Menu Foods' plant in Emporia, Kan., and does not involve any Indiana manufacturing locations.

Hoosiers can find more information about this and related topics pertinent to Indiana on the state chemist's Web site at http://www.isco.purdue.edu.

Writer: Douglas M Main, (765)496-2050, dmain@purdue.edu

Sources: Bob Geiger, (765)494-1551, geigerb@purdue.edu

Robert Waltz, (765)494-1492, rwaltz@purdue.edu

Leon Thacker, (765)494-7460, thackerl@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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