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Pet food recall has owners scared, may improve quality

La Jolla vets are cautioning pet owners in the wake of the pet-food recall to review Internet recall lists and stick with high-profile name brands, while hoping this crisis will be a wake-up call ushering in more stringent quality-control standards for the industry.

On March 16, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was informed that Menu Foods, Inc., a private-label pet food manufacturer was recalling all its “cuts and gravy” style dog and cat food produced at its facility in Emporia, Kansas between Dec. 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007.

Menu Foods now includes nearly 100 brands and labels on their recall list.

A list of the potentially contaminated products can be found at www.menufoods.com/recall. Consumers who have any of these products should immediately stop feeding them to their pets. Dogs or cats who have consumed the suspect feed and show signs of kidney failure (loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting) should consult with their veterinarian.

The recall was prompted by consumer complaints received by the manufacturer and by tasting trials conducted by the manufacturer. The products are packaged in cans and pouches under numerous brand names and are marketed nationwide by many pet food retailers.

To date, only 14 animal deaths attributed to tainted pet food have been reported to the FDA.

Vicky Hope, assistant manager at Muttropolis pet boutique at 7755 Girard Ave., said their business has been completely unaffected by the pet-food recall. “It looks like it’s a problem with wheat gluten, an addition in pet food,” said Hope. “Superior-quality food does not contain wheat gluten. We don’t sell food with wheat gluten. None of our products has been effected by the recall: Not one.”

Wheat gluten is a mixture of two proteins obtained when flour of wheat is washed to remove the starch. One use of wheat gluten is as a filler and binder in wet-style, cuts-and-gravy-type pet food. It provides a gelatinous consistency used to thicken pet food gravy. It is not generally associated with food contamination.

Organic pet foods are one viable nutritional alternative many people are turning to to improve their pet’s health. Such foods don’t use pesticides or hormones. “They’re just more careful about what the contents are,” said Hope.

Marilyn Seals,, of La Jolla Veterinary Hospital at 7520 Fay Ave., is advising her clients to avoid, for the time being, any foods listed on the recall list which contain wheat gluten.

Seals is concerned people may lose faith all together in name-brand pet foods. “I’m a little concerned about people starting to make all their own homemade food,” she said. “It is very hard to balance the meals.”

Seals may have had one case involving a cat, which survived, that got sick from eating wheat-gluten contaminated food that she took down to the emergency vet hospital.

The pet-food industry was slow getting off the mark in issuing this most recent recall, said John L. Morizi,, of The Animal Hospital of La Jolla at 7601 Draper Ave. “Menu Foods knew they were having a problem two weeks before issuing the recall when they were having test animals die from this food,” he said. “Now they think there’s a China company that has sold contaminated wheat gluten, and the recall has expanded and more foods have been implicated.”

Morizi treated one young cat that succumbed to an inexplicable kidney disease in January that was eating Menu Foods brands.

Pauline White, administrator for the San Diego County Veterinary Medical Association, noted the pet-food recall is a growing problem. “There is no longer one single source people can use to obtain a list (of contaminated brands),” she said. “There are now a total of four different sources. People might have those foods in their pantry.”

This may be the most severe problem ever encountered with pet foods. “There has been no pet-food recalled to this magnitude ever that I’m aware of,” said White. “Nothing quite like it.”

Consumers with questions may contact Menu Foods at 1-866-895-2708. Consumers who wish to report adverse actions or other problems can go to https://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html. For a complete list of recalled pet food visit www.sdcountyvet.org.