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ASPCA Advises Caution As Pet Food Recall Crisis Grows

Other Contaminants May Be Involved in the Menu Foods Recall
March 27, 2007

NEW YORK, March 27, 2007—Since Menu Foods announced its massive pet food recall on March 16, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) has been flooded with calls from concerned pet parents and animal welfare professionals alike. Call volume at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), which is based in its Midwest Office in Urbana, Ill., has increased significantly over the past 10 days—approximately 14 percent—and the ASPCA’s veterinary toxicologists have been carefully analyzing data from these calls.

Today the ASPCA reports that, based on these data, clinical signs reported in cats affected by the contaminated foods are not fully consistent with the ingestion of rat poison containing aminopterin that, according to Menu Foods, is at the “root” of the contamination issue.

“We’ve seen reports coming in from all around the country that animals that were eating the contaminated foods are definitely suffering from renal failure,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president with the ASPCA, who manages the ASPCA’s Midwest Office, including the APCC. “But the data that we’ve been collecting do not conclusively prove this connection, which is why we strongly recommend that those involved in the investigation continue to search for additional contaminants.”

Dr. Hansen continued, “Aminopterin has been used to treat cancer in people, since it is able to disrupt rapidly-growing cells. In animals, it should result in effects that mimic this function, and these include bloody diarrhea, bone marrow suppression, abortion and birth defects. Further, renal damage—which has been seen in the affected animals—can occur at high doses.

“However, to be consistent with the effects of aminopterin, we should also be seeing a significant number of affected pets showing the accompanying signs of severe intestinal damage, as well as bone marrow suppression, including ‘leukopenia,’ which is a serious reduction in white blood cells.

“This is the missing connection that we want to alert veterinarians around the country to. We are asking all veterinarians treating cats affected by these products, to report their findings to the U. S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).”

Although Menu Foods announced last week that aminopterin was at the “root” of the contamination issue, the FDA, the agency leading this investigation, has not corroborated this finding.

“There are so many inconsistencies in the purported link between aminopterin and the animals affected, that we urge veterinary toxicologists and veterinary pathologists at diagnostic laboratories to continue looking for additional contaminants,” said Dr. Hansen. “Only continued rigorous testing will uncover the real reason or reasons for this crisis among our pet population.”

The ASPCA strongly recommends that pet parents should have their pet examined by their veterinarian if any signs of illness occur following consumption of the recalled foods, including loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in water consumption or changes in urination. Adverse effects or deaths of pets conclusively linked to eating the contaminated foods should be reported to the FDA at http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html. Additionally, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a wealth of resources at http://www.avma.org/aa/menufoodsrecall/default.asp.