Rat poison found in deadly pet food
Rat poison found in deadly pet food
Animal deaths linked to lethal toxin illegal in the U.S.
• Rat poison found in tainted pet food
March 23: Rodent poison has been found in pet food that killed several animals. NBC's Tom Costello reports.
• Updated: 20 minutes ago
ALBANY, N.Y. - Tests turned up rat poison in the pet food suspected of causing kidney failure in dogs and cats across the country and killing at least 16, state officials and scientists announced 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, though it is used as a cancer drug, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
State officials did not say how they believe Aminopterin got into the now-recalled pet food, though they said no criminal investigations had been launched.
The poison may have been used on wheat imported from China, NBC News correspondent Tom Costello told MSNBC TV.
The Food and Drug Administration has said the investigation 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.
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.
Menu Foods is majority owned by Menu Foods Income Fund of Streetsville. The company also makes foods for zoo cats, but those products are unaffected by the recall.
The company’s chief executive and president said Menu Foods delayed announcing the recall until it could confirm that the animals had eaten its product before dying. Two earlier complaints from consumers whose cats had died involved animals that lived outside or had access to a garage, which left open the possibility they had been poisoned by something other than contaminated food, he said.
Menu Foods planned a media teleconference for later Friday, a spokesman said.
No criminal investigation so far
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.
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.
A complete list of the recalled products along with product codes, descriptions and production dates was available from the Menu Foods Web site. The company also designated two phone numbers that pet owners could call for information — (866) 463-6738 and (866) 895-2708.
At least one veterinarian in New Hampshire reports seeing cases of sick cats and dogs before the massive pet-food recall that she's sure are now connected.
Lee Garrod of the Portsmouth Emergency Veterinary Clinic says since the recall, she's called pet owners back and asked them what they were feeding, and the brands and codes were a match.
Garrod said her experience with local cases shows a 50 percent mortality rate for cats and dogs who became sick after they ate the food.
"I was seeing young cats that had me baffled," she said. "One woman even brought all of her house plants to be tested."
Garrod said she's seen six affected animals in Maine, one in Goffstown and 12 in Portsmouth.
"We have successfully treated half," she said, adding that the food doesn't affect every cat.
Garrod said anyone who thinks their pet may have eaten the food should bring it in to have the pet's kidneys and urine tested.