FDA Still Unaware of Gluten Source, Contaminated Plant Still Open

FDAFor many pet parents, this falls under the “Are you kidding me?” file. The many media outlets are reporting that “Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, only knows the name of the company that brokered the wheat gluten supply, not the actual supply itself” and that the plant that made the food is still “fully operational”.

The FDA says the Kansas City plant remains open. Asked why that is so, given that the agency can’t figure out why the animals died and continues to receive complaints from the public, Sundlof said: “We will investigate those.”

Also, the government-verified death toll rose to 14 pets. We don’t know who seems slower to react, Menu Foods or the FDA.

The number of confirmed deaths from the contaminated food rose from 10 to 14 — 13 cats and one dog — the government said Tuesday.

The 14 animal deaths include four consumer-owned cats and a dog. The other cats died in a taste test conducted by Menu Foods, the FDA says.

All 9 previous deaths were cats from the Menu Food test lab. It also seems that the February 27th testing conducted by Menu Foods was “part of Menu Foods’ routine quarterly testing,” according to the FDA. So did Menu Foods test in response to customer complaints? Or is this why it took so long to test the product?

CBS also reports that the Kansas plant had never been inspected by the FDA until this now.

FDA inspectors had never before visited the Kansas plant. The FDA warned the company following a 2004 inspection of its New Jersey factory after it failed to flag food made for zoo cats of the risk of mad cow disease if the product were fed to cattle.

Also, a $25 million lawsuit and another one has been filed against Menu Foods.

8 Responses to “FDA Still Unaware of Gluten Source, Contaminated Plant Still Open”

  1. G.K. says:

    Granted, I’m not familiar with the way these sorts of things operate, but I don’t understand how the FDA could know who brokered the gluten supply, but not where it came from. One would think the company would have kept some sort of records, no?

    Unless we’re not getting the whole story (or I’ve missed something), my understanding was that the suspect wheat gluten has yet to be proven as a definitive cause. The gluten may well be the problem, but if they’re not absolutely certain, I don’t see how they could possibly allow the plant to remain open. What if it wasn’t the gluten? What if they are unable to find the source of the contamination? More tainted food could be being produced as we speak. Not to mention, I seem to recall earlier reports in which we were assured by the FDA that the tainted wheat couldn’t possibly show up in human food, as the supplier only provided gluten to the pet industry. How can they make a claim like that if they can’t locate the source of the wheat?

    According to this report, (http://www.prweb.com/releases/Pet_Food/Recall/prweb513242.htm), PetConnection has received nearly 600 complaints of potential food-borne renal failure over the past 48 hours. In 241 of the cases, the pets died. According to some of the posters I’ve seen online who have managed to get through to the FDA- (though at this point it’s all just hearsay, and there’s no way to ascertain the legitimacy)- even these numbers may be grossly understated. The food has been tied primarily to the Emporia plant. Ultimately, we still don’t know why. Yet it’s somehow okay for this plant to continue manufacturing foodstuffs?

    This is totally unacceptable. I’m thinking new pet food manufacturing regulations are in order. I’m also thinking that, if the FDA is too busy to keep tabs on these things until a problem arises, then (IMO) maybe they shouldn’t be the ones in charge of the oversight.

  2. Adrienne says:

    What Kansas City plant? The plant is in Emporia.

  3. LiMack says:

    I am absolutely beside myself I am so upset at the poor communication and accountability re: this recall. Beloved pets are dying!!

    First, all the media outlets and news websites just refer people to the MENU website for information on the tainted brands and codes. As has been already pointed out this MENU website is confusing and requires access to Excel. Hard as it may be for people to believe, there ARE still lots of folks out there who for economic or age related reasons may not have access to a computer or one with business applications. So their pets have to suffer and die because they don’t know which foods are recalled? Can’t anyone print a list!!!??

    Second, what is happening to all the recalled food product? Is it going to be destroyed? How? Under whose supervision and verification? I fear it will turn up again in a different form or packaging here or abroad. Why is not the media asking about this and demanding answers?

    Third, How on earth can the plant in Emporia still be in operation? The brands involved need to immediately disassociate themselves from this plant or they will commit permanent marketing suicide. Most of us might understand that maybe a bad batch happened (just as occasionally happens in human food,) but to continue packing pet food there without knowing the original source of contanination is criminal.

    Finally, It is easy to find fault with the FDA’s response here, but the companies from A to Z who contracted with MENU to produce food to their specifications bear even more enormous responsibility. If their name is going on the label they need to know that what’s inside is safe and they are ulltimately responsible to the humans and animals who trust them.

  4. itchmo!seattle » Blog Archive » Menu Foods Announces They Will “Take Financial Responsibility” says:

    […] manufacturing at the two plants believed to have produced the contaminated pet food” as we reported earlier in the week (emphasis […]

  5. Dorothy says:

    After eating tainted cat food, my healthy, playful cat began to rapidly decline.
    I took him to the ER Vet on Sat. nite and then on Monday a.m. took him to his regular vet. Diagnosis: acute renal failure. Cat was given IV’s and lived like that for a week. We had to put him to sleep and he died in my arms. The food contained wheat and corn gluten. I am beside myself with grief for this cat. As he died, I sobbed and then he gave one last purr to comfort me and died. Cat had regular vet , shots, best of love and care his daily life, including a microchip. This cruel death was wrong and animals are dying.

  6. Dorothy says:

    After eating tainted cat food, my healthy, playful cat began to rapidly decline.
    I took him to the ER Vet on Sat. nite and then on Monday a.m. took him to his regular vet. Diagnosis: acute renal failure. Cat was given IV’s and lived like that for a week. We had to put him to sleep and he died in my arms. The food contained wheat and corn gluten. I am beside myself with grief for this cat. As he died, I sobbed and then he gave one last purr to comfort me and died. Cat had regular vet , shots, best of love and care his daily life, including a microchip. This cruel death was wrong and animals are dying. Yes I have said it and will continue to say it you hard hearted idiot.

  7. martin says:

    If everyone refuses to buy any and all foods that Menu Foods produces. The operation will eventually be closed down.

  8. David says:

    We have 2 Dalmatians, including a 3 year old female named Katrina and 8 year old male named Winston. Katrina was on Nutro Ultra Adult dry, while Winston was on a different prescription diet food.

    During the week of April 16-20, Katrina lost the desire to eat and, when we did coax her to eat on 2 occasions, she threw it back up 8+ hours later, still undigested.

    We took Katrina to the vet on Wednesday and Friday of that week, with blood work done only on the Friday visit. At that time, her BUN level was at 114 (should be under 30) and creatinine was at 8.5 (should be under 2 or possibly 1.5). Her blood Albumin level was normal, but her blood pressure was very high at 214. The vet’s diagnosis was acute renal failure. This came as a shock to us considering that Katrina was only 3 years old, had never been sick a day in her life, and was always full of energy. Also, the food we were giving her, Nutro Adult dry, was not on the recall list.

    Our vet began immediate IV infusion, which continued around the clock over the weekend. The vet also did numerous additional blood and urine tests, along with 3 ultrasounds, which resulted in over $2K in bills on just the weekend alone.

    By Sunday afternoon of that weekend, Katrina’s blood Albumin levels crashed to 1.6 (should be above 2) and she had large quantities of protein in her urine. I learned this was important because Albumin is needed in the blood to keep fluids from leaking out of her blood vesels and entering body cavities. Due to her kidney’s inability to keep the Albumin levels up, Katrina gained over 7 pounds of water between Sunday morning and Sunday evening.

    When we saw Katrina on Sunday evening, we honestly would not have recognized her as our dog. Katrina’s cheeks and neck were swollen with water, along with her abdomen. The only positive news was that her BUN and creatinine levels were trending down at 61 and 2.5, respectively.

    By Monday morning, Katrina’s blood Albumin level had dropped to 1.2, and things looked very bad for her, despite that her BUN and creatinine levels had come down even more (but were still above normal).

    At this point, the vet told us that they needed to be honest by telling us there was little additional they could do for her and she was unlikely to survive. Even if she could somehow survive, she had certainly suffered immense damage to the kidneys and would have a materially shorter life. The conclusion was that Katrina would most likely need to be euthanized within the next week or two at most.

    When we asked if there was anything they could do for a temporary fix so we could at least have her home for a couple of days to say goodbye, they suggested a blood transfusion might help get her blood Albumin levels high enough to reduce the fluid buildup on body cavities and make her more comfortable. We said to go for it, without hesitation.

    On Monday afternoon, Katrina received 2 units of blood. We then went home to spend a quite night at home cuddling with her, thinking that would probably be one of the last evenings we would have together at home.

    When we woke up on Tuesday morning, we immediately noticed that the swelling in Katrina’s neck and abdomen had reduced significantly, and she peed a really loooooooooong time each time we took her outside that morning.

    When we took Katrina back to the vet later that day, her Albumin levels now tested a bit on the high side at 2.9, while her BUN and creatinine levels were still a bit high of normal, but not by much. We were told that the Albumin increase might just be a temporary spike due to the blood transfusion, and that subsequent testing on Thursday would be key to long term prognosis. When we redid the tests that Thursday of that week, her Albumin levels had increased to 3.9, while her BUN and creatinine levels had returned to the high range of normal. The vet said that high Albumin levels were not as problematic as low levels.

    Due to lingering concerns from the renal failure, we were advised to give Katrina subcutaneous injections of 200 ml of NaCl at home every 24 hours for the next week, which we did.

    The following week, we had Katrina tested again, and everything (i.e., BUN, creatinine, Albumin) came up normal (other than continued high blood pressure)!!! She is truly a miracle dog.

    I’m letting you all know this so that you continue fighting for your dogs, even after it appears there’s no hope. In our case, I suspect that Katrina’s young age, coupled with our acting relatively quickly when we first noticed the symptoms, followed by the 48+ hours of IV and the blood transfusion, gave her a second shot at life.

    A week ago, we called Nutro and explained all of the above to them. They were polite and took all of our information. They said they would send us a mailer within a couple of weeks so that we can give them 4 cups of the Nutro Ultra Dry dog food, which is what we suspect caused the problem.

    The long terms affects on Katrina’s health remain unclear. She still has high blood pressure, so we are giving her medication for that every day, and will probably need to do so for life. We’ve also switched her food from the Nutro Ultra Adult dry to the K/D canned food so that we can carefully regulate the quantity/quality of her protein intake (to keep her blood toxins down). We’re keeping our fingers crossed and appreciating every day that we have with her.

    A couple of days ago we received the mailer from Nutro. The mailer states our customer I number and says that we will be notified upon received of any lab testing they complete. I’ll update this group when and if that happens.

    We also contacted the FDA to report our concerns. Unfortunately, or fortunately in our case, they require certain symptoms to do any testing–one of them being death–so they are unable to help. However, they have our case on record now.

    Best wishes to everyone else experiencing these problems.

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