Last Updated: April 27, 2007. Itchmo’s full, latest coverage can be found here.
What is this page about?
On March 16, Menu Foods, a wet foods producer of private-label pet foods based in Canada, announced the recall of 60 million cans and pouches of its meat-in-gravy products for cats and dogs across more than 90 brands â€“ the largest pet food recall in US history. Other manufacturers followed with their own recalls over the next several weeks. This timeline summarizes the events leading up to the recall as well as its aftermath and vital facts regarding the tragic incident that affected 1% of the US pet food supply. Thousands of illnesses and deaths were reported by pet parents. To date the exact death toll is unknown, and it most likely will never be known. Who is Menu Foods? / Official Company Site This page constructs the timeline of events from media and government reports based on the available data we can find.
|Unofficial Death Toll||Official Death Toll|
|Cats: 56%||Cats: 93.75%|
|Dogs: 43%||Dogs: 6.25%|
|Source: PetConnection||Source: FDA/Menu Foods|
Cause of Death
Acute Renal Failure (ARF) from the ingestion of aminopterin and/or melamine (most likely the latter). The prime suspect of contamination is wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate imported from China. What is ARF? / What is aminopterin? / What is melamine?
Menu Foods feeding trial mortality rate is approximately 17%. Real-world mortality rate is unknown.
- Summer 2006:
- FDA believes first batches of tainted food may have entered the US.
- October - November, 2006:
- Tainted wheat gluten arrives from China at Long Beach Port, then is shipped to Kansas.
- November 8, 2006:
- Menu Foods switches gluten suppliers (to a Chinese company) through a broker based in Kansas.
- December 6, 2006:
- Originally reported date by Menu Foods on when contaminated wheat gluten was used. Since changed to 11/8/06.
- Late December, 2006:
- Menu Foods may have started receiving complaints that its food is making some pets sick.
- February 20, 2007:
- Menu Foods receives the first of 6 customer reports that its food is making pets sick.
- February 27, 2007:
- March 2, 2007:
- The first of 9 animals in Menu Foods feeding trial dies of acute renal failure. Mortality rate is quoted at 1 in 6.
- March 6, 2007:
- Menu Foods switches its supply of wheat gluten due to lab animal deaths.
- Kansas plant continues to operate.
March 13, 14 or 15, 2007:
- March 16, 2007:
- Menu Foods announces its recall of 60 million containers of food related to the deaths of lab animals.
- Media does not report these as lab-based deaths nor do they report the mortality rate.
- Menu Foodsâ€™ Web site is taken down and cannot be accessed.
- Menu Foods stock MEW.UN drops 45% by the close of trading day.
- Menu Foods estimate the recall costs at US$25-$34 million.
- March 17, 2007:
- Menu Foods posts its first recall list in the morning.
- Links to the remainder of the original site is removed from view.
- Consumers report encountering busy signals for their toll-free numbers. Those who do get through report that agents are taking messages for Menu Foods and checking products purchased against the recall list.
- March 18, 2007:
- Itchmo analysis indicates possible ARF in 74,000 pets.
- March 19, 2007:
- Menu Foods announces their enhanced Web site and customer service capabilities.
- Callers report no change in their ability to access the hotlines.
- Menu Foods recall list is changed. 6 brands are added and 1 is removed from the recall list.
- Class action lawsuit group is formed on Yahoo.
- FDA announces that the 60 million recalls packages amount to 1% of the US pet food supply.
- March 20, 2007:
- PetConnection.com’s self-reporting database (for pet owners affected by Menu Foods) gathers 241 reports of deaths.
- FDA announces that the 9 reported deaths only include those from the Menu Foods feeding trial.
- 2 brands are added to the recall list. Canadian brands appear on the recalled brands list.
- Official death toll is revised to 14 including 1 dog and 13 cats. This is the first official death toll that includes pets not included in the Menu Foods quarterly feeding trial.
- March 21, 2007:
- March 22, 2007:
- March 23, 2007:
- First class-action lawsuit against Menu Foods is filed by a Seattle attorney and an Oregon family.
- The substance aminopterin is found in the recalled foods.
- The suspected wheat gluten is imported from China.
- A press-conference is held by Menu Foods and the USDA.
- PetConnectionâ€™s self-reported database logs more than 1,000 deaths.
- Menu Foods announces that it will compensate expenses associated with its tainted food.
- Menu Foods announces that its Kansas plant will shut down for 2-3 days to realign its production mix.
- Menu Foods stock rises 25%.
- Kroger pulls all Menu Foods products, not just recalled brands, out of caution.
- March 24, 2007:
- PetConnection reports 1,541 deaths.
- Menu Foods asks retailers to remove entire brands, not just specific UPC codes. Pet parents debate whether to believe Menu Foods categorization that it is not an expansion of the recall.
March 26, 2007:
- An email describing the details of the Menu Foods feeding trial and its outcomes are published by the Sacramento Bee. Vets suspect long-term affects and shortened lifespans for sickened pets.
- PetConnection’s database logs 1,871 deaths.
- New Jersey plant has been confirmed under investigation, yet remains open.
- Cornell reports to the FDA that they found melamine, but no aminopterin.
March 27, 2007:
- Media reports (including the AP) begin to quote the Veterinary Information Network’s count of 471 sick and 104 dead.
- Congressional leaders request information from the FDA and Menu Foods.
- Menu Foods recall costs are estimated to exceed original numbers by the millions. And litigation risk is downplayed.
- ASPCA says that aminopterin may not be the only toxin.
- Menu Foods stock (MEW.UN) closes at 4.10.
- Cornell again reports to the FDA that they found melamine, but no aminopterin.
March 28, 2007:
- Scientific American summarizes the toxin search as well as the timing of events.
- Catmanager notes state by state veterinary agency reaction.
- Canadian vets begin tracking deaths and illnesses.
- PetConnection update: 2,237 deceased pets (1,257 cats, 980 dogs)
- NBC Nightly News reports on increased count.
March 30, 2007:
- Petconnection.com reports in the morning: 2,447 deaths (1,327 cats; 1080 dogs)
- Cornell and FDA announces that melamine was found in the food supply and tissue samples. They also said that aminopterin was not found.
- They also announce that dry food may also be contaminated, but will not name the other manufacturer who used the wheat gluten from the same source.
- Menu Foods holds a press conference, disputing or side stepping questions about their delayed response. Press release is also issued.
- Hills recalls one dry cat food product within hours of the FDA statement — 2 weeks after the initial recall.
- Purina releases a late-night recall message for its ALPO brand wet food not made by Menu Foods, but made using the same supply of wheat gluten.
- FDA prohibits import of wheat gluten from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company Ltd. through an import warning. The US broker who imported the wheat gluten is not named.
March 31, 2007:
- Itchmo discovers that Menu Foods has removed the hidden Web site information that was unlinked when the original recall was announced.
- Del Monte announces recall of wet food and treats due to the use of the same wheat gluten. Affected brands are: Ol’Roy, Jerky Treats, Gravy Train Beef Sticks, Pounce Meaty Morsels, Dollar General, and Happy Tails.
- Pet Connection database: (3/31 8:45 p.m. PT): 2,797 deceased pets (1,546 cats and 1,251 dogs)
- AP reports much higher incidences of cat deaths. And quotes the FDA as saying â€œthere was a sizable amount of melamine. You could see crystals in the wheat gluten.”
April 1, 2007:
- Blogs find the FDA import warning against the Chinese supplier. Traditional media picks up the news.
- Del Monte confirms that the imported wheat gluten was marked available for human consumption.
- FDA notes that the melamine particles were visible in the wheat gluten in concentrations as high as 6.6%.
- Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) issue a statement asking for better food protection and criticizes the FDA.
- April 2, 2007:
- April 3, 2007:
- FDA cannot rule out more recalls. And Nestle says it only took them 4 hours to track down the wheat gluten.
- Newspaper reports tainted wheat gluten sold to human food makers.
April 4, 2007:
- Anderson Cooper 360 starts its recall coverage.
- Speculation on a third suspect — vitamin D — begins.
- ChemNutra recalls all of the suspected wheat gluten batches.
- Xuzhou Anying’s facilities shown on CNN.
- Menu Foods sued for fraud in class-action.
- Scientists still debate the suspected toxins.
April 5, 2007:
- April 6, 2007:
- Del Monte announces expanded recall, contradicting the FDA.
- Oregon and Michigan reports at least 89 dead, 263 sick.
April 9, 2007:
- First confirmed discovery of melanine in non-recalled food (UC Davis).
April 10, 2007:
- Menu Foods expands recall due to contamination of Canadian plant.
- Menu Foods recall forces Royal Canin to recall its Medi-Cal product.
- (Approximate date) Wilbur-Ellis, pet feed supplier, imports rice protein concentrate. It is sold to 5 companies, including Diamond Pet Food and 1 other “major” pet food manufacturer.
April 11, 2007:
- IHT reports Xuzhou Anying may have been shopping for melamine.
- Cornell lab reports second, unidentified toxin.
April 12-17: 2007:
- Natural Balance changes their ingredients list in products containing venison.
- April 13, 2007:
- Natural Balance suspects problems with their venison formulas containing rice protein concentrate.
- April 15, 2007:
- April 17, 2007:
- Itchmo is first to break news that Natural Balance recall expands to canned food and treats containing rice protein concentrate.
- US supplier says tainted rice protein concentrate came from this company in China.
- Menu Foods expands recall. Again.
April 19, 2007:
- Blue Buffalo recalls food due to melamine in rice protein.
- April 20, 2007:
- April 23, 2007:
- Two senators say there’s a second source of tainted rice protein.
- April 24, 2007:
- April 26-27, 2007:
Itchmo’s full coverage can be found here. End of timeline