Pet Food Crisis Spreads to More Brands, Dry Food and Treats

WASHINGTON - Supermarkets are starting to run out of the pet food brands they can carry. The pet food recalls centering around the presence of contaminated wheat gluten in products continued to broaden Friday and over the weekend, as recalls encompassed new brands and broke for the first time into the dry food side of the aisle.

On Saturday, San Francisco-based Del Monte Pet Products voluntarily withdrew specific product codes of pet treats and wet dog food products, after learning from the FDA that wheat gluten it had sourced from an unnamed manufacturing facility in China contained melamine, the apparent culprit commonly shared in all of the more than 100 brands of cat and dog food recalled since mid-March.

The Del Monte products recalled sold under the Jerky Treats(R), Gravy Train(R) Beef Sticks and Pounce Meaty Morsels(R) brands as well as select dog snack and wet dog food products sold under private label brands, including Dollar General and Wal-Mart's popular Ol' Roy brands, the company said.

Del Monte said the recall removed all of its pet products with wheat gluten procured from this manufacturing facility from retail shelves.

Meanwhile, lawsuits continue to surface, as an indication that the financial devastation of the recall is just beginning to take shape. At last count about two dozen suits have been filed since Menu Foods launched a national recall of 60 million cans and pouches of pet food under almost 100 brands.

Menu Foods on Friday promised to reimburse pet owners for any veterinary bills arising from illnesses linked to consumption its products. "We are angered that a source outside of the company has apparently adulterated the product causing this regrettable loss," Paul Henderson, the company's president and CEO, said Friday. "The important point today is that the source of the adulteration has been identified and removed from our system," said Henderson. The executive stressed that all of its pet food produced since March 6 is "safe and healthy."

By now, however, the recall has expanded even beyond Menu Foods. On Saturday the crisis engulfed Nestle Purina PetCare Co., which said it was recalling all sizes and varieties of its Alpo Prime Cuts in Gravy wet dog food with specific date codes. Purina said a limited amount of the food contained contaminated wheat gluten from China, the same wheat gluten supplied to Menu Foods.

On Friday, it was Hill's Pet Nutrition's turn, stating that its Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry cat food included the tainted wheat gluten. This was the first time a dry pet food product was swept up by the recall.

The wheat gluten has apparently been contaminated somehow with melamine, which is used to make kitchenware and other plastics, and is also a byproduct of several pesticides. FDA officials, meanwhile we not saying for sure that melamine was responsible for the rash of pet illness and deaths.

Also on Saturday, the category took another blow when Cincinnati-based dog food maker Eight In One Inc., a division of United Pet Group, Inc., launched a national recall of Dingo(R) CHICK'N JERKY treats due to concerns that the treats might have been contaminated with Salmonella.

The company said the products affected were sold at retailers including Target and PetSmart. It said testing showed that some samples were contaminated with Salmonella, and that it had received one report of Salmonellosis in a dog.
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