Companies Indicted in Pet-Food Recall Case

The Associated Press reported today that a federal grand jury in Kansas City has handed down indictments against two Chinese and one US-based company related to the pet-food contamination recall of last spring. While accurately quantifying the impact of illnessess caused by the melamine-tainted foods is difficult, the U.S. Attorney’s office estimated that some 4,000 dogs and cats died as a result of eating the contaminated foods. Dr. Burns and I were actually at a veterinary conference when news of—and illnesses related to—the contamination struck last year, but my colleagues at the Emergency Animal Clinic tested and treated dozens of pets for kidney disease during this time. Fortunately, the FDA, pet food manufacturers, and the media acted quickly and the primary wave of illness was short lived; by the time of my return from the five-day conference, only a few of the sickest pets remained hospitalized.The indictments in this case allege that two Chinese companies knowingly added melamine to wheat gluten to improve the results of protein tests and meet the requirements of their contract with ChemNutra, a Las Vegas based company owned by a Chinese national and her American husband. The contents of the shipment were also falsely declared to avoid inspection by export officials in China. The US company has been accused of knowingly accepting a shipment that was exported under false pretenses and failing to notify its customers of this fact; prosecutors do not allege that ChemNutra and its owners knew that melamine was toxic.China does not have an extradition agreement with the US, so it’s unlikely that officials with the Chinese companies will ever be brought to trial. However, the recall and the ensuing investigation resulted in the Chinese government closing down one of the companies and instituting additional checks to protect consumers. In addition, it brought the very important subject of pet nutrition to the front pages. A year later, veterinarians still find themselves answering client questions and discussing concerns related to this subject. While the impact of the recall was tragic on the surface, its ultimate legacy will be a pet-owning public that is more aware and more active in choosing the best and most appropriate nutrition for their pets.

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  1. ms Givens says:

    OMG. Is there anything safe in the so called Pet Care industry. I just adopted a Boxer and have since learned how unsafe some dog foods can be as well as how terrible the side effects are from Heart Worm meds. I now have two sick dogs. One was sick with a terrible allergic reaction to Iams that I switched them too and now she is sick from Ivermectin.
    I have about decided the Pet Care industry is a racket!

  2. Dr. G says:

    Sorry to hear about your new boxer. While most pets do well on a commercial diet, there are certainly some who benefit from a balanced home-prepared diet. It’s critically important that any home diet be formulated to meet the nutrional needs of the pet, however.

    Generally speaking ivermectin is very safe at the doses used to control heartworm disease. Some breeds–and some individual dogs–are known to be sensitive to the drug, though, and it can be very dangerous in those cases. We often see problems with overdosages when pet owners try to economize by purchasing ivermectin used to treat horses at a feed store. It’s really easy to overdose a pet when this product is used, and it can be deadly.

    Fortunately, there are alternatives to ivermectin that can be used for sensitive dogs. At any rate, we recommend a heartworm preventative for all dogs. Heartworm infections can kill dogs, and treating them is potentially risky and very expensive. Prevention really is the best medicine!

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