FDA Identifies Chemical in Contaminated Pet Food

In a bizarre twist to the pet-food-contamination story, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it has identified a chemical known as melamine as the agent that has sickened or killed thousands of dogs and cats in North America. The FDA also raised the possibility for the first time that the melamine contamination might have spread to dry pet food in addition to the wet-style pet food previously indicated, although they haven’t yet named any brands or companies that may be affected.

However, the FDA’s testing did not reveal the presence of aminopterin, an ingredient in rat poison that was identified last week as the culprit by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. New York state officials are questioning the FDA’s findings and remain confident that aminopterin was present in the contaminated food.

The chemical melamine is used in Asia as a type of fertilizer and is also used in the manufacture of plastic. FDA officials said that the presence of melamine was found in a batch of contaminated Chinese-produced wheat gluten that was used in the production of the tainted pet food. Alarmingly, the contaminated wheat gluten was linked to several pet-food manufacturers, including one company that produces dry pet food. The FDA also hasn’t ruled out the possibility that some of the tainted wheat gluten may have made it into human food, but there is no evidence of that as of yet.

Earlier this month, Canadian pet-food producer Menu Foods recalled more than 60 million cans and pouches of “wet” dog and cat food after the food was linked to kidney failure in a number of pets. The recall extended to all “cuts and gravy” style dog and cat food that was manufactured at Menu Foods’ Emporia, Kansas, facility between December 3, 2006, and March 6, 2007 and included more than 80 private-label and store brands including Iams, Nutro, Science Diet, Eukanuba, Mighty Dog, Foodtown, Food Lion, Publix, Winn Dixie, and Western Family. (The complete list of affected products can be found at http://www.menufoods.com/recall.)

Pet owners should be on alert for signs of renal failure in their dogs and cats, which may include lethargy, vomiting, and a loss of appetite. Tens of thousands of pet owners are concerned that their animals may have been sickened or killed by Menu Foods products. Menu Foods has agreed to cover any and all veterinary bills associated with their products.

Now, pet owners anxiously await news about whether any brands of dry pet food will be added to the recall. Anecdotal evidence suggests that several pets have been sickened by dry pet food, although no definitive link has been established.

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