- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

1:28 p.m.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Rat poison found in pet food has been blamed for the deaths of at least 16 cats and dogs, a spokeswoman for the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets said today.

Spokeswoman Jessica Chittenden would not identify the chemical or its source beyond saying it was a rodent poison.

The Food and Drug Administration has said the investigation was focusing on wheat gluten in the food. Wheat gluten itself would not cause kidney failure, which has been cited in the deaths, but the common ingredient could have been contaminated by heavy metals or mold toxins, the FDA said.

New York agriculture officials scheduled a news conference for this afternoon to release laboratory findings from tests on the pet food conducted this week.

The deaths led to a recall of 60 million cans and pouches of pet food produced by Menu Foods and sold throughout North America under 95 brand names. There have been several reports of kidney failure in pets that ate the recalled brands, and the company has confirmed the deaths of 15 cats and one dog.

Menu Foods last week recalled “cuts and gravy”-style dog and cat food. The recall sparked concern among pet owners across North America. It includes food sold under store brands carried by Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway and other large retailers as well as private labels such as Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba.

Menu Foods is majority-owned by Menu Foods Income Fund of Streetsville, N.Y. The company also makes food for zoo cats, but those products are unaffected by the recall.

The company’s chief executive and president said Menu Foods delayed announcing the recall until it could confirm that the animals had eaten its product before dying. Two earlier complaints from consumers whose cats had died involved animals that lived outside or had access to a garage, which left open the possibility that they had been poisoned by something other than contaminated food, he said.

A spokesman for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he was not aware of any criminal investigation involving the tainted food.

A complete list of the recalled products, with product codes, descriptions and production dates, was posted online by Menu Foods and is available at tinyurl.com/2pn6mm. The company also designated two phone numbers that pet owners could call for information: 866/463-6738 and 866/895-2708.

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