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    Two ELB Families Suffer Pet Deaths Suspected From Recalled Pet Food; Number Of L.A. County Cases Continues To Grow

    (March 23, 2007) -- On the same day as New York State's Dept. of Agriculture said it identified a type of rodent killing toxin not allowed in the U.S. in certain lots of now-recalled pet foods suspected in kidney failure and deaths of some cats and dogs across the country, L.A. County's Dept. of Health told that as of 3 p.m. March 23, it had confirmed 25 cases of the pet food suspected kidney failure in 16 dogs, 9 cats...from which five cats and five dogs had died.

    Three of the currently known L.A. County pet deaths -- one cat and two dogs -- touched families who'd never met and were only a few miles from each other in East Long Beach.

    Sparky (right), an 11 year-old cat, lived with the Lancaster family.

    Photo source: Lancaster family

    Luc and Jake, two Corgis, were part of the Romero household.

    Photo source: Romero family

    The family pets all suffered kidney failure and died (or were euthanized) after eating now-recalled lots of cuts-and-gravy style pet food manufactured by Menu Foods of Canada and distributed under various brand names in the U.S. The pet foods were bought by the unsuspecting pet owners at two separate LB retail outlets.

    To view the Menu Foods web site link listing brands and products involved in the recall, click here.

    On March 23, the NY State Dept. of Agriculture said it had identified Aminopterin as a toxin present in cat food samples from Menu Foods (release text below). Aminopterin is a rodenticide not authorized for use in the U.S. or Canada...and is separately listed on the web site of the Nat'l Cancer Institute as among a group of anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs.

    Lisa Romero says she took her Corgis Luc and Jake to an ELB vet after they began vomiting. Within days they were dead (March 11). Five days later, on March 16, she learned of the manufacturer's voluntary recall.

    By that time, just a few miles away, Sparky had also eaten one of the affected lots. Arlene Lancaster rushed him (by coincidence) to the same ELB vet. Two days later, Sparky was euthanized. Ms. Lancaster then learned about the recall, checked on the internet...and her heart sank when what Sparky ate matched the affected lots.

    The cost for Sparky's veterinary care and hospitalization came to roughly $1,100.

    Both Ms. Lancaster and Ms. Romero were separately incredulous at what happened. Ms. Romero told she seethes on hearing media reports citing the supposedly small numbers of animals affected. She said she's appalled by the lack of information about what happened...and how and why it could happen.

    "It's hard to say if the news of the rat poison made me feel better or worse," Ms. Romero told, adding "It's astonishing that rat poison could be distributed in something nationally and no one seemed to have an idea or a clue about it until animals began dying."

    Ms. Lancaster said she's been contacted by L.A. County Health officials looking into the matter, and they asked if they could share her information with the FDA. "Of course I agreed," Ms. Lancaster said, adding "I'm just astonished this could happen and I think the public needs to know how it did."

    Below is the text of a release issued March 23 by the NY State Dept. of Agriculture:

    New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker and Cornell Universityís College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Donald F. Smith announced today that scientists at the New York State Food Laboratory identified Aminopterin as a toxin present in cat food samples from Menu Foods, the manufacturer of the many brands of dog and cat food that are currently the subject of a nationwide recall.

    The Food Laboratory received the pet food samples from a toxicologist at the New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University, where testing has been underway to try to identify the cause of kidney failure in dogs and cats that consumed the recalled brands of pet food. At Cornellís request, the Food Laboratory tested the samples for poisons and toxins, and identified Aminopterin in the pet food samples at a level of at least 40 parts per million.

    "We are pleased that the expertise of our New York State Food Laboratory was able to contribute to identifying the agent that caused numerous illnesses and deaths in dogs and cats across the nation," the Commissioner said. "New Yorkers can be assured that we have two of the nationís leading laboratory programs in food safety and animal health working on this problem."

    The Dean of the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine Donald F. Smith concurred by saying, "The close partnership between the Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University and the Department of Agriculture and Markets was key to this finding."

    Aminopterin, a derivative of folic acid, can cause cancer and birth defects in humans and can cause kidney damage in dogs and cats. Aminopterin is not permitted for use in the United States.

    On March 16, 2007, Menu Foods initiated a recall of numerous varieties of dog and cat food that were manufactured at two of its plants in the United States between December 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007. The products are both manufactured and sold under private-label and are contract-manufactured for several national brands. Information on the specific brands of pet food subject to the recall can be found at

    Since the recall, Department food inspectors have contacted all of the organizations that represent retail food and pet food stores to ensure that the stores were aware of the recall and that the recalled products had been removed from store shelves in New York State.

    New York State is home to two laboratories that are part of federal emergency lab networks, created through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after 9-11 to keep the nationís animals and food supply safe. The New York State Food Laboratory is part of the Federal Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) and as such, is capable of running a number of unique poison/toxin tests on food, including the test that identified Aminopterin. The New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University is a member of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and thus, is uniquely qualified to investigate the causes of animal health emergencies, like the sudden deaths of dogs and cats from the recently recalled pet food.

    Further coverage via Reuters: Toxin in Pet Food That Killed 14 Animals Identified

    Posted as breaking. Developing.

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