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Pet Food Recall
Frequently Asked Questions

Updated April 2, 2007

Q: What is being recalled?

The following companies have initiated voluntary recalls of their pet food products:

Please see http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/petfood.html for additional information.

Q: What is wrong with the pet foods?

FDA laboratories have found a substance called melamine in samples of pet food and in the wheat gluten used as an ingredient in the pet food. Additionally, Cornell University scientists have found melamine in the urine and kidneys of deceased cats that were part of a taste testing study conducted for Menu Foods.

Q: What is melamine?

Melamine is a small, nitrogen-containing molecule that has a number of industrial uses, including as an industrial binding agent, flame retardant and as part of a polymer in the manufacture of cooking utensils and plates. Melamine has additionally been used as a fertilizer in some parts of the world. It is not registered for use as a fertilizer in the United States.

Q: What is wheat gluten and how is it used in pet foods?

Wheat gluten is a mixture of two proteins obtained when flour of wheat is washed to remove the starch. One use of wheat gluten is as a filler and binder in wet-style, cuts-and-gravy-type pet food.  It provides a gelatinous consistency and is used to thicken pet food "gravy."  It also has uses in human food products as a stabilizer or thickener. It is not generally associated with food contamination.

Q: Has melamine been identified as the causative agent in the reported illnesses?

The association between melamine in the kidneys and urine of cats that died and melamine in the food they consumed is undeniable. Additionally, melamine is an ingredient that should not be in pet food at any level. However, we are not yet fully certain that melamine is the causative agent. As in any investigation, we follow leads, use advanced forensics and try to narrow down the cause.

Q: What research exists regarding melamine and cats and dogs?

There is a scarcity of research in the published literature on melamine exposure in dogs and cats. We know of a 1945 published article in which dogs were administered 125 mg of melamine/kg body weight. The study reported melamine as having a diuretic effect, but no toxic effects were noted. We are not aware of any studies in the published literature involving the administration of melamine to cats.

Q: How did melamine get into the wheat gluten?

At this time, we do not know how the melamine got into the wheat gluten.

Q. Where did the contaminated wheat gluten come from?

We have traced the source to a single supplier, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology, of China.

Q. What is FDA doing to prevent further importation of contaminated wheat gluten?

FDA is requiring 100% sampling and review of import testing of all shipments of wheat gluten from China. Please see our import alert at http://www.fda.gov/ora/fiars/ora_import_ia9926.html

Q. Did the contaminated wheat gluten from China get into the human food supply?

Import records, and records obtained during follow-up investigations reveal that all shipments of wheat gluten from the suspect Chinese supplier were purchased by a U.S. firm that supplies ingredients to pet food companies. At this time, we have no evidence to suggest that any of the imported Wheat Gluten from the suspect firm has entered the human food supply.

Q. Have you traced all of the contaminated wheat gluten?

We are still tracing the contaminated wheat gluten. If we learn that it has been used in the production of other pet foods, we will notify the public and take all appropriate steps to prevent further injury.

Q: What is FDA doing in response to complaints of illnesses related to dry pet food?

FDA is collecting and analyzing samples of dry dog and cat food in response to calls from veterinarians and pet owners.

Q: Are only dog and cat foods involved in the recall?

Yes. The recall is only confined to pet food intended for dogs and cats.

Q: What should I do if I have cat or dog food at home?

Please check FDA’s website at http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/petfood.html to see if your pet food is involved in the recall. If your pet food is not listed, the pet food is not affected by the recall and you can continue to feed it to your pets; however, if your pet exhibits a sudden on-set of symptoms including loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, stop feeding the pet food and contact your veterinarian. If the pet food is one of those being recalled, do NOT feed it to your animals. Feed your pets another pet food that is not included in the recall.

Q: What should I do if I have cat and/or dog food included in the recall?

Do NOT feed the pet food to your animals. Return the pet food to the store where you purchased it and ask for a refund. Stores generally have a return and refund policy when a company has announced a recall of its products. If you cannot return the pet food immediately, store the food in a secure place where pets and children cannot get to it.

Q: What if my pet ate one of the dog and cat foods being recalled?

If your pet shows signs of illness (such as loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting), you should consult with your veterinarian immediately. “The American College of Internal Medicine (ACVIM) has recommended that pets (dogs and cats) that ingested pet food that was on the recall list, whether showing signs of illness (lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, etc.) or not (asymptomatic) should be seen by their veterinarian for baseline blood chemistries and urinalysis in order to ascertain the status of their renal (kidney) function. (The ACVIM is the Official Organization of the Veterinary Specialties of Small Animal Internal Medicine, Large Animal Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Neurology, and Oncology. http://www.acvim.org/).”

If your pet is diagnosed with renal failure, we suggest you hold onto the food if the brand and lot numbers match the recall.

Q: If my dog or cat ate some of the recalled food, how soon after would I see any symptoms?

It’s difficult to say for sure, but usually within a couple of days. The important thing is to monitor your pet closely for signs of lethargy, loss of appetite and vomiting. If your pet shows any of these signs, please consult your veterinarian.

Q. In light of the recall, what should I feed my pets?

FDA encourages pet owners to consult with their veterinarian about their pet’s health and nutrition requirements. Please refer to the FDA website http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/petfood.html for a list of recalled products that should not be fed to cats or dogs. Using products from companies that are not on the recall list will enable you to continue to provide safe, wholesome nutrition for your pets.

Q: What if I took my dog or cat to the vet as a result of the recall and I want to be reimbursed for my vet bills?

The FDA recognizes that there may be financial costs associated with any veterinarian visit; however, reimbursement for veterinary care does not fall under FDA’s regulatory authority.

Q: What is FDA doing about the recall?

Q: What if I want to report an adverse action about a pet food?

Consumers and veterinarians who wish to report adverse reactions or other problems can go to the FDA internet page at http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html to obtain contact information for the FDA complaint coordinator in their state. When reporting an adverse event or complaint, please try to have the following information:

Q: What advice do you have for veterinarians concerned about this pet food recall?

Veterinarians who have case files and post mortem results relative to cases where renal failure is involved and the clients were feeding food involved in the recall are encouraged to contact FDA through the complaint coordinator in their state http://www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html. FDA is gathering as much information as possible to identify the nature and the extent of the problem.

Q: How does FDA regulate pet food?

The FDA's regulation of pet food is similar to that for other animal feeds. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires that pet foods, like human foods, be pure and wholesome, safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled. In addition, canned pet foods must be processed in conformance with the low acid canned food regulations to ensure the pet food is free of viable microorganisms (see Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 113). There is no requirement that pet food products have premarket approval by FDA. However, FDA ensures that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and have an appropriate function in the pet food. Many ingredients such as meat, poultry, grains, and their byproducts are considered safe “foods” and do not require premarket approval. Other substances such as mineral and vitamin sources, colorings, flavorings, and preservatives may be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) or must have approval as food additives. (See Title 21 CFR, Parts 73, 74, 81, 573 and 582). For more information about pet foods and marketing a pet food, see FDA’s Regulation of Pet Food and Information on Marketing A Pet Food Product.

Q: What are the labeling requirements for pet foods?

The FDA regulations require proper identification of the product, net quantity statement, name and place of business of the manufacturer or distributor, and a proper listing of all the ingredients in order from most to least, based on weight. Some states also enforce their own labeling regulations. Many of these regulations are based on a model provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For more information about AAFCO, please visit its website. There are two documents on CVM’s web site that provide more details about labeling requirements: Interpreting Pet Food Labels and Interpreting Pet Food Labels -- Special Use Foods.

Q: Have there been other recalls involving pet foods?

Yes. The following are recent pet food recalls: In February 2007, FDA advised consumers not to feed Wild Kitty raw cat food to their pets http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01562.htm after Salmonella was detected during routine testing performed by FDA. Wild Kitty eventually recalled the product http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/wildkitty02_07.html. In December 2005, Diamond Pet Foods initiated a voluntary recall after aflatoxin was discovered in its product http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/diamond12_05.html. For information on other pet food related recalls, please see http://www.fda.gov/cvm/petfoods.htm.

Q: Is this the largest recall ever of pet foods?

It is hard to quantify the size of this recall or compare it to some of the other recalls in the past; however, it is a significant recall.

Q: How many sick or dead cats and dogs have been reported to FDA?

To date, the agency has received over 10,000 complaints. Confirmation that these may be related to the pet food recall takes time and requires follow up by our field staff. Veterinary reports and other evidence need to be collected for each case before any of these reports can be confirmed. In many instances there is insufficient information available to draw a conclusion about a possible association with pet food consumed and pet illness or death. The FDA’s primary concern is in identifying the source of the contaminant, assuring that the recall is effective and providing information to the public.

Q: Why can’t FDA confirm the number of animals affected?

Unlike human food there is no surveillance network for FDA to rely on to confirm cases. FDA must investigate each complaint and confirm whether or not the pet food was involved.

Q: Is there any evidence of human illness that may be linked to exposure to contaminated gluten and the recalled pet food?

No. As a precaution, FDA asked the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to utilize its surveillance network to monitor for signs of human illness related to the recalled pet food. CDC surveillance has not shown an increase in renal failure, which is the most likely health outcome that would be expected from this exposure .

Q:What about the aminopterin? Is this latest finding in addition to aminopterin?

FDA has not been able to confirm aminoptrein in samples it has tested.

Q:How do you account for why NY State found aminopterin but FDA didn’t?

Our labs were not able to verify aminopterin. At this time, we cannot comment of the methodology or findings of NY State.

Q:Are you working with any other organizations?

As we said previously we are working with Cornell University. Additionally, Banfield the Pet Hospital, has reached out to FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and volunteered to provide us with any reports/data.  The FDA is very appreciative of the Banfield information as it helps us in assessing the extent of the outbreak; however, it is only one piece of the puzzle and we must consider it in light of all of the other information we are gathering.  We have been exchanging information with the American Veterinary Medical Association in order to ensure that it is providing accurate information to its members on how to report adverse events to the agency. Companies that sell pet food have also been very helpful and one company in particular has shared its independent testing results.

Q:Are you seeing this more in cats than dogs?

We are getting reports of illness in both dogs and cats. However, the evidence we’ve seen from the initial consumer complaints and from the Menu Foods taste tests indicate that cats appear to be more affected than dogs.

Q: How do you dispose of the wheat gluten and contaminated pet food?

With recalls, the firm will propose what to do with the product. Disposal options may include landfill, incineration or industrial uses.

Web page updated by mdt - April 3, 2007, 12:46 PM ET

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