WARNING! 845 Pets May Have Died From Contaminated Food

Final death toll may be in the thousands....

Kevin Bell
March 22 (Bloomberg) -- Menu Foods Ltd. said it's no closer to finding out whether substances in its dog and cat food led to the deaths of 13 cats and one dog reported in the U.S.

Separately, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sought criminal investigations into the deaths and a "self-reporting'' Web site run by a veterinarian, www.petconnection.com, reported 845 pets dead due to the pet- food recall.

Company spokesman Sam Bornstein said in an interview today tests have come back negative for a variety of potential causes of kidney failure suffered by the animals, including heavy metals, mold and bacteria.

Menu Foods, based in Toronto suburb of Streetsville, said on March 16 it recalled cans and pouches of pet food with gravy sold under brand names such as Iams, Eukanuba and retailers' own labels after linking pet deaths with the food. The company has hired university scientists and independent laboratories to help it find the cause of what is making the animals ill.

"It's a puzzle,'' Bornstein said. "We have yet to draw a scientific link between that testing and the issues with pets that have been reported.''

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported this week that 13 cats and one dog died after eating Menu Foods' products from plants in Kansas and New Jersey. Its investigation focused on wheat gluten.

Menu Foods has declined to identify the suspect ingredient, and said a switch to a new supplier coincided with customers' complaints.

Pet owners, meanwhile, reported 1,715 sick or dead animals to the Petconnection Web site as of late this morning, including 500 cats and 345 dogs that died. While the numbers are "self- reporting,'' the majority of owners checked the food fed to the animals against Menu Foods' recall list, the site said.

"If nothing else, these numbers show the tragedy is much bigger than the official reports,'' it said. Marty Becker, a Twin Falls, Idaho-based veterinarian who oversees the Pet Connection site, couldn't immediately be reached for further comment.

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