Chicago Woman Sues Over Pet Food Recall, Seeks Class-action

March 22, 2007

A Chicago woman sued Menu Foods this week, alleging the pet food manufacturer delayed announcing a recall of 60 million containers of dog and cat food despite knowing its products were contaminated and potentially deadly.

Dawn Majerczyk, 43, said her orange tabby, Phoenix, fell sick last week just two days after he ate a single package of Special Kitty. It is one of 95 cat and dog food brands recalled by Menu Foods of Canada. Friday’s recall came two weeks after nine cats died during routine company taste tests of its products, the Food and Drug Administration said.

Majerczyk said she took the 9-year-old cat to its first-ever veterinarian visit the day of the recall. The cat had lost six pounds in four days and was lethargic, dehydrated and nearly blind. She returned over the weekend to have him put down after his organs began to fail. Her suit, filed by Chicago attorney Jay Edelson, seeks class-action status.

“I want my vet bills and I want some compensation for what they did to my kids _ and for the company’s neglect,” Majerczyk, a medical assistant in a dermatology office.

The company said it had not seen the suit and had no comment. The FDA had no comment on the company’s delay in announcing the recall.

The FDA so far has confirmed the deaths of 13 cats and one dog that had reportedly eaten the company’s “cuts and gravy” style pet food. The wet food was sold throughout North America under store brands carried by Wal-Mart, Kroger, Safeway and other large retailers, as well as private labels like Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba.

FDA has sent inspectors to company plants in New Jersey and Kansas. Most complaints stem from products made at the latter factory, though both received shipments of wheat gluten, identified as a likely source of contamination, from the same supplier, said Stephen F. Sundlof, the FDA’s chief veterinarian. The ingredient is a protein source used to thicken the pet food gravy. The FDA is screening pet food samples for substances known to be toxic to the kidneys, like toxins produced by molds.

A complete list of the recalled products along with product codes, descriptions and production dates was available from the Menu Foods Web site, . The company also designated two phone numbers that pet owners could call for information _ (866) 463-6738 and (866) 895-2708.

FDA inspectors had never before visited the Kansas plant. The FDA warned the company following a 2004 inspection of its New Jersey factory after it failed to flag food made for zoo cats of the risk of mad cow disease if the product were fed to cattle.

Menu Foods is majority owned by Menu Foods Income Fund of Streetsville, Ontario.

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