THURSDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- A Canadian pet food manufacturer widened its recall of contaminated pet food one more time as U.S. health officials warned consumers Thursday that some of the recalled products may still be on store shelves.
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Menu Foods, of Streetsville, Ontario, has now added a variety of canned cat food made at its home plant to what appears to have become the largest pet food recall in U.S. history.
The company, in a statement late Tuesday, said it had pulled the latest products after finding that contaminated wheat gluten, used to make pet food gravy, had been shipped to one of its Canadian plants.
Up until that point, the recall of millions of cans and pouches of moist tainted food had involved more than 100 brand names made only at the company's Kansas and New Jersey plants.
But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found traces of the contaminant, the chemical melamine, in sample tests at the company's Streetsville plant on Tuesday. And, the agency said in a prepared statement, Menu Foods informed FDA officials that "it had shipped some of the wheat gluten from its Emporia, Kansas plant to its plant in Streetsville."
The FDA, meanwhile, is urging U.S. retailers to remove all products associated with the pet food recall, which began March 16.
The agency said it had conducted approximately 400 checks of retail stores across the country and "believes most companies have removed the recalled product; however, some have not."
"FDA's priority is to make sure that cats and dogs have safe food to eat," said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. "Many of us are pet owners and animal lovers, and we want pet owners to feel assured that we are doing everything we can to make sure that all contaminated food is off the shelves."
The new varieties of cat food in the recall include selected products under the brand names: Nutro, Pet Pride, America's Choice, Winn Dixie, Publix and Price Chopper.
A full list of all the recalled products is available on the FDA Web site. The list will be updated with any new recall information when announced, the FDA said.
The nationwide recall was based on the finding that melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, wound up in the pet food and in the wheat gluten imported from China that was used in the food. The recall initially covered manufacture dates from December through early March, but last week Menu Foods expanded the manufacture time back to November.
Also last week, Sundlof said the FDA still had no idea how many pets have died or become sick from the recalled food, beyond the 16 confirmed deaths so far.
"We know that there are a lot more animals that have been affected by this -- made ill and died -- but trying to put an estimate to it at this time is just not something we can do," Sundlof told reporters at the time.
To date, the FDA has received more than 12,000 calls to its consumer complaint line -- a record number, he added.
But on Monday, a large veterinary chain reported that there was a 30 percent increase in kidney failure among cats during the three months the contaminated food was sold before the recall, the Associated Press reported.
Banfield, The Pet Hospital, a large veterinary hospital chain, said that data from more than 615 of its clinics showed that three out of every 10,000 cats and dogs seen at the clinics developed kidney disease during that time.
SOURCES: April 12, 2007, press release, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
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