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Local vets see few cases due to pet food recall

    While local veterinarians and pet food retailers said they have fielded numerous phone calls regarding a massive pet food recall, only one veterinarian reported a suspected case of illness possibly related to tainted pet food.
    Gateway Animal Hospital is treating an animal that could possibly have become ill from eating canned or "wet" food in a pouch that was included in the recall of several brands manufactured by Menu Foods, said Dr. Debbie Edwards.
    Several other patients are being screened for symptoms, she said.
    But other local vets reported no cases of illness in dogs or cats, although clients have been calling incessantly asking about the recall.
    "We have had lots of calls, but no cases related to the pet food," said Amy Morgan of Statesboro Animal Hospital. Bulloch Veterinary Clinic and Westside Veterinary Clinic representatives said Wednesday they have not experienced any cases of illness from pets consuming tainted food.
    Currently, the recall only affects "wet" dog and cat food in cans and pouches. A number of brands available locally were recalled.
    Menu Foods, which manufactures pet foods for a variety of private label and national brands, recalled some dog and cat food manufactured between Dec. 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007, according to a press release found in Internet web site www.menufoods.com.
    The recall is limited to "cuts and gravy" style pet food in cans and pouches  manufactured at two of the Fund's United States facilities. An unknown number of cats and dogs had suffered kidney failure and about 10 died after eating the affected pet food, the company said.
    Anderson's General Store was affected by the recall, said April Henderson, pet department manager. The feed and agricultural supply store carries Nutro and Science Diet brands. Customers have been calling about the recall, she said.
    Pets and People owner James Sullivan said calls began coming in Sunday from customers concerned about their pets.
    "We have fielded up to 50 calls," he said. "There is a lot of misinformation, and some people heard (the recall) is for dry food."
    He said the ingredient causing illness is "a fungus or something to do with wheat gluten."
    "It's a concern," he said. "The recall affects about four percent of the food we sell."
    In response to complaints from consumers in the United States, Menu Foods conducted "a substantial  battery of technical tests, conducted by both internal and external  specialists, but has failed to identify any issues with the products in  question," according to the statement.
    However, the company "discovered that timing of the production  associated with these complaints coincides with the introduction of an  ingredient from a new supplier." The company has stopped using the ingredient, which Menu Foods spokesperson Sarah Tuite said was wheat gluten, a source of protein.
    Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Julie Zawisza said even if wheat gluten is the source of  the illness,  ‘‘it doesn’t necessarily mean the wheat gluten per se. It could be another substance associated with the wheat gluten.’’
     "We take these complaints very seriously and, while we are still  looking for a specific cause, we are acting to err on the side of  caution" said Paul K. Henderson, President and CEO of Menu Foods.  "We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that our products maintain  the very highest quality standards."
    He said that the company had received an undisclosed number of owner complaints that dogs and cats were vomiting and suffering kidney failure after eating its products. He estimated that the recall would cost the company, which is mostly owned by the Menu Foods Income Fund, an estimated $26 million to $34 million.
    According to the web site, Menu Foods makes pet food for 17 of the top 20 North American retailers. It is also a contract manufacturer for the top branded pet food companies, including Procter & Gamble Co.

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