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Pet Food Recall

VIN Community Summary Document

May 22, 2007 - 1:00 PM ET
This update summarizes what the VIN Community current knows about the recent pet-food recall. Archives of prior versions are linked at the top right of this page.

If you have breaking news or strong concerns about this or other information circulating that you want to disseminate rapidly, email or call Paul at 530-757-6881.

Help Estimate the impact upon our patients:

Over 1800 VIN members have responded to the Recall Survey as of April 3, 2007.
Please help, TAKE THE SURVEY whether you have seen a case or not.

Preliminary data are provided at the bottom of this page.

News and Updates:

  • 5/22/2007 - Diamond Pet Foods recalls Nutra Nuggets Lamb Meal and Rice Dry Formula for Dogs
  • 5/17/2007 - Chenango Valley Pet Foods expands its recall list including one ferret diet
  • 5/11/2007 - Royal Canin expands its recall list
  • 5/2/2007 - Menu Foods expands recall list
  • 4/30/2007 - University of Guelph identifies crystals as melamine cyanurate
  • 4/27/2007 - American Nutrition Inc, maker of many private label brands (Blue Buffalo, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul, Harmony Farms, Natural Balance, Canine Caviar, Diamond, Kirkland Signature, Mulligan Stew), expands recall
  • 4/26/2007 - Certain Foster and Smith Pet Foods recalled
  • 4/26/2007 - More Natural Balance Pet Foods recalled
  • 4/23/2007 - Cyanuric acid identified in wheat gluten.
  • 4/21/2007 - Royal Canin Canada recalls 5 diets.
  • 4/20/2007 - Royal Canin USA recalls 8 diets.
  • 4/19/2007 - Blue Buffalo recalls Spa Select Kitten Dry Food.
  • 4/18/2007 - Menu Foods recalls Natural Life Vegetarian brand dog foods.
  • 4/17/2007 - FDA suspects melamine contamination extends beyond wheat gluten.
  • 4/17/2007 - Royal Canin South Africa recalls ALL pet food products.
  • 4/16/2007 - Natural Balance Pet Foods recalls Venison & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food, Venison & Green Pea Dry Cat Food.
  • 4/13/2007 - UC Davis California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory offer testing of food and urine from affected pets.
  • 4/10/2007 - Home-made diet recommendations added to Update (see below)
  • 4/10/2007 - Additional foods recalled: Medi-Cal (Canada) Feline Dissolution Formula Canned; Nutro Max Cat Gourmet Classics. The complete Menu Foods list of additional foods affected by the Recall can be found here.
  • 4/6/2007 - FDA discounts melamine as the toxin, but considers it a marker of exposure.
  • 4/5/2007 - Hills offers reimbursement for testing patients affected by Hills diets
  • 4/5/2007 - Menu Foods moves initial production date for recall back to November 8, 2006 and adds several products
  • 4/5/2007 - Sunshine Mills recalls dog biscuits.
  • 4/4/2007 - UCDavis offers specific testing for melamine in affected foods
  • 4/2/2007 - VINner SURVEY released
  • 3/31/2007 - Del Monte recalls Jerky Treats™, Gravy Train™,Beef Sticks and Pounce Meaty Morels™
  • 3/31/2007 - Purina recalls Alpo™ Brand Cuts In Gravy Canned Dog Food
  • 3/30/2007 - Hills Pet Nutrition recalls Prescription Diet™ m/d™ Feline Dry Food.
  • 3/30/2007 - FDA identifies Chinese source of contaminated gluten.
  • 3/30/2007 - FDA reports that Melamine has been found.

  • It is now over a month since the first recall announcement. While the story is becoming clearer, new complications have recently emerged. One question that appears to be closer to being answered is the role of melamine. It now appears that melamine is a component of the crystals (see below). Several questions remain unanswered including:

    The VIN community has come together to distill and disseminate the information available. If you consider any of the following inaccurate or incomplete, please email

    This Community Update will be updated as new information comes to light.

    The questions and answers, as we understand them, are:

    Q: Which foods are affected by the recall?
    The original list of recalled foods was provided by Menu Foods. Melamine-contaminated wheat gluten, imported from China, was identified as the likely source of the toxic agent. The contaminated wheat gluten was used in production of canned and pouch foods by Menu Foods between November 2006 and March 2007. Subsequently, all other foods that used the same wheat gluten source (Hills Prescription m/d Dry, several Del Monte treats, biscuits made by Sunshine Mills and several others) were also recalled.

    However, in the last weeks, additional products have been recalled. These products have not used the contaminated wheat gluten. Melamine has been found in rice protein concentrate (also imported from China) used in the manufacture of these foods. Several pet foods in South Africa have also been recalled. These foods use contaminated corn gluten in their manufacture. Contaminated corn gluten has not beed identified in any foods manufactured in the US or Canada.

    Additionally, VIN is currently conducting analyses of pet foods not on the recall list that have been identified in the VIN Recall Survey as potential sources. Results of this analysis are not yet available.

    Recalled foods can be identified by their product codes (How to read product codes).

    The FDA has provided a website listing most of the recalled foods, along with UPC code, package date/code and specific varieties. Veterinarians and clients are advised to check this site for details.

    Menu Foods has provided a list of all recalled foods produced at their facility. Clinicians are advised to check the list of recalled foods regularly for updates.

    However, foods not included in that list include:

    Q: Are rumors of other products being affected true?
    Yes and no. Three additional "products" were originally discussed on the message boards - Purina Pet Foods, Heartgard Chewables and Pill Pockets™.

    No recall has been issued for any of these products.

    However, Natural Balance has recalled several of its foods, despite the fact that no wheat gluten has been used in the manufacture of their products. Rice Protein Concentrate is thought to be the contaminating ingredient. Royal Canin US has also recalled several varieties of dry food because of melamine-contaminated rice protein concentrate used in their manufacture.

    Q. Are there home-cooked dietary alternatives for healthy pets?
    A: Many clients are distraught by the recall, and are wanting to avoid feeding ANY commercial pet foods during this period. However, home-cooked diets are often poorly formulated., a nutritional consultancy, is offering pet owners and veterinarians free recipes for healthy pets. These recipes have been balanced by veterinary nutritionists. Owners or veterinarians wanting recipes for healthy pets during this period should visit the BalanceIT website, select the recipe they need and use the promo code "VIN" to receive a recipe free of charge. A client account will need to be created, but no credit-card information is necessary. BalanceIT has assured VIN that they will NOT use any of the information to market to ANY persons obtaining a recipe using the VIN promo code.
    Please note: these diets should only be used on a short-term basis. We strongly advise AGAINST feeding these diets long-term without proper consultation from a Veterinary Nutrition Specialist.

    Additional information for VIN members is available in the VIN Home-made diets FAQ.

    Q: Are there home-cooked dietary alternatives for pets with special dietary requirements?
    Some pets, such as diabetic cats, have been affected by the recall. BalanceIT provides veterinarians with suitable "prescription" home-cooked diets tailored to specific patient needs. This is a fee-based service. However, veterinarians can try the free trial to obtain nutritional advice. Other clinical nutrition services can also provide dietary information for specific patient needs. Please consult a clinical nutritionist if you have a patient with specific dietary requirements.

    Q: Is wheat gluten from a specific source still believed to be the common link to all affected foods and pets?
    A: No. Initially, all affected foods contained wheat gluten purchased from a common Chinese supplier (for the original VIN explanation, please see the Community Update April 16,2007). It is believed that all foods containing wheat gluten purchased from this supplier have been identified and recalled.

    However, recent developments suggest that multiple ingredients may be contaminated with melamine. Foods that do not contain wheat gluten have been identified by the FDA as containing melamine. Investigations are underway to determine the exact nature, source and extent of the contaminated ingredients. Current evidence suggests that contaminated rice protein concentrate has been used in the manufacture of US foods. Contaminated corn gluten is implicated in the recall in South Africa.

    Check company information for specific recall product codes.

    The FDA has recently identified the supplier of the contaminated gluten as a Chinese company: Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company Ltd. The FDA continues to screen companies who sourced wheat gluten from this supplier. The FDA has also begun investigations into the source of the contaminated rice protein concentrate. Another Chinese company, Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Co. Ltd, is implicated in the provision of the rice protein concentrate. The source of the contaminated corn gluten identified in the Royal Canin South Africa foods has not been revealed.

    Q: What is known about the cause of the problem?
    A: The specific toxin in the contaminated protein ingredients (gluten, rice protein concentrate) is not completely identified. However, the crystals in the urine and renal tubules appear to be a melamine cyanurate. Some 11 substances have been identified in the contaminated gluten, but most of these do not have "standard" curves to allow comparative identification. The 4 substances that have been identified include melamine, amiloride, amilorine and cyanuric acid. Testing in 3 laboratories has identified cyanuric acid in the contaminated food and in crystals from cat urine.

    Additionally, spectrographic analysis of melamine cyanurate crystals shows a close match to crystals obtained from cat urine. Thus, the structure of the crystals has now been tentatively identified.

    A more complete discussion of the melamine/cyanuric acid story can be found in the melamine update.


    Q: What signs do affected animals show?
    A: Affected individuals often vomit soon (1-12 hours) after ingesting the food, some become anorectic and lethargic. Some salivate and have oral ulcerations. Weakness and hematuria has also been reported. The most consistent finding is that blood values for BUN/creatinine and phosphorus are elevated.

    Many colleagues are reporting confirmed exposure to the diet with a wide spectrum of presentations where some individuals affected exhibit signs of mild renal insufficiency, developing after days or weeks, while others rapidly exhibit signs of acute renal failure.

    Q: Are there any specific diagnostic tests?
    Many affected individuals have refractile globular crystals in the urine and in the renal tubules. This presentation from MSU demonstrates the morphology of the crystals and the renal tubular changes. University of Guelph has images of spectrography and crystals from 3 affected cats.

    Some anecdotal reports from radiologists and internists examining affected animals have suggested that kidneys may appear hyperechoic on ultrasound examination, similar to findings with ethylene glycol intoxication. However, this is not pathognomonic for this particular intoxication, and is a subjective assessment, best made by a trained specialist.

    All evidence suggests that the disease is restricted to the kidneys, specifically tubular epithelium. Glomerular lesions have not been described.

    UCDavis is offering specific testing for melamine in affected foods and now in urine. The melamine assay cost on pet food or urine is $200/sample ($100 for California residents). This is the normal diagnostic rate using LC/MS or GC/MS technology for a specific compound - test code 8175.

    Q: What should pet owners feed their pets?
    In light of all the gaps in our understanding of this problem, there is no easy answer to this question.

    Q: Are dogs and cats equally affected?
    A: The VIN community is collating survey information to determine the proportions of affected animals. However, cats and small dogs are more likely to consume the implicated foods, and may therefore be at greater risk of exposure. Whether there are species sensitivities is not known.

    Q: Is the toxicity dose-dependent?
    A: Very likely.

    Q: How should affected individuals be treated?
    A: Aggressive fluid therapy is the best recommendation for patients with acute renal failure.

    Follow standard therapeutic strategies for acute renal failure. Some VIN resources on acute renal failure can be found here:

    1. Associate chapter on Acute Renal failure
    2. Lecture notes on Acute Renal Failure
    3. Proceedings notes from BSAVA on Acute Renal Failure

    Remember that not all cases of acute renal failure are related to the contaminated foods. Other causes (e.g. antifreeze poisoning, pyelonephritis, urolithiasis, acute-on-chronic decompensation) should be excluded. The presence of typical crystals should be looked for in urine.

    No specific therapies or antidotes are known for melamine. Given the paucity of knowledge of any toxicity from melamine, empirical diuretic therapy appears to be most appropriate.

    Q: Which patients should have renal function tested?
    A: There are no specific guidelines for renal function testing. Options include:

    1. All patients who have consumed recalled foods (see list)
    2. All patient who have eaten recalled foods and are showing clinical signs
    3. All patients

    Currently, it would seem reasonable to test all exposed patients. We do not at this time know how many of the recalled foods are truly a risk. We’d love to hear input on this question and all other aspects of this summary (see below).

    Q: How can I document "cases"?
    To ultimately document cases as related to the recalled pet foods colleagues have suggested the following:

    Q: If I suspect I have a case, how should I proceed?
    A: First of all, do not panic! Many cases of renal failure may be unrelated to any pet food consumption. Be sure to rule out other causes of acute renal failure. While this problem may be widespread, our clients require us to exercise clear and rational judgment.

    Collect Information, so that subsequent studies may help determine the extent and nature of the problem. Collect data on diet history and, when possible, ask clients to bring a sample of the foods fed including a can or package with the product codes identifying the lots and date of manufacture. (How to read product codes)

    Record the information and ask clients (to the extent possible), to keep unopened packages of food. If possible, store the fully identified (client, patient, etc) product for the client. VIN is currently conducting a survey of cases seen by VIN members. Please complete the survey if you are a VIN member who has or has not seen cases of diet-associated nephrotoxicity.

    Do not repeat rumors, gossip or innuendo. This does not serve the public or our patients and clients. The reality of the current situation is that we do not know what the cause and extent of the problem is. If questioned by reporters, clients, or anyone, resist the temptation to speculate about or repeat information that you are not confident is accurate.

    Advise clients to not feed any foods on the affected lists. If you have a client email list for your clients, alert them to the situation in a cautious and professional manner.

    Share what you learn with your colleagues on the message board discussions listed at the beginning of this article. If you have breaking news or strong concerns about this or other information circulating that you want to disseminate rapidly, email, or call Paul at 530-757-6881.

    Questions from the Original Community Update.

    Q: Why are so many different brands of pet food affected?
    A: Please see the archived update for this information.

    Q: When was the problem first noticed?
    Please see the archived update for this information.

    Q: Why was the recall not initiated at that time?
    A: Please see the archived update for this information.

    Q: Why did it take another month for the problem to recognized and reported to the FDA and the recall initiated?
    A: Please see the archived update for this information.

    Q: Are there any survey results available?
    A: The tabulation of data is preliminary and very limited. We will update this information as we continue to analyze the incoming data.

    Remember, the numbers represent the responses of survey participants, and represent reports by participating colleagues, we can only guess at how this extrapolates to the total numbers affected. In addition, these are reports of what colleagues believe to be related cases. This is the best we can do at the moment, and likely ever, as we will never get full reporting and it will never be possible to be 100% certain that specific cases were truly related to the affected foods.

    Information Resources:

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