The nation's pet food supply has literally been under the microscope in recent days, courtesy of an allegedly tainted supply of pet food that is causing kidney failure in cats and dogs.
At least 10 animals have already died and many more have reportedly taken sick after eating the food, which has tentatively been traced back to wheat gluten, a protein source that is added to the pet foods. The pet food is being recalled.
The suspect food was manufactured under the umbrella of an Ontario, Canada, company known as Menu Foods. The company serves more than a dozen of the top pet food suppliers, and the Menu Foods Web site boasts that it is the primary supplier of pet food in North America.
"Menu is the leading North American private label/contract manufacturer of wet pet food products sold by supermarket retailers, mass merchandisers, pet specialty retailers, and other retail and wholesale outlets. In 2006, Menu Fund produced more than 1 billion containers," read an excerpt from the Web site.
With the nationwide scare over possibly contaminated pet foods in the headlines, local stores responded to recall notices and pulled pet foods that could be affected.
Kevan Bren, manager of the White Salmon Thriftway, said the only brand that was on the recall list and available at Thriftway was Iams.
"We had to pull the Iams brand's moist packets and sent them back to the manufacturer," Bren said. "That's all we had."
According to Bren, Thriftway received a memo on Saturday advising the store of the possible problem with some pet food products. Store employees then pulled the items from the shelves to make sure no customers purchased them.
Hi-School Pharmacy had not received any recall notices as of Monday. A store spokesperson said Hi-School Pharmacy carries a limited amount of pet food, and the brands carried are apparently not on the recall list.
Dr. Craig Vance of Alpine Veterinary Clinic in Bingen said that as of Monday, no local cases had been reported.
"It will be interesting to see if this turns out to be a real problem, or something started by complaints that grew beyond the real problem," Vance said. "It hasn't even been positively established that the pet food is to blame. Ten animals have died from kidney failure, but is that actually because of something they ate or just coincidence? It's very difficult to really track it down."
Nevertheless, Vance said he would suggest pet owners err on the side of caution.
"At this point, we have no information of any toxins or infectious organisms being identified," Vance said.
A notice from the Washington State Veterinary Medical Association (WSVMA) explained that the "recall was prompted by consumer complaints received by the manufacturer and by testing trials conducted by the manufacturer ... The firm has undertaken extensive testing of the pet food products in question, but to date has been unable to find the source of the problem."
The list of affected pet foods is long: there are 51 brands of dog food being recalled, and 40 cat food brands. The names included well-known brands such as Western Family (dogs and cats); Paws (dogs and cats); Eukanuba (dogs and cats); Iams (dogs and cats); and Science Diet Savory Cuts (cats).
White Salmon resident Pam Morneault said this was one time the allergies of her dog, "So Lucky," actually served to reassure her.
"We weren't concerned for him, because he has such allergies that we have to be really careful about what we feed him," Morneault said. "He has such a restricted diet, and he's always with us."
The WSMVA offered the following advisory to veterinarians around the state: "The current plans are to deal with this problem on a case by case basis, listening carefully to the animal owner's assessment of their animals. In addition, the FDA and the manufacturer have advised owners to stop feeding the brands that may be affected, and to recall as much pet ration as possible from retailers and wholesalers as a precaution."
The recall covers pet foods produced between Dec. 3, 2006-March 6, 2007. For more information, contact Menu Foods toll-free number: 1-866-895-2708, or see their recall information Web site: www.menufoods.com/recall.