WASHINGTON (AP) - The recall of wet and dry pet foods
contaminated with a chemical found in plastics and pesticides
expanded Saturday to include a new brand even as investigators were
puzzled why the substance would kill dogs and cats.
Nestle Purina PetCare Co. said it was recalling all sizes and
varieties of its Alpo Prime Cuts in Gravy wet dog food with
specific date codes. Purina said a limited amount of the food
contained a contaminated wheat gluten from China.
The same U.S. supplier also provided wheat gluten, a protein
source, to a Canadian company, Menu Foods, which this month
recalled 60 million containers of wet dog and cat food it produces
for sale under nearly 100 brand labels.
Menu Foods and the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates
the pet food industry, have refused to identify the company that
supplied the contaminated wheat gluten.
Hill's Pet Nutrition said late Friday that its Prescription Diet
m/d Feline dry cat food included the tainted wheat gluten. The FDA
said the source was the same unidentified company. Hill's, a
division of Colgate-Palmolive Co., is so far the only company to
recall any dry pet food.
Federal testing of some recalled pet foods and the wheat gluten
used in their production turned up the chemical melamine. Melamine
is used to make kitchenware and other plastics. It is both a
contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides, including
cyromazine, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Melamine is toxic only in very high doses and has been shown in
rats to produce bladder tumors, according to the EPA.
The federal pet food testing failed to confirm the presence of
aminopterin, a cancer drug also used as rat poison, the FDA said.
Cornell University scientists also found melamine in the urine of
sick cats, as well as in the kidney of one cat that died after
eating some of the recalled food.
Earlier, the New York State Food Laboratory identified
aminopterin as the likely culprit in the pet food. But the FDA said
it could not confirm that finding, nor have researchers at the
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey when they looked
at tissue samples taken from dead cats.
Experts at the University of Guelph in Canada detected
aminopterin in some samples of the recalled pet food, but only in
very small percentages.
"Biologically, that means nothing. It wouldn't do anything,"
said Grant Maxie, a veterinary pathologist at the university.
"This is a puzzle."
The FDA was working to rule out the possibility that the
contaminated wheat gluten could have made it into any human food.
Menu Foods announced the recall this month after animals died of
kidney failure after eating the company's products.
An FDA official allowed that it was not immediately clear
whether the melamine was the culprit. The agency's investigation
continues, said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center
for Veterinary Medicine.
Menu Foods said the only certainty was that imported wheat
gluten was the likely source of the deadly contamination, even if
the actual contaminant remained in doubt.
"The important point today is that the source of the
adulteration has been identified and removed from our system,"
said Paul Henderson, Menu Foods chief executive officer and
president. Henderson suggested his company would pursue legal
action against the supplier.
About 70 percent of the wheat gluten used in the United States
for human and pet food is imported from the European Union and
Asia, according to the Pet Food Institute, an industry group.
One veterinarian suggested the international sourcing of
ingredients would force the U.S. "to come to grips with a reality
we had not appreciated."
"When you change from getting an ingredient from the supplier
down the road to a supplier from around the globe, maybe the
methods and practices that were effective in one situation need to
be changed," said Tony Buffington, a professor of veterinary
clinical sciences at Ohio State University.
Sundlof said the agency may change how it regulates the pet food