Main

June 23, 2007

The long afternoon of having some standards.

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Fuzzy and Harry resolutely ignoring a lamp in the shape of the Eiffel Tower and a brass serving tray held aloft by rabbit-like animals wearing tuxedos.


June 21, 2007

If you're not going to brush me, go get me a beer.

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i don't know nothin' about no turkey

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May 11, 2007

Poisoning the canary in the coal mine.

Blowing the lid off the pet food industry

Aisles upon aisles in stores like PetsMart and PetCo are devoted to shiny displays of brightly colored bags and cans of dog food. A look at the lengthy list of ingredients on the side of the bag could leave the well-intentioned pet owner confused. What is "animal digest?" "Meat and poultry meal?" "BHA and ethoxyquin?"

Ann M. Martin, author of "Foods Pets Die For," will tell you that none of these things are what animals should be eating.

"In my opinion, when we purchase these bags and cans of commercial food, we are purchasing garbage," she said.

The FDA soothingly states that "consumers can take comfort in knowing that pet food is manufactured under a series of standards and regulations," but concedes, in a monumental understatement, that it "contains parts of the animal not normally eaten by people."

The pet food industry, to put it bluntly, uses food unfit for human consumption.

If the buyer envisions plump chickens and choice, juicy cuts of beef going into that expensive bag of dog food, he is in for a rude awakening. "Meat meal" is ground-up slaughterhouse discards, often containing disease-ridden tissue and high levels of hormones and pesticides. Cancerous tissue and worm-infested organs are perfectly acceptable. Whatever remains of the carcass after it is stripped of the muscle meat reserved for humans are ground up into an unsavory mess.

What are known as 4D animals - "dead, dying, diseased or disabled" - are routinely rerouted into pet food. Plastic foam packaging containing spoiled meat from the supermarkets, ear tags and spoiled slaughterhouse meat also make their way into the mix. Restaurant grease is used to coat the outside of pet food, making it more palatable to pets.

The grains included in pet food are those deemed unfit for humans because of mold, contaminants or poor quality; they also can include hulls and other remnants from the milling process.

High temperatures and lengthy processing procedures rob the mixture of whatever nutrients it might contain; to compensate, a long list of chemical additives are dumped in. These are usually added all together as a premix, and if there is a mistake in making up the mix, it can throw off the entire balance, resulting in a potentially toxic imbalance. Dyes (to add eye appeal) and preservatives such as BHT and Ethoxyquin can accumulate in the pet's body, resulting in organ damage.

April 26, 2007

and the antifreeze in the cough syrup was already in the bottles

China confirms exports to U.S. contained melamine - USATODAY.com

By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY BEIJING — Chinese authorities acknowledged for the first time Thursday that ingredients exported to make pet food in the USA contained melamine, a chemical the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspects led to scores of pet deaths in the past month.

As Beijing stepped up efforts to investigate the contamination, including allowing FDA inspectors to visit China, experts here said the fragmented nature of China's vast food processing industry makes inspection difficult and increases the likelihood of future problems.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said in a statement issued Thursday that an investigation found melamine in wheat gluten and rice protein exported to the USA by two Chinese companies. Previously China has denied exporting any tainted pet-food ingredients to the USA and Canada. The contaminated shipments avoided US customs inspection because they were not declared as pet food ingredients, the statement said. They were declared as products not requiring inspection.

But the ministry rejected FDA claims that the melamine was to blame for harming pets.

"There is no clear evidence showing that melamine is the direct cause of the poisoning or death of the pets," the statement said. "China is willing to strengthen cooperation with the U.S. side ... to find out the real cause leading to the pet deaths in order to protect the health of the pets of the two countries."

[snip]

Binzhou Futian Bio-Technology Company, one of two firms China now admits exported the melamine-laced products, told its U.S. client Wilbur-Ellis that the contamination occurred through accidental reuse of dirty packaging, according to company president John Thacher.

[more at link]

nora again

She quacks just like our cat Fuzzy.

April 21, 2007

unfrickinbelievable

Pet Food Contamination Scandal Spreads to Pork, FDA Opens Criminal Investigation

The FDA said it knows of five companies that received the contaminated Chinese rice protein concentrate. Three firms have identified themselves by announcing recalls; the other two are not publicly known because the FDA will not name them until the companies come forth voluntarily.

Just in case you were wondering, and you should be, exactly for whom the FDA works.

[much more at link]

April 20, 2007

"apparently"?

ABC News: Officials: Pet Food Poison May Have Been Intentional

FDA Investigators Say Chinese Companies May Have Added Melamine to Appear to Boost Protein Content

April 19, 2007 — - For the first time, investigators are saying the chemical that has sickened and killed pets in the United States may have been intentionally added to pet food ingredients by Chinese producers.

Food and Drug Administration investigators say the Chinese companies may have spiked products with the chemical melamine so that they would appear, in tests, to have more value as protein products.

Officials now suspect this possibility because a second ingredient from China, rice protein concentrate, has tested positive for melamine. So has corn gluten shipped to South Africa. That means there is a possibility for another round of recalls.

The FDA's top veterinarian, Stephen Sundlof, says finding melamine in so many products "would certainly lend credibility to the theory that it was maybe intentional."

Melamine, which is used to make plastics in the United States and as a fertilizer in Asia, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen can appear to boost the level of protein in products.

The revelations have led the FDA to expand the number of products it is testing as they enter the United States. So far, those inspections at the border have not turned up any melamine in wheat gluten. Tainted wheat gluten used by Menu Foods is suspected in sickening hundreds, if not thousands of pets.

Some of the tainted pet food has apparently made it into feed for hogs. Federal agencies are trying to determine if it was actually fed to animals and whether it may have reached the human food supply.

Copyright 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

April 18, 2007

Bon appetit

Fears grow on pet food - sacbee.com

New findings expand the threat beyond wheat gluten.

By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg - Bee Staff Writer

Published 12:00 am PDT Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The monthlong pet food recall expanded Tuesday with a troubling twist, for the first time involving foods that do not contain wheat gluten but still tested positive for a potentially lethal chemical.

The finding makes it much tougher to tell people what to safely feed their pets and fuels suspicions that the chemical melamine is being deliberately added to some pet food ingredients to bolster apparent protein.

Natural Balance, a Pacoima-based company, is "99.9 percent sure" that a rice protein made in Asia is responsible for the melamine detected Tuesday in some of its venison-based pet foods, company President Joey Herrick said.

"It was pretty shocking," he said in a phone interview after the company recalled several of its venison foods. "I was livid."

Herrick declined to name the supplier of the rice protein or the country it came from, saying only that a large American company acquired the ingredient for Diamond Pet Foods, which makes some Natural Balance products.

Because both wheat gluten and rice protein enhance the protein content of pet food, "it certainly is suspicious" that melamine now is associated with both, said Bob Poppenga, a UC Davis veterinary toxicology professor.

Melamine isn't an edible protein, but it has plenty of nitrogen, which can be used as a marker for protein in chemical analyses.

So, if someone wanted to use less of the relatively pricey sources of vegetable protein, such as wheat gluten, and throw in cheaper starches instead, adding melamine to that mix would still make it look like a protein-rich product, numerous veterinary nutritionists and toxicologists have said.

[more at link]

But, of course, "someone" would draw the line at doing this with "human-grade" wheat gluten and rice protein? The US imports 80% of the wheat gluten it uses in animal and human food, and the FDA inspects less than 1% of food imports.

Gosh, wonder where that came from.

Second Tainted Pet Food Ingredient Found - New York Times

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An industrial chemical that led to a nationwide recall of more than 100 brands of cat and dog foods has been found to contaminate a second pet food ingredient, expanding the recall further.

The chemical, melamine, is believed to have contaminated rice protein concentrate used to make a variety of Natural Balance Pet Foods products for both dogs and cats, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. Previously, the chemical was found to contaminate another ingredient, wheat gluten, used by at least six other pet food and treat manufacturers.

Natural Balance said it was recalling all its Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods, its Venison and Brown Rice dog treats and its Venison and Green Pea dry cat food.

The Pacoima, Calif., company said recent laboratory tests showed the products contain melamine. It believes the source of the contaminant was rice protein concentrate, which the company recently added to the dry venison formulas. Natural Balance does not use wheat gluten, which was associated with the previous melamine contamination, it said.

Last month, Menu Foods recalled 60 million cans of dog and cat food after the deaths of 16 pets, mostly cats, that ate its products. The FDA said tests indicated the food was contaminated with melamine, used in making plastics and other industrial processes. Five other companies later recalled pet products also made with wheat gluten tainted by the chemical.

The FDA has since blocked Chinese imports of wheat gluten. An FDA spokeswoman did not immediately return messages left seeking comment.

April 13, 2007

not reassuring

kutv.com - Tainted Gluten Almost Made It Into Human Food

While the public was focused on the danger to their pets, sources tell 2News that the Food and Drug Administrations had tracked at least one suspect batch of wheat gluten into the human food supply, quietly quarantined some products, and notified the Centers For Disease Control to watch for new patients admitted to hospitals with renal or kidney failure.

Stephen Sundlof of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine says, “We didn’t know at the time whether or not wheat gluten had made it into the human food supply. We asked CDC to put a special emphasis on looking at increased incidence of renal failure in people.”

But there were no spikes in illnesses and the human food ultimately tested clean. The FDA tried to comfort congress today saying there’s “no evidence” any bad gluten got into human food, though the agency still doesn’t know where it all went.

[more at link]

April 12, 2007

perhaps the least surprising news story of the day

globeandmail.com: Pet food insider sold shares before recall

The chief financial officer of Menu Foods Income Fund says it's a "horrible coincidence" that he sold nearly half his units in the troubled pet food maker less than three weeks before a massive recall of tainted pet food.

Insider trading reports show that Mark Wiens sold 14,000 units for $102,900 on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27. Those shares would be worth $62,440 today, based on yesterday's close of $4.46 a unit.

That represented 45 per cent of Mr. Wiens's units. After the sale, he still owned 17,193 units and options to purchase 101,812 units, according to insider trading reports.

"It's a horrible coincidence, yes . . ." Mr. Wiens said yesterday.

[more at link]

Pet food was poisoned for profit.

Some Suspect Chemical Mix in Pet Food - New York Times

XUZHOU, China, April 10 — Behind an unmarked gate in this booming city well north of Shanghai lies a large building at the heart of an investigation over tainted pet food that has killed at least 16 cats and dogs in the United States, sickened 12,000 and prompted a nationwide recall.

This is the property of the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company, a small agricultural products business that investigators have identified as the source of contaminated wheat gluten that was shipped to a major pet food supplier in the United States.

Some American regulators suspect there was deliberate mixing of substances. They are looking into the possibility that melamine, the chemical linked to the pets’ deaths, was mixed into the wheat gluten in China as a way to bolster the protein content, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation.

Though American and Chinese regulators are searching for answers, local residents and workers are unwittingly providing clues about how the pet food supply may have become contaminated.

The case is also exposing some of the enormous challenges confronting the global marketplace as China becomes a worldwide supplier of agricultural products.

There are strong indications that Xuzhou Anying, a company with a main office that seems to consist of just two rooms and an adjoining warehouse here, possessed substantial supplies of melamine and even sought to buy quantities of it over the Internet.

[snip]

there are indications that Xu- zhou Anying has manufacturing facilities in this area and also had access to melamine, which is sometimes used as a fertilizer in Asia. For instance, in recent months Xuzhou Anying has posted several requests on Web trading sites seeking to purchase large quantities of melamine.

In a March 29 posting on a site operated by Sohu.net, a big Chinese company, officials of Xuzhou Anying wrote, “Our company buys large quantities of melamine scrap all year around.” There were also postings on several other trading sites like ChemAbc.net.

[snip]

The question that regulators, agriculture experts, and food producers and distributors may now be asking is whether other substances added to food imports can broadly contaminate the American food supply. The F.D.A. has said none of the contaminated wheat gluten leaked into human food.

[snip]

Chinese regulators say they are now carrying out a nationwide inspection of wheat gluten supplies. American regulators have banned all wheat gluten from China, but there has been no domestic recall so far of gluten produced by Xuzhou Anying; the company’s wheat gluten can be used to make bread, baked goods and other food.

[more at above link]

And how, exactly, can the FDA be so sure none of this wheat gluten is in human food?

They can't.

April 11, 2007

get us out of here

This is the official logo of Menu Foods Income Fund, the folks who are behind the current pet food poisonings, newly added to their own web page. Click photo for larger view.

That beagle doesn't look happy. I'm hoping those poor critters aren't actually eating the company's product. The CEO should be.

why you should never do the dishes after dinner

Behind our kitchen sink is a small bay window, through which I like to admire our neighbor's tractor collection while I do the dishes. Although we do own a dishwasher, I prefer the hand method because:

a) If one is going to rinse things before putting them in the machine, one might as well just wash them, yes?

b) The dishwasher is on wheels and sits ten feet from the sink. It's heavy. It hurts my back to move it, and when I try to, the cats all jump aboard for a ride.

c) Occasionally I run over a cat.

d) Just kidding, although there have been close calls.

e) The warm water makes my hands feel better.

f) I always loved to play with bubbles. Since Bubbles moved away, I compensate by washing dishes. Thank you, I'll be here all week.

So last night I washed all the dishes and stacked them in the dish drainer next to the sink.

Big mistake.

Early this morning (early for me; youse guys had probably been at work for a hour), I was awakened by the sound of a taxicab plowing through a plate glass window. Since both taxicabs and plate glass windows are fairly rare around here, I was curious, so I arose and tiptoed downstairs to investigate.

Nearing the kitchen, I spied a cluster of cats crouching under the table, staring at the sink. Noting my approach, they scattered in nine different directions, clearly feeling guilty about something.

(Note: anyone who says that animals lack a moral sense is nuts. Those cats were radiating mens rea.)

Long story short, apparently what had happened was this: there is a set of cafe curtains on a spring rod above the sink (for those times when I just can't take any more tractors). Evidently, one of the cats (I have my suspects) was climbing said curtains, when the rod gave way and dumped the cat in the dish drainer. Cats being the graceful creatures that they are, the little chap thrashed around in panic, tipping the entire dish drainer four feet onto the floor.

Three dinner plates, one bowl and one cup broken, and broken glass and silverware all over the kitchen (which is roughly 18' by 15', so that's a lot of space).

After some preliminary sweeping, I decided to make a cup of coffee. While pouring water into the teapot, the top of the water pitcher came off, dumping two quarts of water onto the stovetop.

I give up.


profiles in cluelessness

Pet food recall expands again - sacbee.com

Four days after a Davis-based lab told the FDA it found melamine in some pet foods that had not been recalled, Menu Foods on Tuesday expanded its recall, adding at least six new brands of cat food and some new varieties sold under brands already recalled.

This latest recall comes despite assurances from Food and Drug Administration officials last week that its probe was winding down and it believed all tainted food had been pinpointed.

"We are pretty much coming to a conclusion on this," Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, had said in a news conference Thursday. "The public should feel secure in purchasing pet foods that are not subject to this recall."

The FDA had no immediate comment Tuesday on the fresh wave of recalls.

[more at link]

track record

"Sewage in lard" prompts new China health scare
04 Dec 2006
Source: Reuters

BEIJING, Dec 4 (Reuters) - China has arrested the manager of a factory which used grease from swill, sewage and recycled industrial oil to make edible lard, a Chinese newspaper said on Monday in the latest health scare to hit the country.

Health officials also detected "toxic pesticide" in lard produced by the Fanchang Grease Factory in Taizhou, in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, the Shanghai Daily said.

"They wholesaled the product to retailers across the country, and the retailers sold it to clients, including hotels and restaurants," the paper said.

Since opening in September 2005, the plant had bought more than 170 tonnes of recycled grease to produce an average of six tonnes of lard daily. A night-time raid found 37,600 kg of raw materials and 5,300 kg of lard, the paper said.

Billions of dollars worth of counterfeit and substandard goods, from fake liquor to luxury handbags, are produced every year in China.

In 2004, a major health scandal erupted when China revealed that at least 13 babies had died from malnutrition in the country's impoverished eastern province of Anhui after being fed fake baby milk powder.

Last week, several fish farms in eastern Shandong province breeding turbot, a popular type of flatfish, were fined and ordered to suspend sales after traces of cancer-causing chemicals including malachite green were detected in samples.

Authorities in several cities last month found Sudan IV, a cancer-causing industrial dye, in "red-yolk" duck eggs sold to poultry farmers who had mixed it with feed.

Red yolks are regarded as a sign of extra nutrition, thus making them more expensive.

an interesting theory

China Matters: Environmental Cat--astrophe

an interesting theory

China Matters: Environmental Cat--astrophe

surprise, surprise

Chinese criticized in pet food probe - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Chinese government and the company that supplied a contaminated ingredient are slowing the federal investigation into the nationwide recall of pet food, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration official said Tuesday.

Researchers, however, are making strides toward uncovering what has sickened cats and dogs nationwide. A lead scientist said yesterday he is convinced a second contaminant was in the wheat gluten, which FDA and independent researchers said was laced with high amounts of melamine, a chemical used in plastics.

Dr. Richard Goldstein, associate professor of medicine at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and a kidney specialist who is researching the outbreak's health impact on pets, said he and other researchers saw what they believe is a second contaminant in the gluten and the urine of infected animals, but have yet to identify it. Cornell is among labs working with the FDA.

"The concerted effort now is to identify what else is in there, and what's in the crystals" of infected animals' urine and tissue, Goldstein said.

Michael Rogers, director of the FDA's field investigations division, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review the agency has asked the Chinese government for help investigating the gluten and the supplier, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd., based in Jiangsu province.

The FDA is disappointed with slow and incomplete Chinese responses, Rogers said.

"I usually don't speak in terms of cooperative or not cooperative," he said.

Chu Maoming, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C., did not return calls or an e-mail requesting comment.

He told the Trib on March 30: "The Chinese Embassy is working closely with the FDA officers to determine the real cause." Since then, he has declined repeated requests for interviews with the embassy representative working with the FDA.

Although the agency got some information from the Chinese, Rogers said, "There remain a number of questions."

Federal investigators haven't determined whether Xuzhou Anying shipped other food products to the United States, or what other Chinese companies it sold wheat gluten to that, in turn, might have been shipped here, Rogers said.

Xuzhou Anying's Web site said it also exports carrots, garlic, ginger, corn protein powder, vegetables and feed. Rogers said Chinese officials have not responded to the U.S. government's question about whether any products other than wheat gluten were shipped here.

"We're certainly reviewing all products from this source," he said. Since the recall, the company has shipped only wheat gluten to the United States, but U.S. officials still are unsure what might have been shipped prior to the recall, Rogers said.

"From an operational standpoint, we still have questions about this company," he said.

The FDA is screening all wheat gluten imported from China and the Netherlands at U.S. ports and seizing all wheat gluten from Xuzhou Anying.

Under the microscope and even to the naked eye, the contaminated gluten looks different from uncontaminated samples, Goldstein said. Researchers see melamine granules and other colored granules throughout the gluten, he said.

"There appears to be other things in there, other than the melamine, but identifying what they are is a long process," he said.

He said researchers ruled out aminopterin -- used as rat poison in other countries -- which New York state officials previously announced was in the pet food.

The FDA, Cornell and other researchers found melamine in high concentrations in the gluten -- up to 6.6 percent of the product.

Even so, they do not believe the melamine made the animals sick, although they said it is a marker for tracking the outbreak, because the crystal found in the melamine and in animals' urine and tissue is distinctive to this outbreak.

Because of a dearth of past studies on melamine exposure in dogs and cats, the only way to know for sure if it could cause the outbreak would be to feed the compound to those animals, Goldstein said, adding, "That's not an option."

More than 10 laboratories are researching the crystals and working together to develop criteria to determine which kidney illnesses were caused by the contaminated pet food. Although the link is relatively easy to establish because of the distinctive crystals, the process needed to find them is expensive and time-consuming, Goldstein said.

The labs will test urine and tissue samples from pets suspected of becoming ill from the food and possibly samples of the food, he said. How that will be accomplished and who will pay for it has not been determined, so pet owners and veterinarians are advised to keep those samples, he said. The labs are trying to develop a way to test for melamine more quickly and cheaply.

Note: The Animal Health Laboratory at the University of Guelph (Canada), experts in screening feed, and New York State Food Laboratory both found aminopterin in the food.

April 10, 2007

a bit more of the iceberg becomes visible

Thousands of pets may have fallen ill

Veterinary chain estimates 39,000 affected

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 3:29 AM
By Andrew Bridges
ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical might have sickened or killed 39,000 cats and dogs nationwide, based on an extrapolation from data released yesterday by one of the nation's largest chains of veterinary hospitals.

Banfield, The Pet Hospital, reported that an analysis of its database, compiled from records collected by its more than 615 veterinary hospitals, suggests that three out of every 10,000 cats and dogs that ate the pet food contaminated with melamine developed kidney failure. There are an estimated 60 million dogs and 70 million cats in the United States, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The hospital chain cared for 1 million dogs and cats during the three months when the more than 100 brands of now-recalled contaminated pet food were sold. It saw 284 extra cases of kidney failure among cats during that period, or a roughly 30 percent increase, when compared with background rates.

"It has meaning, when you see a peak like that. We see so many pets here, and it coincided with the recall period," said veterinarian Hugh Lewis, who oversees the mining of Banfield's database to do clinical studies. The chain continues to share its data with the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA officials have said the database compiled by the huge veterinary practice would probably provide the most authoritative picture of the harm done by the tainted food.

In central Ohio, no confirmed cases of pet poisonings have been reported, although some cases are suspected.

From its findings, Banfield officials calculated an incidence rate of .03 percent for pets, although there was no discernible uptick among dogs. That suggests the contamination was overwhelmingly toxic to cats, Lewis said. That is in line with what other experts have said.

At least six pet-food companies have recalled products made with imported Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical. The recall involved about 1 percent of the overall U.S. pet food supply.

Measuring the tainted food's impact on animal health has proved an elusive goal. Previous estimates have ranged from the FDA's admittedly low tally of roughly 16 confirmed deaths to the more than 3,000 unconfirmed cases logged by one Web site.

"On a percentage basis, it's not breathtaking, but unfortunately it's a number that, if it was your pet that was affected, it's too high," veterinarian Nancy Zimmerman, Banfield's senior medical adviser, said of the newly estimated incidence rate.

In another estimate yesterday, the founder of a veterinary group said 5,000 to 10,000 pets might have fallen ill from eating the contaminated food, and 1,000 to 2,000 might have died.

The estimate was based on a Veterinary Information Network survey of 1,400 veterinarians among its 30,000 members. About one-third reported at least one case, said Paul Pion, the network's founder. He cautioned that a final, definitive tally isn't possible, and that even his estimate could be halved -- or doubled.

Banfield's veterinarians treat an estimated 6 percent of the nation's cats and dogs. After the first recall was announced, the chain beefed up its software to allow those veterinarians to plug in extra epidemiological information to help track cases, Zimmerman said.

The new template allowed vets to log what a sick pet had eaten, any symptoms its owner might have noticed, the results of a physical examination, any urine and blood test results and other observations.

April 9, 2007

y'know, I'm not seeing a big mystery here...

Mystery cat takes regular bus to the shops | the Daily Mail

Bus drivers have nicknamed a white cat Macavity after it has started using the No 331 several mornings a week.

The feline, which has a purple collar, gets onto the busy Walsall to Wolverhampton bus at the same stop most mornings - he then jumps off at the next stop 400m down the road, near a fish and chip shop.

[more at link]

April 5, 2007

Vitamin D?

Barking up wrong tree in pet food recall?

Lawyer claims culprit is vitamin D

By ALAN CAIRNS, SUN MEDIA

As the poisoned pet food crisis widened yesterday with the recall of a dry food, a Toronto lawyer leading a $60-million class-action negligence suit against a Guelph company fears scientists might be barking up the wrong tree.

With suspicions in the Menu Foods poisoning shifting from animopterin rat poison to melamine used in Asian fertilizers, lawyer David Himelfarb said suspect food should be "immediately" tested for excessive vitamin D.

Himelfarb said the kidney failure seen in the Menu Foods case is "exactly" the same as symptoms that left a Whitby woman's dog seriously ill in 2005.

The woman, Janet Grixti, alleges in a statement of claim filed in Superior Court of Ontario that her chocolate Labrador Mocha became ill after it was fed Royal Canin pet food with excessive amounts of vitamin D.

10 TIMES NORMAL

"We have taken hundreds of samples of (Royal Canin) food from across the GTA. I can't give you accurate numbers ... but there is an awful lot of (vitamin D) ... some tests have shown more than 10 times the normal amount ... might even be more," said Himelfarb, who is on the class-action case with lawyer Joe Rochon.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received 8,800 complaints of dog and cats deaths or illness.

No corresponding statistics are kept in Canada.

But after receiving 1,000 telephone calls and e-mails from concerned pet owners, Himelfarb suggests that the poisoning tragedy is much bigger than it appears.

"There could be many thousands," Himelfarb said.

Vitamin D is essential to a healthy diet for dogs and cats, Himelfarb said, but excessive amounts cause "total (kidney) failure."

[more at link]

Lab chief troubled by conflicting pet-food results

The Ithaca Journal - Ithaca, NY

By Jay Gallagher
Gannett News Service

ALBANY — Ten days after the New York state food-testing lab seemed to have made a breakthrough in a mysterious wave of pet deaths and illnesses, the finding hasn't been confirmed — a situation the lab director called “troubling” Monday.

“Our finding is significant,” said lab director Daniel Rice. “Whether it was the cause of illness in pets remains to be determined. Right now I guess we don't think this is a closed case yet.”

Rice and other New York and Cornell University officials announced on March 23 they had found traces of a rodent poison known as Aminopterin in two samples of wet cat food manufactured by Menu Foods of Ontario, Canada.
Menu Foods recalled more than 60 million cans and pouches of wet dog and cat food after reports of pets dying after eating it.

But over the weekend, three other pet-food makers announced they have recalled other products. And the federal Food and Drug Administration, which hasn't found Aminopterin in pet-food samples it has tested, suspects the contaminant to be the chemical melamine, which is used as fertilizer and also in making plastics. It was found in wheat gluten imported from China and used by Menu Foods and other makers, the FDA says.

But it is unclear whether it is toxic enough to kill pets.

The FDA says so far the deaths of 15 cats and one dog have been attributed to food poisoning, but thousands of other complaints have been registered.

The New York State lab, housed in an office park on the outskirts of Albany, is continuing tests to try to nail down the cause of the contaminations, Rice said.

He added that rodent poison may break down when exposed to light, which would remove it as a potential cause of the pet deaths. He pointed out that it hasn't been determined yet whether Aminopterin caused the deaths of the pets.

Even so, the poison “is a substance that should never be in pet food,” said state Agriculture and Markets spokeswoman Jessica Chittenden.

“We believe our finding was significant,” Rice said. “We believe the finding of melamine in food was significant. But right now the pieces don't all fit together. We're still trying to answer a lot of questions.”

[more at link]

March 23, 2007

update

United Press International - Rat poison found in pet food

NEW YORK, March 23 (UPI) -- Rat poison caused the deaths of U.S. pets that ate tainted food from Canada and the death toll is expected to rise, ABC News reported Friday.

A source told ABC that wheat imported from China and used by Menu Foods in nearly 100 brands of cat and dog food contained a rodentidicide called aminopterin.

The discovery was made by scientists at the New York food laboratory in Albany, ABC said. Details were to be officially released later Friday.

Millions of cans and pouches of wet food manufactured by Menu Foods were recalled last week.

It is not certain that the aminopterin is what caused the animals' deaths or if it was the only foreign substance found in the food, ABC said.

Aminopterin is illegal to use as rat poison in the United States but is used as a cancer-fighting drug, the source said.

The number of pets dying of acute kidney failure traced back to the food is expected to swell, doctors at New York's Animal Medical Center said.

"I was shocked and surprised -- acute kidney failure is not a common problem," veterinarian Cathy Langston said. "I've already heard about 200 cases, and so I bet that there are probably going to be thousands."

Many news sources are still reporting ~15 deaths, which is absurd.

March 17, 2007

not funny

Popular dog, cat food recalled after kidney failure, deaths - CNN.com

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A major manufacturer of dog and cat food sold under Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger and other store brands recalled 60 million containers of wet pet food Friday after reports of kidney failure and deaths.

An unknown number of cats and dogs suffered kidney failure and about 10 died after eating the affected pet food, Menu Foods said in announcing the North American recall. Product testing has not revealed a link explaining the reported cases of illness and death, the company said.

See article for brands affected. It's not just "store brands" -- Nutro is in there.

February 28, 2007

Ah-choo! Ca-ching!

Over the past two weeks, all five of the garage kittens we rescued last year (Marley, Yo-Yo, Bootsie, Inky and Little Girl Cat) have come down with pneumonia (picked up from Fifi, who picked it up on a visit to the vet clinic, but was apparently herself immune).

Cost to cure per cat = ~ $75. Times five, $375.

Priceless, of course, but the gas company just doesn't understand.

So if anyone would like to contribute to the Incredibly Cute Kitten Assistance Fund, just hit this button:

and the kids will be very happy.

February 15, 2007

Nora

Note to our cats: you'll notice she doesn't puke on the keyboard.

via boing boing

February 9, 2007

Friday afternoon

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December 16, 2006

Hey, it's 4:22 am. What did you expect?

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Cute Overload, of course.

December 2, 2006

yes, we're both gray, but I'm not an idiot

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Driven to desperation by Yo-Yo's incessant babbling about a fly he caught last summer, Fuzzy contemplates the stairwell.

November 12, 2006

could we see a menu, please?

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Left to right: Boots, Yo-Yo, Inky, Gus (sitting up), Little Girl Cat (rear) and Marley. With the exception of Gus, they are all siblings.

The table had been moved to that spot about ten minutes earlier.

sunday afternoon fun

Gus the Cat should be able to swing this if I can get him to watch the video.

August 18, 2006

you're in trouble now

Confidential to AOL Search user 7525472, who on May 1, 2006 asked "what do cats see" (a query that landed him, her or it at www.word-detective.com):

The answer is, of course, everything.

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(click photo for larger version)

August 10, 2006

time-wastage

Made a little poster at this site. Click photo for larger version.

June 22, 2006

slackers

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Clockwise from the top, siblings Gus, Phoebe and Harry hard at work.

May 5, 2006

Wasn't it nice of Daddy to mow the lawn?

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Brownie and Fifi the Cat enjoying the day.

April 27, 2006

I said meow

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Fuzzy isn't really angry, just a bit intense.

April 20, 2006

Kiki!

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Hey kids, it's Kiki the Cat! Yay Kiki!

Kiki is the mother-in-law cat around here, long-lost mother of Gus, Phoebe and Harry. Kiki materialized in the garage about six months after we took the kittens in, and once we brought her into the house (when the temperature dropped below zero), they instantly recognized her.

In this shot, Kiki is sitting on the arm of the sofa in the living room. Kiki spends all day every day sitting in that spot.

Kiki was quite thin when she joined us, but she now resembles a furry football.

She looks worried in this picture. Kiki is always worried that we're getting ready to toss her back outside.

Kiki likes to be petted in moderation, but try to pick her up and you'll be unwrapping Band-Aids for the next 20 minutes.

March 2, 2006

making the other cats seem normal

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January 12, 2006

Inky

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Inky (above), the smallest and sweetest (and possibly the smartest) of the litter, has been very sick with an upper respiratory bug she caught from Phoebe (which Phoebe caught at the vet). She was so sick she refused fresh real turkey. We spent two days feeding Inky water from a syringe, dosing her with antibiotics, and being very worried, but she seems much better today.

Inky is my little pal.

December 28, 2005

whap!

Why is my cat bonkers? | Ask MetaFilter

December 23, 2005

Miss Phoebe

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Miss Phoebe (above, above her brother Gus) took a trip to the vet this week to be spayed. She seems fine, but her surgery, plus Sparky's emergency visit and Fuzzy's neutering, add up to about $400 in vet bills for this month alone. So if you've ever considered clicking on that "Feed the Cats" button over there (top of the sidebar, main page), now would be a good time.


December 19, 2005

If I had to live with walls that color, I'd climb the tree too.

A Cats Christmas

The clock up near the ceiling is a nice touch.

December 18, 2005

name that cat: #1

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OK, we're gonna have us a contest!

But seriously, folks, this is becoming untenable. Of the five kittens, only two have names -- Bootsie (the black and white one previously known as Bitey -- there's a name that'll get you adopted real quick) and Inky (the tiny black one).

So here's name-needing cat number one -- literally. At a loss for how to address the little chap and his two equally nameless siblings, I have fallen into calling them Number One, Number Two, and Little Girl Cat. This clearly will not do. It demoralizes the little creatures and, from my standpoint, makes shouting at them when they climb the curtains much more difficult.

Your job is to suggest names in the comments to this post. There is, alas, no prize (except the knowledge that you have made a little kitten happy).

By way of guidance, Number One is a male kitten (at 16 weeks perhaps pushing the envelope of "kitten"), is nicely done up in a lovely gray-and-white-striped coat with white bib and paws, and appears to be wearing eye-liner. Go figure. Another view of the candidate may be found here.

Most of the other animals around here conform to the Cutesy Pet Naming Convention of 1913, i.e., have names ending in an "ee" sound (Brownie, Pokey, Sparky, Fifi, Harry, Phoebe, Kiki, Fuzzy, Bootsie and Inky). Then there's Gus. But it would be nice if Number One had an "ee" name too.

December 16, 2005

up for adoption

This made the rounds a few months ago, but whenever these cats start driving me nuts I watch it.

It's a ~2 megabyte .wmv file, so I suggest right-clicking on the link and choosing "save as" or "save target as." I doubt that it will run properly if you just click on it.

Let's just say that Pinkey doesn't like leashes. Or uniforms. Or something.

December 15, 2005

cats in sinks

Cats in Sinks - for all your cat and bathroom needs

feed the cats

I added a little PayPal donation button to the sidebar (trying to be tasteful, no screaming MasterCard logo). Twelve cats eat a lot of food, so the cause is legit. Even the cost of kitty litter is becoming significant. We buy the Kroger store brand, which is much better than the Giant Eagle store brand (which has far too much dust), although I can't detect a difference between the Kroger basic litter and their "multiple cats" formula. What we really need is an "out of control" formula.

December 12, 2005

another argument against going outside

n.b. - Granville, home of Denison University, is about ten miles north of us.

Granville man gets pictures of 'big cat'

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GRANVILLE -- A year after the Granville Police Department last reported a sighting of a large, lion-like cat near Newark-Granville Road -- another sighting occurred around noon on Saturday.

This time, Rufus Hurst, 57, of Granville, had his camera ready.

"I was in my study working, and my wife and her sister were in the other room, and they called and said, 'Get your camera and come here quick,'" said Hurst, who lives on a one-acre lot on Brennan Drive, a third of which is wooded.

"Then I saw what they were talking about," he said, before snapping several photos from a distance.

Hurst described the cat as jet black, with a long black tail, with a stride measured from its tracks at about 3 feet from front to back paw.

Continue reading "another argument against going outside" »

December 9, 2005

That sounds like a can opener!

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December 7, 2005

Headed for eBay

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Rare two-headed kitten. Price on request.

December 5, 2005

not quite face down in his cornflakes, but close

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Our senior (at age six) cat Sparky was eating his dry food this afternoon while I washed the dishes, when suddenly I heard an odd "clink" from his direction and turned from the sink to find him lying on his side, partially in his overturned bowl. His eyes were glassy and he seemed to be trying to stand up, but his legs apparently weren't working right. I carried him out to the living room, but he still couldn't stand and lay flat on his stomach looking very distressed. So I called the vet clinic, which said to bring him right in. By this time he had improved and was walking around, but still behaving oddly.

One hour, two blood tests, a physical exam and a kitty-cat electrocardiogram later, he was pronounced probably fine. The culprit was most likely a large piece of cat chow that had lodged in his throat, putting pressure on his vagus nerve and causing partial loss of consciousness.

Yes, the same neurological phenomenon that (supposedly) caused Commander Coo-Coo Bananas to keel over and bonk his noggin a couple of years ago.

Total cost, $110. I guess dry food isn't really cheaper.

December 3, 2005

progress, or lack thereof, report

Fuzzy-Wuzzy, whose childhood portrait graces the top of this page, took a trip to the vet this week to be neutered, due to his sudden and enthusiastic ambition to mark every room in the house as his territory. He emerged, alas, with an upper respiratory bug that had him wheezing in a most alarming manner, which led, in turn, to us staying up past three am two nights running nursing and petting the poor little fellow. He's on antibiotics now and seems to be improving.

Elsewhere in the news, I spent yesterday afternoon sealing the front door with plastic sheeting in an attempt to cut down on the freezing wind blowing through the house. This house was built circa 1870 and renovated in the 1980s by a certifiable moron who evidently thought the way to keep warm was to rip out any existing insulation and replace it with fake wood paneling. With winds coming straight off the fields to the south at 30 mph for much of the winter, things can get seriously chilly in the living room.

One word of advice for anyone who dreams of living in an old house: don't. Don't even dream of it unless you have pots of money, nerves of steel, and a thirst for endless disasters.

Personally, I'm zero for three in this game.

November 26, 2005

boomerang

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So bright and early Monday morning, the kittens took a vote and picked their representative to be tested for assorted nastiness at the vet clinic. The gray and white one won, and a few hours later he and, by extrapolation, his siblings, were declared fit to join the general population of cats in the house, at least until suitable homes are found for them, which at the rate things are going will be shortly after they have grandchildren.

The door to my office was thown open and their aunts and uncles were invited in to visit, which they did amongst all manner of joyous hissing and spitting. Then the kittens were encouraged to explore the Wonderful World of Somewhere Not My Office, with the ulterior motive being for me to actually get some work done. The brave little creatures toddled forth into the hallway and headed for the stairs down to the first floor as I stifled a sob and waved goodbye with a claw-tattered page from the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary I had found under what is left of my desk .

The room seemed suddenly empty without the pitty-pat of their little paws and their cries of joy when they knocked the router to the floor or chewed through another run of ethernet cabling. A cup of coffee rested, achingly unspilled, near a stack of important papers. They were gone. The nest was empty. Childhood's end.

Ten minutes later they were back, and they haven't left since. The only difference is that several of the other cats followed them back and I now have an average population of ten cats in my office. I left the room just now and returned to find Uncle Gus apparently conducting a class for the little tykes in Turning On the TV.

Maybe if I turn off the lights and leave the windows open for a few days....

November 21, 2005

The gang of five

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... watching a fried chicken fly by.

November 18, 2005

count the cats

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naming contest coming soon

November 17, 2005

shocking

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Viciously anti-kitten propaganda in a local mall.

Ominous Gus

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This is Gus, the inventor of Cat Chow Hockey. Shortly after the arrival of Fuzzy, Gus taught him the game, and now they go head-to-head with Pokie for the prizes.

So the other day I'm sitting in my office with the five kittens, door closed, when I hear the doorknob rattle and see it turn slightly. I figured it was Kathy. The door can be sticky, so I got up, went over, opened the door, and beheld Gus sitting there. He had been trying to turn the doorknob to get in.

Gus with the ability to open doors is a possibility too terrible to contemplate.

But wait, it gets worse. Yesterday we were in the kitchen and I heard the doorknob on the downstairs bathroom rattle. Lo and behold, there was Gus showing Fuzzy how to turn the knob.

I guess it really is time to hide the car keys.


November 15, 2005

another idea

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I have decided to sell the kittens to a meth lab.

From a public policy angle, it's a win-win.
I'll get some work done and the meth lab won't.

November 14, 2005

it seemed like a good idea at the time

Day three of five kittens living in my 15 x 17 office. Big mistake. I change the litter once a day and sift it every few hours and the place still smells like the men's room in Grand Central circa 1976.

They sleep much of the day but come alive in the late afternoon, bouncing off the walls, climbing the bookcases and kicking books off with glee.

How can an eight week-old kitten push the M-W Third International off a shelf? It must weigh five or six pounds.

The little black one climbs my leg, clambers up to my shoulder, pauses briefly and then sinks her claws into my scalp and hoists herself atop my head.

Appalling little savages. I have no idea of what to do with them. I've called four or five rescue outfits, all to no avail.

I'm trying to work, dammit. They don't care.

Update: Fritos. They like Fritos. I have given them the whole bag. Perhaps they will leave me alone for a while.

November 11, 2005

hey, cat

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Yeah, I'm gonna get a lot of work done today.

Note: that is, as it appears, a purple velour couch in the background. It was a freebie, as was the oriental rug, which we found by the curb in Granville. Long live Bulk Pickup Day!

November 10, 2005

Crossing the Eyewitness News Threshold of Dementia

Forecast says it'll be in the low 20s tonight, so I now have five kittens in my office. Pictures soon.

deja vu

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About a week after we took in the three kittens (Phoebe, Harry and Gus) in July 2004, I came across two more, an all-black female and a mottled calico (presumably female), 5-6 weeks old, in an old woodshed on our property. I gave them food and water, and later took a few pictures, but when I went back the next afternoon they were gone. I searched our north field for them and called them for a few days, but I never saw them again.

But I guess I did meet the black one again. Last night I was going through some photos from that time, when I came across a picture of that black kitten (above) and had a small revelation. I am 99% certain that she became the mother of the kittens now in our garage (i.e., the cat our neighbor apparently shot). She was a very small cat even as an adult, and her prominent ears and sharply triangular face were very distinctive.

Perhaps our earlier encounter explains why she wasn't afraid of me when I started feeding the current crop of garage kittens.

November 9, 2005

Whassamatta, no opposable thumbs?

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Very funny. Now open the damn box before somebody gets hurt.

November 8, 2005

eggs al fresco

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On the good china, yet.

November 6, 2005

a cast of thousands

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Yet another garage kitten.

November 5, 2005

another garage kitten

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She looks a lot like Fuzzy, but has a complete tail.

[update: she is a he]

November 4, 2005

I know the feeling

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Fuzzy as a baby cat.

October 22, 2005

tub o'cats

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This is what you get when you let kittens grow up together -- big slackers.

October 21, 2005

Fuzzy's non-tail

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I wanted to call him "Shorty," but I was overruled.

October 19, 2005

another kitten

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Fuzzy

kitten

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One of five kittens living in our garage.