CAMDEN, N.J. — Another chapter in the lengthy pet-food recall saga is drawing to a close with the reported settlement of more than 100 class-action
lawsuits brought on behalf of pet owners in the United States and Canada.
Details of an "agreement in principle" with Menu Foods Inc. of Streetsville, Ont., and other defendants who either manufactured
or distributed the foods were to be filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey on May 1.
Once the settlement terms, including a claims process, are approved by U.S. and Canadian courts, thousands of pet owners whose
animals became ill or died from eating foods tainted with melamine and cyanuric acid will be able to file for compensation.
More than 150 brands of wet pet foods were recalled over several months beginning in March 2007. Menu Foods, the primary defendant,
alone recalled 60 million cans and pouches of wet cat and dog food. The company estimated its total costs from the recall
at $53.8 million.
Menu Foods Income Fund, its insurer and the other defendants will fund the settlement hammered out after months of negotiations.
Earlier this year, two Chinese companies that exported tainted wheat gluten, a filler ingredient used in the foods, were indicted
in federal court on charges of mislabeling the product, and the U.S. importer, Kansas City-based ChemNutra Inc., was charged
with knowing the wheat gluten was mislabeled. Its owners deny the charges.
Major store chains report that sales of wet foods are down about 25 percent from pre-recall levels.
About 20 percent of the wet foods haven't returned, while sales of dry pet foods are on the increase, the stores report.