Congress members call for answers on recalled pet foods - DVM
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Congress members call for answers on recalled pet foods


National Report - 4/4/07 - Members of Congress are joining a rapidly expanding hue and cry over last month's recall of tainted pet foods, with at least three lawmakers demanding answers from the Food and Drug Administration and Menu Foods.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) on Monday asked the FDA to answer a series of questions within two weeks about its actions relating to the recall.

"Reports that pet-food manufacturing facilities are not being investigated by the FDA are very disconcerting," they wrote.

Earlier, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), made public a letter he sent to Paul Henderson, chief executive officer of Ontario-based Menu Foods, calling for answers to 15 pointed questions about its products and the timing of the recall.

Kucinich says he acted in his capacity as chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform. He also is a member of the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus and a frequent supporter of animal causes. "As a pet owner myself (Kucinich has three dogs), I was extremely distressed to learn about the recall of the pet food. We deserve to know the truth about Menu Foods and why this happened," he wrote to Hendersen.

Another strongly worded response to the recall came from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), whose president, Ingrid Newkirk, called for the resignation of FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. In a three-page letter to von Eschenbach, she accused the FDA of following a "wait-and-see attitude while animals went into renal failure and households and children lost cherished members of their family."

The FDA, meanwhile, in its latest Web posting, says it has received more than 10,000 complaints about sick or dead cats and dogs, although it could confirm only a relatively small number of deaths because of the time involved in collecting and evaluating evidence in each case. It says it has dedicated each of its 20 district offices and about 400 employees to the investigation.

FDA laboratories and Cornell University scientists found a substance called melamine, a chemical agent used in plastics, in samples of the recalled pet foods and in wheat gluten, a pet-food ingredient. But it could not yet confirm that melamine definitely caused any deaths, or how it got into the food products.

The FDA did not find the rodenticide aminopterin in the samples it tested, even though New York state scientists reported finding aminopterin in samples it examined last month and later stood by that finding. The FDA had no comment on the discrepancy.

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