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Pets� Owners Angered by Delays in Response


March 22, 2007 [excerpted from NY Times]

By KATIE ZEZIMA

Bob Norkus has spent much of the past month grieving for his cat, Sophie, who died of kidney failure Feb. 17. Now, his sorrow is turning to anger toward the companies that manufactured and sold the food he believes killed her.

Sophie ate only Iams chunks and gravy cat food, which was pulled off the shelves as part of a recall after tests by its manufacturer, Menu Foods, linked its products to the deaths of nine animals. The total has since risen to 14.

Mr. Norkus said he had spent hours on the phone this week, trying to get through to hot lines provided by Menu Foods and Procter & Gamble, which sells Iams, but has not connected.

"It is insult to injury, not being able to communicate with these companies," Mr. Norkus, of Downingtown, Pa., said. "You hear about the number of animals that have died, and I feel like her number has been left off a list."

Pet owners and veterinarians say they have been angered by a lack of information about how to proceed and by their inability to gain access to company hotlines.

Lawsuits have been filed in New York, Illinois and Wisconsin against Menu Foods on behalf of people whose pets were sickened or died. Frank Jablonski, who filed a class-action lawsuit in Madison, Wis., on Tuesday on behalf of a woman whose cat�s kidneys failed, said Menu Foods should be held accountable.

"It seems fairly clear that they distributed contaminated animal food," Mr. Jablonski said. "There are a lot of people who have experienced a lot of vet bills and there are harms arising out of those products."

A spokesman for Menu Foods, which sold the cat and dog food under a variety of brand names and store labels, said its call center had reported an unprecedented volume � 47,000 calls over the weekend � and had increased its staff.

"We have done our very best to provide consumers with information," the spokesman, Sam Bornstein, said, urging customers to use the company Web site, menufoods.com/recall.

Nancy Katz, a veterinarian in Montclair, N.J., said she had been unable to get information about how to treat animals with kidney failure who had eaten the recalled food. She said she was frustrated that the companies were not telling veterinarians the type of kidney failure the food is causing, because some require different treatments.

...

Nancy Carnejo of Paramus, N.J., said she called numerous hot lines about the death of her cat, Nina, and said operators were less than sympathetic, calling the death an "inconvenience." Ms. Carnejo said her cat, who was 5, should not have died.

"The Iams operator asked what I wanted," she said. "Ultimately, what I want is my cat back. You can�t get that for me."

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