Last year, thousands of dogs and cats either died or became seriously ill due to eating contaminated pet food, but of course no one knows the exact number of pet owners who lost their pets. Last month, all parties involved in the litigation process have tentatively approved a 24 million dollar settlement agreement. The big question remains, though, how did this all happen and how can we prevent it in the future?
The pet food crisis started off slowly, with one or two brands being recalled. Day after day more brands were being added to the list until over 150 brands of cat, dog and animal food had been recalled. It was the largest recall in FDA history. After it was announce, the calls were at record numbers complaining of problems with their animals and concerned over what labels to be aware of and thrown out. Slowly over time, cats and dogs were becoming seriously ill or dying unexpectedly.
Within two months of the first cases, the toxicologists had traced the deaths to two specific ingredients that were not supposed to be in the animal food-melamine and cyanuric acid. Melamine is used to make fertilizers and plastic materials and cyanuric acid is a by-product of melamine synthesis. But why were these unapproved chemicals in the animal food supply? Officials from Menu Foods believe that the Chinese supplier was trying to artificially increase the protein content of the food by adding the melamine to the wheat gluten in the pet food. The Chinese knew that the inspectors would only be testing for protein content, not toxic chemicals.
Sadly, bad decisions and greed led to the painful death of thousands of innocent animals. Now these pet owners have a small victory of being compensated for real expenses related to the illness or death of their pet. Veterinarian bills, burial costs, time off work-any documented expense will be reimbursed. For those without documentation, they will be able to recover up to $900. Even though their economic damages are reimbursed, what is the value of a beloved pet? If you’re like most pet owners, your pet is practically a member of your family. It is unclear whether emotional losses will be accepted.
Menu Foods, the largest contributor to the settlement fund and pet food manufacturer, distributes pet food in over 100 brands. Other defendants included Del Monte, Procter & Gamble, Nestle and others. In addition, ingredient suppliers, specifically Chinese defendants were affected.
If you have experienced either economic damage or emotional loss from this tragedy, the website of Menu Foods will have third party contact information on its website after May 30th. On that date, the U.S. District Court in New Jersey will have a court hearing and get the judges final approval.
The settlement fund, although not perfect, is part of closure needed for the pet owners that suffered through this ordeal. Even though this won’t bring their pet back, it will compensate them for the medical expenses and hopefully change the trade practices of food manufacturers and improve quality control of foreign imports.