Scientists in New York State have discovered rat poison in Menu Foods pet food. The Associated Press, quoted in the Boulder Daily Camera, announced that aminopterin, a folic acid derivative which is used as a rat poison in some countries and can cause kidney failure in pets, was found in the tainted food. No criminal charges have been filed, they report, and the method of introduction is not yet known.
The substance is not EPA registered as a rat poison in the US, although the AP reports that it is sometimes used as a cancer drug. The results were released as soon as they were known to assist veterinarians in treating dogs and cats suffering from ingestion. The investigation, the AP reports, was focusing on a common thread: the wheat gluten used in the pet food production. While the investigation continues, introduction via the grain processing chain is also being explored.
Although the poison is not normally used in wheat processing, the presence of rodent killing chemicals in the area is not unusual, as bait stations are placed outside the storage areas, reports the AP. ABC News reports a source close to the investigation as claiming that the chemical is “illegal to use” in the US, and in fact entered the Menu Foods processing facility in shipments of wheat from China.
So far, two hundred cases of acute kidney failure in pets have been reported, and ABC reports that a veterinarian source indicated that it is not normally a common problem, and that she expects “that there are probably going to be thousands.”
The discovery, by scientists at New York State’s food laboratories, is being commented on by the head of nearby Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Donald Smith. He has said earlier that the search for the cause is like a search “for a needle in a haystack,” and that it would continue, and even with this discovery scientists and veterinarians are not confident that there are no other factors or substances involved.
With 60 million units of pet food being recalled under 95 brand names according to the AP, and stores such as Wal-Mart, Kroger and Safeway carrying the products, keeping veterinarians throughout North America informed is a major concern of the investigators. Identifying the situation as a potential poisoning situation could help, but investigators have not yet determined if the amounts of the identified substance actually ingested by pets would be likely to cause the symptoms and kidney failure seen. Investigators also are working on identification of the source – and, if the wheat theory holds, whether any other factories or other users of the wheat might also be at risk.
A press conference is planned for later today.
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/P/PET_FOOD_RECALL?SITE=COBOU&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT (via Boulder Daily Camera)