More cats and dogs are likely to die from tainted pet food, a spokesman for the Canadian companyinvolved in a major recall said Tuesday.
Menu Foods, based in Streetsville just west of Toronto, has so far confirmed the deaths of 16 animals in the U.S.
"Based on anecdotal cases, if I believe what I see in the media … I would expect that number to be higher," company spokesman Sam Bornstein said.
U.S. agriculture officials confirmedFriday that some Menu Foods products contained traces of aminopterin, a type of ratpoison.
The announcement came after Menu Foodsissued a North America-wide recalls of95 brands of "cuts and gravy" style cat and dog food after reports of animal deaths and illness.
The recalls involve food manufactured between Dec. 3, 2006, and March 6, 2007.
Menu Foods is conducting tests to figure out how the rat poison got into its foods, but the companysuspects it came through the wheat gluten it imported from China.
Aminopterin can cause cancer, birth defects and kidney damage in dogs and cats.
Menu Foods has denied it has been negligent, but has apologized to pet owners across Canada and the United States.
The Veterinary Information Network, a website representing 30,000 U.S. veterinarians and veterinary students, is reporting at least 471 cases of kidney failure in pets in the past 10 days. The website says 104 of the animals have died.
Bornstein would not comment Tuesday on those figures.
Pet owners want compensation
An online petitionthat has2,200 signatures so far is demanding Menu Foods reimburse pet owners for veterinary bills and associated costs.
"If people can demonstrate that the food that was recalled led to a sick pet or the loss of a pet and they incurred expenses, Menu will take responsibility," Bornstein said.
"They need to call our [toll-free] number and they will be able to make arrangements to send the information they gathered."
The number is 1-866-895-2708.
Lawsuits have already beenstarted in relation to the tainted pet food. Theyinclude a $60-million class action filed by a Toronto lawyer.
The brands affected by Menu Foods' recall include:
- Loblaws President's Choice brand
- House brands of Dominion, Sobeys and other supermarket chains.