Empress of the Universe

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Smell A Class Action Suit - Where Do I Sign Up?


It's been confirmed. Our cat, Chia, has been eating an assortment of Special Kitty cat foods I purchased at Wal-Mart. Luckily, we buy a combination of Whiskas (not affected by the recent recall) and Special Kitty. It appears as though perhaps we delayed the onset of deadly complications by randomly alternating the foods she's been eating over the past month. Last Thursday evening my husband made the connection between the Special Kitty food and the cat's erratic behaviour. From that point, we started feeding her only Whiskas.

The thing was, she wasn’t eating. On Saturday morning we took Chia to the vet. To say that our cat doesn't like to visit the vet is a severe understatement. This wonderful, gentle, loving cat, who also happened to be very weak from not eating, turns into a vicious, demon-possessed wild creature in the presence of a veterinarian. The vet told us one of the symptoms of renal failure is a foul odour from the cat's mouth. Unfortunately, the vet was in a bit of a hurry and didn't want to take the time to fully investigate Chia's health. She sent us home, $150 lighter with some food samples, and told us to watch her closely during the next 24 to 48 hours.

Every time the cat meowed the most vile smell emitted from her mouth. I can only imagine what death smells like; I'm sure it's not unlike this.

Sunday morning the cat was definitely worse. In our experience, cats hide when they are sick. We couldn’t find Chia anywhere. Eventually, she came weakly after we had been calling for a long time. She had eaten nothing, had not taken any water, had not eliminated anything into her litter box. We called the emergency clinic. After waiting almost three hours, she was seen by the emergency vet. Their recommendation: $1,200 in tests.

While we were waiting at the emergency clinic, at least six big dogs (all from 75 lbs to over 120 lbs) came in, all with identical symptoms to our very sick cat. In fact, Chia would normally consider a dog her mortal enemy. That many dogs would surely notice the smell of a cat sitting on my lap. They were all so ill, they didn't bother with each other at all. In fact, Chia laid in my arms like a weak child, wrapped in a blanket, mewing softly from time to time in pain.

The one thing it seemed all of these dogs had in common was their pet food, a combination of premium brands (Iams and Eukanuba) and grocery store brands (President’s Choice, Price Chopper, etc.).

Chia did finally get a huge spunk of energy when it was time to be examined by the vet. As Lju tried to help lift her on to the scale, she chomped down with hundreds of pounds of pressure, puncturing his index finger in four places and drawing a stream of blood even in her weakened state. It turns out she had lost 5 oz. in weight since Saturday morning. She was definitely becoming sicker.

We had to pass on the $1200 in investigations. We left another $150 lighter and went to the pet food store to stock up on fresh food. I stayed in the car with the cat while Ljuban went into the store.

I first read about the pet food recall around midnight on Friday/Saturday morning. (It appears the company serviced the original media release around 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon.) We shopped at Petcetera Store #125 (there are 46 Petcetera locations in Canada) on Sunday afternoon at exactly 2:57 p.m. My husband consulted with two of the workers on the floor, explaining that our cat was severely ill from the tainted food. They were well aware of the recall. Not only did they still have Eukanuba and Iams foods on the shelves, they actually recommended the Nutro Natural Choice brand to my husband, telling him it was safe because it was produced by a Canadian company (Menu Foods, the recalling company, is a Canadian Income Trust). Of course, trusting their expertise, he purchased the brand (luckily, together with some Techni-Cal). We checked all of the brands against the recall list. More than 38 hours after the recall was announced, not only were they still selling a recalled brand, they were, in fact, recommending it. At the time of this post, the Petcetera website has no mention of the pet food recall on their website.

Just now, I checked the Menu Foods site again. It seems they have added two additional brands of cat food (yesterday there were only 40 brands listed) – but they do not show the list as having been updated as of today’s date.

Yesterday, I also visited the Eukanuba and Iams brands websites. It is important to know that Iams had no notice on their website as of yesterday. The linked press release was posted today, although not identified as being of today’s date. I could find nothing about the recall on the Whiskas website. Senior management at Master Foods, the makers of Whiskas, should be ripped to shreds on this one. Any director of publicity or marketing should know rule #1 in a time of crisis: post a press statement reaffirming trust in your brand while your competitors are being slammed in the market. As of today’s date, the Master Foods website states “There are no new Press Releases / Backgrounders / Fact Sheets in the last 90 days.” If Master Foods needs a new Vice President of Marketing, they know how to reach me.

Hooray for Royal Canin foods, maker of Techni-Cal. Their director of PR is on the ball.

I am outraged at the way this has been managed by Menu Foods, its licensors and its competitors. I am disappointed in how dismissive two veterinarians have been to the urgency of this matter. Never mind the economic risks, I am disillusioned yet again by the health risks of globalization. I am appalled at how slow retail has been to react. It’s no wonder people became so very ill and died from eating tainted spinach. Wait for something really big to get into our food supply. We can only hope that society will respond with more urgency to save human lives. This should be a lesson to us all.

In the meantime, we have spent more than $350 and our cat isn't out of the woods yet. Do I smell a class action lawsuit? Where do I sign up?


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