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Dog biscuits added to recall list

Story Highlights

NEW: Recall expands to include dog biscuits, more Menu Foods products
• Menu Foods recalled 60 million cans of wet pet food March 16
• 200 plaintiffs added fraud to class-action lawsuit against company
• Toxic chemical traced to a Chinese company; company denies link
From Katy Byron
CNN
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(CNN) -- The Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday it has identified additional contaminated pet food products -- dog biscuits made by Sunshine Mills of Red Bay, Alabama.

The dog biscuits are contaminated with potentially toxic wheat gluten, said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. He said more details on which products are affected would be available later Thursday.

Sunshine Mills did not immediately return calls from CNN seeking comment.

The FDA also said Menu Foods is expanding its recall of a wide variety of products by widening the range of manufacturing dates in the recall. The company said it will announce the new recall dates later Thursday.

Menu Foods recalled 60 million cans of wet pet food on March 16 after the chemical melamine, which can be toxic in high doses, showed up in federal testing of some of its cat and dog food varieties. (Details on recall)

Since then, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company, Del Monte Pet Products and Hill's Pet Nutrition have also recalled some products.

The FDA said it has no evidence that wheat gluten contaminated with melamine has entered the human food supply. Melamine is a toxic agent used to make fertilizers and plastic utensils.

Sundlof said the number of pet deaths confirmed as being related to the recall remains at 16 despite reports in the thousands from veterinarians across the country. Menu Foods spokeswoman Sarah Tuite told CNN that one dog and 15 cats have died.

The pet owner community Web site www.petconnection.com said it has received reports of 3,240 pet deaths related to the recall. The causes of those deaths have not been confirmed by government officials.

The Michigan Veterinary Medical Association said it suspects 46 animals -- 33 cats and 13 dogs -- in Michigan have died due to ingestion of the contaminated food, and Oregon's public health veterinarian, Dr. Emilio DeBess, said he suspects 38 pet deaths reported in that state are linked to the allegedly toxic food.

Both emphasized that the link between pet deaths in their states and the recalled food has not yet been confirmed.

Pets who have consumed products recalled by Menu Foods Inc. and who have experienced various stages of kidney dysfunction qualify as suspected cases, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association said.

Glenn Kolb, executive director of the association, told CNN Thursday he thinks the number of new cases is dropping, but the numbers may still rise.

"What we're starting to find is that veterinarians are going into some of the back records where they had cases that were maybe puzzling to them. Now with the pet food recall information coming out, they're starting to look at those cases again," he said.

Wednesday, plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against Menu Foods related to the recall added fraud to the charges, their attorneys said. They are alleging the company may have known as early as December that there were problems with its product.

Menu Foods had no comment on the lawsuit.

The class action suit was filed March 20 in the Northern District of Illinois.

After the Food and Drug Administration and Menu Foods announced last week that melamine was found in the pet foods, the melamine was traced to wheat gluten imported from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company Ltd., a company based in China's Jiangshu province. (Watch how the toxic food was traced to China Video)

The Chinese company distributed the wheat gluten with the help of U.S. nutritional and pharmaceutical chemical importer ChemNutra Inc., a Las Vegas-based company.

The company has said the claims of harmful substances in its product were "rumors." However, it added that it had sent samples of the substance to labs for testing.

The Food and Drug Administration has directed inspectors to halt all wheat gluten imports from the company.

The FDA said it has received more than 10,000 consumer complaints.

A list of the cat food and dog food products involved in the recall is online at www.menufoods.com/recallexternal link.

CNN's Miriam Falco contributed to this report.


vert.dog.gi.jpg

Veterinarian Michael Fusco checks Chloe, whose owner brought her in fearing the canine could have been fed tainted pet food.

MELAMINE

-- White or colorless crystals used in the production of synthetic resins for plastic tableware and other products.
-- Melamine can cause mild irritation of the eyes, skin, nose and throat in humans.
-- Chemical linked to bladder cancer in male rats. Female rats suffered chronic inflammation of their kidneys.

Sources: OSHA, CDC
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