Q: When was the problem first noticed?
A: There are conflicting answers to this question.
The version we’ve heard most consistently is that at the end of February, a new flavored pet food produced by Menu Foods, for an undisclosed company, was undergoing feeding trials and several cats in the feeding trial developed renal failure.
Q: Why was the recall not initiated at that time?
A: Since the renal failure was observed only in cats on the as-yet-unreleased trial diet, Menu Foods believed this “problem” was isolated to that single new food that was not yet on the market. This food was withdrawn from further testing and never marketed. There was no indication at that time of a more generalized issue.
Q: Why did it take another month for the problem to recognized and reported to the FDA and the recall initiated?
A: The details of this timeline are sketchy. One scenario that seems plausible is that the wheat gluten suspected of being the source of the offending agent did not enter the manufacturing process until December and that it takes up to three months for pet food to reach store shelves after manufacture. This explains the lag time between initial detection in the laboratory setting and the general population.
This timeline is contradicted by information provided in this Associated Press story that claims Menu Foods had reports of pet deaths in mid-February.
Q: What is known about the cause of the problem?
A: WE DO NOT KNOW THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM.
The cause at this stage remains unidentified. Substances that have been preliminarily ruled out include:
other glycols, including diethylene glycol, propylene glycol, etc.
several solvents and cleaning products known to be used on the machinery used in the production of these foods
Mycotoxins have not been ruled out, although preliminary testing failed to identify the presence of mycotoxins. However, some mycotoxins are extremely difficult to identify. Investigations are currently under way in an effort to identify a cause.
Q: Will a cause be identified?
A: While it is hoped that a cause will be identified soon, it is possible that no cause will be found, or the inciting agent will remain unidentified. Remember that we do not know why grapes or lilies are nephrotoxic and these have been studied for much longer.
Q: What is the basis of the implication of gluten as a cause?
A: Gluten is not nephrotoxic. However, Menu Foods observed that a new gluten source or batch was used in December, when the recalled food was manufactured. Thus, they suspected that the offending “agent” may be associated with this particular batch of gluten. However, without knowing the “toxin” involved, it may be difficult to definitively determine the source.