Pet owners across North America are suing Menu Foods, a Canadian pet-food manufacturing company which allegedly caused acute kidney failure in pets. So far at least 16 animals have died and the numbers are growing.
This could turn out to be one of the largest consumer-product recalls ever: so far more than six class-action lawsuits have been filed against Menu Foods from dog and cat lovers in Canada and the U.S. The first complaint was filed March 20, 2007 by Chicago law firm Blim and Edelson. Menu Foods has stated that it intends to reimburse pet owner vet bills but lawyer Jay Edelson is skeptical. "We haven't heard that [Menu Foods] will cut a check to anyone and that is not all that my clients are looking for," says Edelson. Many owners want to be compensated for emotional distress and veterinary bills and one woman wants to be reimbursed $850 she paid for her puppy: Rocky, her Chihuahua, was three months old when he died from kidney failure after eating the tainted food.
"First of all, we need a public accounting of what Menu Foods knew and when they knew it," Edelson adds. "Our clients want to know why this happened and they want to make sure that it won't happen again."
To date, Blim and Edelson has received thousands of phone calls and Emails from furious pet owners, most of them complaining that their pets died after eating the tainted food. "I have personally spoken to more than 50 people," says Edelson. "It is heartbreaking; I've heard from disabled people who relied on their pets and blame themselves for poisoning their companions. I've heard from parents that have had to explain the death of the family pet to their children."
Also worrisome is that so many different brands of pet food came from one maker. Although Menu Foods claims there are different recipes, it appears that they use the same ingredients - variations of the same formula. And the labels on Iams, Eukanuba or President's Choice - just to name a few brands that were recalled - do not say on their label that Menu foods actually made the food. "The information is confusing and we don't think the original recall was complete," says Edelson. "It seems that every day, another new food is added to the recall and based on the information we are getting, there is still contaminated food out there that hasn't been recalled."
Alarming news indeed. And we still don't know what caused the tainted food. So far labs have found traces of melamine and rat poison. "My personal belief is that there is more than one cause," says Edelson. "The problem is that Menu Foods is 'keeping its card close to its vest' and in so doing, the manufacturer is doing a disservice to the North American public." Sadly, Edelson believes there will likely be many more dog and cat deaths in the coming weeks.
Where do you see this class action lawsuit heading?
Jay Edleson (JE): That depends on Menu Foods reaction. The manufacturer has to make a full accounting and open themselves up to scrutiny. I don't think our lawsuits will go away until that happens.
What do you expect in terms of damages?
It is too early to tell until we understand the full scope of the problem
How can someone get involved in your class action lawsuit?
READ MORE LEGAL NEWSWe have been overwhelmed with calls so we set up a hotline number: 877-773-5461. You can also visit our website: www.menufoodscase.com.
It isn't just our firm that is involved - we are part of a coalition of a dozen firms around the country, working with public interest groups and a large number of experts, obtaining information. It is a team effort.
Is the FDA doing their job?
We are focused on prosecuting this case and it is beyond the scope of what we are doing to worry if government agencies are acting properly.
Do you think this case will eventually change pet food regulations?
I think that is inevitable at this point. There is so much public pressure being put on lawmakers across the country and in some ways the law really is out of touch with reality regarding the issues of how pets are viewed and how they are valued.