Bill puts pet food industry on hook
Friday, April 06, 2007
By Trish G. Graber
TRENTON In reaction to recent pet food recalls prompted by the poisoning deaths of pets across the country, a state lawmaker Thursday announced plans to craft legislation that would hold responsible companies that distribute tainted foods.
Under the proposal, pet food manufacturers would be required to certify with the state that their products are safe and free of contaminants.
"Having pet food producers officially declare pet food safe for consumption' sets a legally binding standard," said
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer County, who is proposing the legislation. "If producers fail to live up to their declarations, then the state has a clear course of legal action to hold them accountable."
The measure, to be called "The Pet Food Safety Act," comes after Ontario-based Menu Foods Inc. pulled 42 brands of cat food and 53 brands of dog food late last month following reports that 13 cats and one dog died after eating their products nine of those cats during routine taste trials conducted by the company, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
The food was contaminated with tainted wheat gluten, which caused kidney failure in the animals. The contaminant was identified as aminopterin, a cancer drug also used as rat poison.
On Thursday, the FDA released a health alert for another product, a brand of dog treats produced by Washington-based T.W. Enterprises American Bullie A.B. Bull Pizzle Puppy Chews and Dog Chews warning that a sample was found to be tainted with Salmonella. The FDA warned that humans could be affected by cross-contamination, and that anyone with pets which have ingested the treats and experience diarrhea, bloody diarrhea or vomiting should contact a veterinarian.
The FDA is investigating the matter.
Earlier this week, Assemblyman Neil Cohen called on state Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs to take an active role in preventing state retailers from selling the contaminated brands, after witnessing stores in his area continuing to stock the products.
"As a result," said Cohen, D-Union, "my miniature schnauzer, Ginger, enjoyed Burger King that night."
Gusciora said he plans to introduce his bill at the next Assembly quorum call in May.
"Consumers expect and demand their own food to be free of hazardous substances when they buy it and pet food should be no different," he said.
Janine Motta, of the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance, said that while the legislation may provide a legal platform for pet owners, other issues, such as pain and suffering, should be addressed by lawmakers.
"Even though they're considered property, (pets) have more value than a couch or a car," she said. "It's about time we started pushing the envelope."
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