Pet Food Officer Sold Stock Before Recall

From News Services and Staff Reports
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The chief financial officer of Menu Foods sold about half of his stake in the company three weeks before the widespread pet food recall, Canadian insider-trading reports showed.

Finance chief Mark Wiens called it a "horrible coincidence" in the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, adding that he did not hear of any problems with the company's products until at least a week later. Wiens sold 14,000 shares on Feb. 26 and 27 for about $90,000. The shares now are worth about $54,000.

Meanwhile, a large veterinary hospital chain said it saw a 30 percent increase in kidney failure among cats during the three months that contaminated pet food was on the market, supporting the belief among pet owners and animal doctors that adulterated food has sickened or killed far more pets than officially recognized.

Banfield pet hospitals, which is working with the Food and Drug Administration, told the Associated Press that its 615 clinics had more cases than usual of kidney failure among cats in December, January and February. It's not known whether those pets ate the tainted food, which was sold by more than six companies under more than 100 labels.

The FDA acknowledged last week that it's likely that more than 16 dogs and cats died from eating bad food, but that agency officials were too busy trying to find the cause of the outbreak and remove recalled food from store shelves to conduct a careful count of pet deaths.

The recall, which affects more than 100 brands, expanded again yesterday, as Royal Canin Canada, a unit of McLean-based Mars, recalled Medi-Cal Feline Dissolution Formula, canned cat food made by Menu Foods and available only by prescription from veterinarians.

Menu Foods of Mississauga, Ontario, announced a recall of 60 million cans and pouches of wet dog and cat food March 16 after at least 16 cats and dogs that ate its products died. The FDA immediately began an investigation, which uncovered a link between wheat gluten used in those foods and sick animals. The gluten, which came from China, contained melamine, a chemical used in fertilizers and plastics and is suspected as the cause of the illnesses.

Pet owners have complained that Menu Foods should have acted more quickly after the first complaints or after it realized it might have a problem in mid-February. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) is to hold a hearing tomorrow on the controversy and on the FDA's investigation.

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