Tuesday, March 27, 2007

FDA Massively Undercounting Deaths

Itchmo Seattle has a great article on the undercount of pet deaths from Menu Foods toxin. The official count is 16 deaths, but we actually know that the count is in the thousands. Why is the official count so low? Itchmo explains

“The FDA has provided the following case definition for field investigation/cases: veterinary documented renal failure, necropsy results if animal died, food consumed within 1 week of death (illness), and intact, unopened cans of the food.”

This gives us a hint as to the standard for associating a death with the recall. It requires a practically dispute-proof set of facts – a responsibility for the court of law, not the agency whose duty is to protect us – and gives us an insight into why they are still quoting the party line of 16 deaths. (Remember that Iraqi minister during the war who insisted to the media that Iraq was winning while US tanks were rolling into Baghdad? Yeah, this sounds totally different.)

So imagine that your pet has just died of renal failure after you fed him a packet of Menu Foods toxic brew. In order to get on the FDA's list you need to have:

  • A Document from Your Vet

  • A necropsy (pet autopsy) performed to prove the cause of death. This is an expensive procedure and probably gutwretching for the pet parent who just wants to bury or cremate her pet and grieve. Why on earth would you pay hundreds of dollars for a necropsy so you can help the FDA increase its stats?

  • Unopened cans of the toxic food lying around the house (but what if you had already tossed them or returned them b/c they had been recalled OR what if the can you fed was your last one?)

  • Some way of proving your pet consumed the food within a week of getting sick.

You can see why it's impossible to add to the FDA's list. Frankly, I'm not even sure how they got those 16 deaths on their tally. Maybe those are all laboratory animals.

Anyway, here are some numbers:

Pet Connection is asking for reports and has received nearly 2,000 reports of pet illness or death. Of course, this is only from people who know about their survey so it's neither here nor there.

Today, the Veterinarians Information Network, an online community of 30,000 vets, claims to have received 471 reports. However, we simply don't know how many vets logged in and reported every case to them.

So how many pets are affected? A lot more than 16!

1 comment:

Kitty said...

I have two friends whose cats died in February. One (a coworker) had a cat who was fairly old but hearty. Fed her the recalled food and she died. The other friend fed a stray who came around her backyard (she has many indoor cats and can't adopt another). She splurged on the cuts and gravy for the stray because she thought it would be better for him in the cold winter. He was a big, robust stray, and he sickened and died quickly as well. Neither of these deaths will be counted because there is not the proper documentation. But both my friends are very clear - and heartsick about it - that they gave their cats the recalled food.