Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Aminopterin update: likely thousands harmed

There's not much coverage now, but Google picks up this update. I will wager, based on the VIN reporting, that the number of animals harmed is in the mid to upper thousands.
ABC News: Group Says Pet Food Deaths Underreported

ALBANY, N.Y. - At least 471 cases of pet kidney failure have been reported in the 10 days since a nationwide recall of dog and cat food and about a fifth of those pets have died, a veterinarians' information service said Tuesday...

... Paul Pion, founder of the Veterinary Information Network, which counts 30,000 veterinarians and veterinary students as members, said Tuesday the number of reported kidney failure cases had already grown higher than the 471, but he said he wouldn't have an updated tally for a few days.

Of the reported cases, he said, 104 animals have died. The network's survey results were earlier reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Pion, a California veterinarian, said only 10 percent to 20 percent of the people who belong to his Web site had responded to a request for information.

... Researchers at the New York food lab, Cornell University and other labs were still working Tuesday to pinpoint which individual ingredients were tainted with the poison, officials said. They also said there could still be undetected hazards in the food...

The labs are having trouble working with the gluten, so it will be some days before they can determine if gluten was really the source, and if the contaminated gluten is entirely Chinese. They are careful to note they cannot exclude other toxins. If we ever understand how the Aminopterin contamination occurred, we will have a better idea of the likelihood of secondary toxins.

A conservative extrapolation of Pion's numbers suggests a renal failure toll to date of about 4,000 pets, with a death rate still running at around 20%. It is likely the majority of the sick had more vulnerable kidneys, probably older cats. A larger number of animals will suffer significant kidney damage without symptoms. Their lives may be shortened. It is likely that significantly more than 4,000 animals will have been harmed.

When we learn how this happened, we will also be able to draw inferences about how often lesser problems may have occurred with pet food manufacturing and distribution over the past few years. It would be surprising if all the problems are being detected; error analysis in other domains always finds that these "sentinel events" represent the "tip of the iceberg".

We will continue to investigate if we can substitute human-regulated food for a significant portion of our dog's diet going forward.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

John, please tell us more about what you are thinking of regarding "human-regulated" food. Will you cook lamb and rice casseroles for Kateva? (She deserves them :-)