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One of North America's largest pet-food suppliers said Friday it would recall some of the premium dog and cat food it sells through stores such as Wal-Mart and Safeway at a cost of up to $40 million after several animal deaths in the United States.
* The company said a recall list would be made available Saturday on its website, which can be found here.
Menu Foods Income Fund, based in Streetsville, west of Toronto, called the recall of its products sold in cans and pouches precautionary.
CEO Paul Henderson told The Canadian Press that exhaustive tests by both internal and external specialists had failed to identify the problem.
"We're not entirely sure what has happened," Henderson said in an interview.
"We've undertaken a battery of technical tests ... and all of those tests have failed to identify any issues at all with our product."
One dog and a "small number" of cats in the U.S. are reported to have died from kidney failure after eating the food, Henderson said.
There had been no complaints from Canadian pet owners.
The company said it had also beefed up the testing of all raw materials and finished goods.
Menu Foods, one of the leading North American private-label and contract manufacturer of wet pet-food products, produced more than one billion containers last year.
It supplies its products to 17 of the top 20 retailers in North America for sale under store labels such as Master Choice, Compliments and Select and manufactures for several national brands.
Starting in December, concerns began filtering back to the company through toll-free customer lines about its "cuts and gravy" style pet food.
Callers complained their animals had fallen ill although no direct link to the food was established.
Henderson said it was "very frustrating" not being able to identify the exact nature of the problem.
"The company has always built its reputation around, and is very concerned with, animal health and well being -- that's the whole reason for the company's being," he said.
"That's why we opted to take this precautionary recall simply because it appears that there is a link between the food and the illnesses."
The company did not immediately identify which of the "large number" of products were affected by the recall but said it would post a list on its website Saturday (click here).
Concerned consumers were also incorrectly referred to the Nestle-Purina pet-care hotline which was swamped with calls on Friday.
The Menu Foods customer service hotline can be reached at 866-463-6738 as of 6 a.m. ET Saturday for more information on what brands were affected.
One large customer in the United States -- which accounts for 11 per cent of Menu's revenues -- initiated its own recall after receiving complaints and put future orders for the products on hold.
In what Henderson said was a "coincidental event," production associated with the complaints coincided with the introduction of an ingredient from a new supplier, which has since been discontinued.
He refused to name the ingredient or the supplier.
The recall affects products made between Dec. 3, 2006 and March 6 at two of its American facilities in Emporia, Kan., and Pennsauken, N.J.
Menu's other plants are located North Sioux City, S.D., and Streetsville.
The cost of the recall, which spooked investors, would be financed from internal cash and bank credit, Henderson said.
Following a trading halt for the announcement, Menu Foods Income Fund units plunged more than 25 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange to close at $5.50, a drop of $1.90 on a trading volume of more than 271,000 units.