Following the deaths of at least six dogs after consuming tainted dog food, representatives of the animal rights group Let the Animals Live are calling for a lawsuit against CTS, the Israeli distributor of Nutra Nuggets pet food.
The group is accusing CTS of failing to effectively publicize product recalls. 18-kg. bags marketed under the name Nutra Nuggets Performance Green and carrying an expiration date of April 11, 2007 were recalled by CTS in January, following concerns in the US that they were linked to a series of canine deaths.
In addition to the six dogs that have died in Israel so far, 19 more have been hospitalized, including eight used by the army, according to Dafna Talmon, a spokesperson for Let the Animals Live.
Amir Rosenberg, a lawyer for Let the Animals Live, said that manufacturer negligence would form the basic premise of the lawsuit. He added that investigations for the case were still underway, and a defendant had yet to be named.
CTS has pledged to pay for the hospitalization and treatment of the affected dogs, adding that it has purchased blood transfusions to aid the dogs' recovery.
"We are working in every possible way to minimize the serious damage to dogs that came into contact with the contaminated batch," said CTS spokeswoman Mily Harari in a statement.
Harari said that within 24 hours of the product recall, which was made public on January 1, all contaminated packages still on the market had been collected and removed from circulation. Also, as public notification about the recall, which directed consumers to a 24-hour information hotline, had been placed on the Ynet Internet news site.
Mark Schell, assistant general manager of Diamond Pet Foods, Nutra Nuggets's American manufacturer, was unaware of the Israeli lawsuit, but said that his company's response was similar to Israel's. Diamond Pet Foods has set up a call center staffed by veterinarians to take customer information and forward it to insurance agencies and consumer veterinarians. He would not comment on whether or not Diamond was currently the subject of any lawsuit.
Aflotoxin, the ingredient responsible for poisoning the animals, is a byproduct of fungi found on corn and other crops that have been exposed to high temperatures and drought. Diamond Pet Foods had issued a voluntary product recall in December 2005 on its Maintenance Dog and Premium Adult Dog line of pet foods, once it was discovered that dogs were dying from acute liver failure after eating the products.
The cause of the poisoning was traced to a factory in South Carolina that had inadvertently introduced aflotoxin into its production line. The factory has since been recertified for export by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Pets suspected of having eaten the tainted food, and that show signs of illness, including sluggishness, reluctance to eat, or yellowish eyes, should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
For more information call 1-700-700-192 or visit www.cts.co.il.