$24-million pet food settlement approved

Pet owners affected by melamine scandal to be compensated

October 16, 2008 (published)
By Edie Lau

Owners of pets in the United States sickened or killed by pet food contaminated with melamine have until Nov. 24 to submit claims under a court settlement approved this week.

The defendants, including Menu Foods, Nestle Purina PetCare Co., Wal-Mart, PETCO and others, have created a $24-million fund from which eligible consumers and/or pet owners may receive potentially 100 percent compensation for their documented economic damages.

Eligible expenses include veterinary screening and treatment, costs related to a pet’s illness or death, lost wages, property damage and the price of a replacement pet. Claim forms and more information are available at

Federal Judge Noel Hillman in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey approved the settlement Tuesday, although as of Thursday, he had not yet signed the order, pending agreement between the parties over language in the final document.

The settlement also is under review in Canada, where a court hearing is scheduled Nov. 3.

The settlement addresses more than 100 class-action lawsuits that arose after the industrial chemical melamine was discovered in pet food last year. Investigators found that Chinese suppliers of wheat gluten, a vegetable protein, had added nitrogen-rich melamine to make the gluten appear richer in protein than it actually was.

The melamine, along with the chemical byproduct cyanuric acid, combined to form crystals in cats and dogs that ate the tainted food, leading to kidney disease and, in some cases, renal failure and death. The problem affected thousands of pets and led to a massive food recall involving some 150 brands.

Melamine since has been found in milk produced in China. The latest contamination has caused kidney stones and kidney disease in more than 50,000 infants and is blamed for the deaths of four babies who ingested the chemical in their formula.

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