Pet owners file civil suits against Hill’s Pet Nutrition in relation to dog deaths


The following story by Phyllis Entis first appeared in Food Safety News and is reposted here with permission

Pet owners have filed a total of three separate civil lawsuits in federal court against Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. following the company’s recent admission that some of its pet foods contained excessive levels of Vitamin D. The consumers are seeking class action status.

The named plaintiffs in the three lawsuits allege that their dogs became ill as a result of elevated vitamin D in the pet foods. Four of the sick dogs either died or had to be euthanized. The pet owner plaintiffs live in Florida, New York, California and North Carolina. 

The lawsuits allege negligence, breach of express and implied warranty, strict product liability, failure to warn, unjust enrichment, and unfair and deceptive trade practices on the part of the company.

In addition, plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits accused Hill’s of “excessive and unwarranted delay” in notifying consumers and regulatory agencies of the Vitamin D toxicity issue.

According to a spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration, Hill’s alerted the agency to a Vitamin D-related complaint on Jan. 30 this year. The company announced a recall of specific batches of 25 canned pet foods the following day.

The affected batch codes suggest the recalled products were likely manufactured during the time period of September 2018 through December 2018.

FDA has received a number of pet illness reports since the Jan. 31 recall notice. The agency is in the process of verifying the details of each complaint to determine which reports are related to the recalled products, and whether they are cases of Vitamin D toxicity.

The recalled products were distributed across the USA and exported to at least 57 other countries. In its recall notice, Hill’s advised consumers to refer to the company’s website for their country for a list of recalled products.

Recalled products were sold in Albania, Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of North Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, Vatican City

Using information obtained from Hill’s websites around the world, eFoodAlert posted a list of recalled products and batch codes, sorted by country.

In November and December 2018, nine companies recalled several dry pet food products because of elevated Vitamin D issues. All of the foods were produced and packaged by a common contract manufacturer, identified by several of the companies as Sunshine Mills Inc.

FDA has not found any connection between the source of Vitamin D used to manufacture the recalled dry dog foods and the Vitamin D used in the Hill’s canned dog foods, according to an agency spokesperson.

What pet owners and veterinarians should know
Symptoms of Vitamin D toxicity may include vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst and urination, excessive drooling and/or weight loss. FDA urges dog owners who observe these symptoms in their pets to contact a veterinarian immediately. 

Pet owners should be prepared to furnish a full diet history to the veterinarian, and to document the pet food label and lot number. Any leftover food should be retained in its original packaging in case testing is required.

FDA encourages veterinarians to submit case reports involving vitamin D toxicity diagnoses associated with pet food. 

Consumers and veterinarians can submit complaints and case details to the FDA through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling their local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. For additional information on submitting a pet food complaint, see How to Report a Pet Food Complaint. 

NB: The original story in Food Safety News listed fewer affected countries. This reposting has been updated to include the latest information from the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed

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