Pedigree dog food producer considering counter-claim after dog poisoning

Amber Wang, TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post

The maker of Pedigree dog food is contemplating a lawsuit against those who allegedly have made “false, misleading and irresponsible” accusations against the company in the aftermath of a dog food poisoning incident.

“We will defend ourselves vigorously,” Allan West, general manager of Effem Foods in North Asia, said in a press statement issued yesterday. “In no way should those reports raise doubts about any compensation agreements you (consumers) have reached with us or about the safety of our products,” he added.

According to Effem Foods, some of the false claims that have surfaced in the local media include the company’s intention “to harm pets as an intentional business strategy,” the company made a comparison of the incident to SARS, and the involvement of the United Nations in the case.

The company also dismissed reports that a United States court has “accepted” a lawsuit containing these allegations. Several animal rights advocates announced last week that a collective suit has been filed against Mars Inc., the parent company of Effem Foods, in the United States seeking some US$20 billion damages.

The advocates and some pet owners also blamed the company for its “lack of sincerity” in handling compensation claims. Effem Foods has offered to compensate pet owners in March after mold found in its Thai factory was considered a possible cause of a recent rise in renal failure among dogs in Taiwan and some Southeast Asian countries. The company stressed that “it has never done and will never do anything to intentionally harm pets” and offered its apology again to affected pet owners via an open letter published in local newspapers. Effem Foods said more than 80 percent of affected pet owners have accepted its compensation offers. In response, Shen Rong-cheng, secretary-general of Care Animals and Protecting the Earth Organization, said she “welcomes” any legal action taken by Effem Foods. Shen accused Effem Foods of failing to recall Pedigree dry dog food earlier when a growing number of renal failure cases among dogs were reported before last September. A number of Pedigree products manufactured in the Thai plant were recalled on March 11. According to Shen, over 60 pet owners have decided to take part in the collective suit filed in the United States.