Stores accused of failing to publicize food recall linked to cat deaths | Retail business


Retailers have been accused of doing too little to warn customers of cat food recalls that have been linked to the deaths of thousands of pets, raising concerns that some remain on sale in stores.

As more details of the scandal emerged, cat owners voiced their distress over their pets suffering and dying.

Several owners have shared evidence suggesting that Sainsbury’s branches continued to stock the recalled foods even after investigators expressed concerns that it could be the cause of an outbreak of pancytopenia, a disease often fatal in cats.

The Royal Veterinary College has recorded 528 cases and 335 deaths, but said the actual numbers could be considerably higher.

A Food Standards Agency investigation, which began on May 24, has yet to reach a conclusion on the cause of death, but it has focused on the possibility of dangerous mycotoxins in batches of hypoallergenic foods for Applaws, Ava and Sainsbury’s cats.

In a photo shared with the Guardian, hypoallergenic cat food appeared to be on Sainsbury’s ‘last chance to buy’ bargain shelf, following the June 16 recall.

In correspondence between a cat owner and a senior manager at Sainsbury’s, the supermarket appeared to acknowledge the problem, claiming all bags of food “have now been taken off the shelves”.

Several cat owners also shared photographs of Sainsbury’s cat food aisles in which signage alerting customers to the product recall did not appear to be clearly visible, if at all.

Another shared an email about the product recall which she said was the only correspondence she had received from the supermarket, sent on July 16. Other customers said they never received an email despite being Nectar card users. Another said he first alerted Sainsbury’s of food concerns on April 22. Emails shared with the Guardian show the supermarket responded that it did not believe its cat food was responsible.

“We are in direct contact with customers whose contact details we have,” said a spokesperson for the supermarket.

“We have also posted the recall alert on our website and in-store to our customer service department and where the product is typically stocked on the shelf.”

Members of a 12,000-person Facebook group created for people who have lost cats to pancytopenia or are concerned about the problem, said Pets at Home has responded better to the crisis, offering refunds , quickly alerting people and paying vet bills. .

One user shared an exchange with Pets at Home in which the retailer admitted that one of its stores in Stockport accidentally offered the recalled product for sale on July 15, but the retailer said after the recall, the barcode of the product had been removed so that it could not be purchased and there were no sales on the Stockport site.

A spokesperson for Pets at Home said, “We have done everything possible to educate consumers about the issue, through our website and social media, and by writing directly to anyone who has purchased any of these products over the course of time. of the last 12 months. “

Two separate cat owners, Steven Barrett and Hillary Cannon, purchased Applaws cat food from Amazon. The online retailer said it removed the food from sale, emailed shoppers an email warning, and provided a full refund.

But both wondered why the online retailer hadn’t posted an alert on the site’s cat food section, to raise awareness among cat owners looking to restock.

According to a photo by a Facebook group member, at least one unidentified independent retailer is still stocking the recalled foods, all of which were made on behalf of the retailers by Fold Hill Foods.

Barrett, whose cat, Freyja, died this week, said: “There should be an independent public inquiry into how this outbreak came about. If this turns out to be a problem in the food supply chain, it is a national scandal. “

Distraught Facebook group cat owners backed the call and said more should have been done to warn people.

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Sarah Baker, a paramedic from Leicestershire, said she and her roommate lost two of their six sphynx cats, Igor, 17 weeks, and Spider, 18 months.

“I just think it’s disgusting that there is no awareness,” she said. “It’s okay if you have social media, but there must be hundreds of people feeding their cats without knowing it. “

Dr Vanessa Howie, head of clinical services at Cats Protection, said it was crucial to alert the public of the product recall in a timely manner, as the disease can be irreversible if detected too late. “If the toxin has completely stopped the production of blood cells, nothing can be done to restart it,” she said.

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