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Man sues Nestle Purina and Wal-Mart over dog treats from China

A Nestle SA (NESN) unit, Nestle Purina Petcare Co., was sued by a Chicago-area man who claimed its Waggin’ Train treats killed his dog.

Dennis Adkins’s 9-year-old Pomeranian, Cleo, became sick and died of kidney failure last month after eating Waggin’Train’s “Yam Good” chicken-wrapped treats, according to the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Chicago.

“Waggin’ Train has spent millions of dollars in promoting trust and confidence among consumers in its pet food products,”Adkins said in the complaint. “The product was not wholesome, was not nutritious and was unhealthy.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December reiterated what it called a “cautionary warning to consumers”about a potential association between dog illnesses and chicken jerky-based products. The FDA first issued the advisory in 2007.

“The products —- also called chicken tenders, strips, or treats -— are imported from China,” according to the agency.“FDA has conducted extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified any contaminant.”

Still, the agency advised consumers to not substitute chicken jerky products for a balanced diet, saying they are intended to be eaten only in small quantities. The FDA also said owners of dogs eating the products should monitor their pets for decreased appetite or activity, increased water intake, vomiting and diarrhea.

‘Safe to Feed’

Waggin’ Train products are “safe to feed as directed,”Nestle Purina said in an e-mailed statement.

“We believe the claims made in the suit to be without merit and intend to vigorously defend ourselves,” the St. Louis-based company said.

According to Adkins’s complaint, he purchased the treats on March 11 and fed one a day to his dog -- in pieces -- for three days, starting March 13, while making no other changes to Cleo’s diet. The dog became ill on March 15 and died of kidney failure on March 26.

His other 9-year-old Pomeranian, Pharaoh, neither ate the treats nor became ill, Adkins said.

Adkins also sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world’s largest retailer and owner of the store where he bought the treats. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, claiming the companies breached express and implied warranties that the treats were fit for consumption.

‘Hundreds Died’

Adkins also asked the court to recognize a class of plaintiffs comprising anyone who bought Nestle or Waggin’ Train-brand dog treats containing chicken imported from China in the past four years, and a sub-class of those who made the purchases from Wal-Mart.

“Thousands of persons purchased the dog treats at issue, and hundreds of dogs died as a result,” Adkins said.

“At Wal-Mart, we’re committed to providing our customers and their pets with safe and affordable food,” Greg Rossiter, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company, said today in a telephone interview.

All of the company’s pet-food suppliers are required to comply with all applicable government safety regulations, Rossiter said. Wal-Mart is aware of the chicken jerky-based food concerns and is in contact with the FDA, he said.

The case is Adkins v. Nestle Purina Petcare Co., 12cv2871, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

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