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Provincial courts approve Menu Foods deal

Courts in nine provinces have given final approval to a deal that will settle over 100 proposed class actions against Toronto pet food maker Menu Foods.

The company’s proposed settlement was already approved last month in a U.S. federal district court and went to a hearing in courts in all provinces except Prince Edward Island on Nov. 3. The proposal is meant to wrap up over 100 suits in Canada and the U.S. relating to the company’s massive pet food recalls last year.

The settlement is binding on all members of the settlement “class,” the company said in a press release Thursday, except for individuals who opt out and could then theoretically sue Menu Foods on their own.

This week’s approvals in Canada clear the way for payouts to eligible North American pet food consumers from the company’s US$24 million settlement fund, which would allow a “potential recovery of up to 100 per cent of all economic damages incurred by pet owners, subject to certain limitations,” Menu Foods said previously.

Payouts from the fund would be available to those in the U.S. and Canada who bought or obtained, or whose pets used or ate, recalled pet food made by Menu Foods.

People with potential claims against the settlement fund are asked not to contact Menu Foods directly but to visit the claims administrator’s website.

The company has previously said its contribution to the settlement keeps it within its previously published estimate of C$55 million for total costs associated with the product recall.

The company, which makes private-label pet foods for U.S. and Canadian retail chains, was among several pet food makers to recall products starting in spring 2007.

In Menu Foods’ case, the recall began in March that year, stemming from indications that some Menu-made cuts-and-gravy dog and cat foods may have affected the renal health of some animals in the U.S.

Menu Foods said a Chinese supplier of wheat gluten, a protein ingredient used in many pet foods, had spiked its gluten with melamine and other compounds to “artificially inflate” the ingredient’s protein levels. The compounds were able to slip past standard industry testing, the firm said.

The recall and the loss of sales that followed led Menu Foods Income Fund to a C$62 million loss in fiscal 2007.

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