Because Dark Daily got great response the last time we covered a canine-related bit of laboratory news, we thought we would take the opportunity to let our readers know about how Abaxis, Inc., a manufacturer of point-of-care blood analysis systems, has taken the recent Recall of Pet Foods Manufactured by Menu Foods, Inc. and turned it into an opportunity to support its local community and get good press coverage at the same time.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard the news about the Menu Foods pet food recall. It began with cuts n’ gravy style pet foods, and involved 60 million cases of pet food in the recall. It has now spread to include pet treats and wet dog and cat foods from Menu Foods and other pet food makers. The primary contaminant now believed to be the cause of the death of at least 14 pets so far is the chemical melamine, which is used in the making of plastics and as a slow-release fertilizer. It was found in wheat gluten imported from China used in the pet foods. Pets that died from eating the recalled foods eventually succumbed to kidney failure. The FDA had received more than 8,800 calls from pet owners as of Friday, 3/30, and has yet to investigate many cases, so the final death toll is far from tallied.

Although Abaxis has most recently gained recognition in the clinical laboratory profession for its table-top analyzer, called “Piccolo,” it has a flourishing business in the veterinary field. Abaxis is using the pet food recall as an opportunity bring its VetScan VS2 point-of-care blood analyzer into the limelight. Utilizing that machine and its Comprehensive Diagnostic Test Profile, Abaxis opened the doors of its company headquarters in Union City, California to concerned pet owners. It offered the diagnostic test free-of-charge to the public. With just a few drops of blood from their pets, owners knew in less than 15 minutes whether their pets’ kidneys were functioning properly as well as whether the animals showed signs of liver disease or other illnesses that showed up before signs of clinical disease. Pet owners who were found to have diseased pets were given their full blood chemistry report and sent to their regular veterinarian, or referred to a local veterinary clinic for treatment.

“We are hearing from customers all over the country and throughout the animal health industry that this problem might be much more widespread than reported, ultimately having a potentially tragic affect for many pet owners. We encourage in particular those families with pets that might not be able to otherwise afford routine or preventative treatment for their cat or dog to come to our facility for the free testing, in particular if any of the suspect foods were used, regardless of the animal exhibiting any signs or symptoms of illness,” commented Martin Mulroy, Vice-President Marketing and Sales for the North American Veterinary Business.

When I read about Abaxis’ community outreach effort, I thought to myself that it was a brilliant marketing and public relations move. The company looks like it has a heart of gold and their products are getting great word-of-mouth publicity from the community, the media, and from veterinary clinics that will receive the results when their patients walk in with them. It also serves as a way to educate the public about the value of laboratory testing, even if, in this case, it involves their pets.

There’s another aspect of integrity in Abaxis’ decision. In our litigious society, Abaxis and other point-of-care blood analyzer manufacturers are often extraordinarily cautious about offering services like free blood testing during episodes of food recalls or other unusual public health events. Similar publicity could certainly be achieved with human food recalls. Perhaps an inspired laboratory or chain of laboratories that has point-of-care blood analyzer equipment could achieve similar good press the next time a recall on human food is issued.

Your Dark Daily Editor,
Sylvia Christensen

PS: If you had personal experience with the Abaxis line of analyzers, please drop me a note at schristensen@darkdaily.com.

Related Articles (in reverse chronological order)
Abaxis Offers Community Outreach Program to Concerned Pet Owners (press release)

Pet food recall spreads, and so does confusion (from USA Today)

Mass recall of dog and cat food after pets die (from CNN)

Recall of Pet Foods Manufactured by Menu Foods, Inc. (from the FDA website)