Hill’s Pet Nutrition, already under scrutiny after a massive recall of its canned dog food, is now dealing with some major legal trouble. The food in question had potentially toxic levels of vitamin D which can lead to severe health consequences including death.

Since the company “dragged its feet in issuing a recall,” according to CBS News, what followed wasn’t just food being pulled from shelves and customers requesting refunds. What came next was a massive class-action lawsuit filed by a group of consumers whose dogs fell ill or even died from consuming the contaminated food.

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The recall, which affected 13.5 million cans, came right after another massive recall of dry dog food that affected a slew of companies that shared the same contract manufacturing company.

According to CBS News: “The FDA’s investigations of these two incidents — Hill’s canned-food recall and nine others involving dry food with excessive vitamin D — ‘revealed no connection between the firms’ sources of vitamin D,’ the agency emailed Wednesday.” But the massive coincidence has customers reeling.

Hill’s, owned by Colgate-Palmolive, has said that they have “identified and isolated the supplier error” that affected the overuse of the vitamin. The company also said that they are “heartbroken” that this supplier error has made so many animals ill.

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The company also claims there are NO links between this recall and any previous recall issued, but the legal teams representing the dog owners say otherwise.  “In December 2018 several other brands of dog food were recalled due to toxic levels of vitamin D found in those products, and dogs eating Hill’s Specialty Dog Foods began dying of vitamin D toxicity well before that.”

The attorneys added: “The lethal nature of Hill’s Specialty Dog Foods has been compounded by Hill’s excessive and unwarranted delay in warning consumers and regulatory agencies of the dangers posed by these products and caused untold numbers of pet owners significant emotional distress and financial loss.”

“As early as February of 2018, dog owners began to complain that Hill’s Specialty Dog Foods were causing their pets to display symptoms consistent with vitamin D poisoning, such as ‘daily diarrhea, excessive thirst and constant food begging.'”

But Hill’s refuses to admit that they delayed warning customers. A Hill’s spokesperson even sent an email to CBS MoneyWatch saying that the company monitors all consumer complaints and  “saw no trends beginning in February 2018 that would alert us to an issue that any product contained excess vitamin D.”

Currently, the FDA is sifting through a number of reports involving Hill’s and will be verifying the complaints and Hill’s timeliness to act.

 

In addition to the class action suit, other lawsuits have been filed against Hill’s. One lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Florida couple who say their dog, a Daschund named Stella, suffered from vitamin D poisoning and had to be euthanized on January 26, just a few days before Hill’s issued the recall. Another suit was filed by Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe in San Francisco.

The recalls, which extend beyond the U.S., are likely to affect animals from all around the globe. Consumers outside the U.S. must look to their specific country’s Hill’s website for more information.