Two horse owners whose animals got sick or died after consuming Archer Daniels Midland Co. feed have filed a class action lawsuit in a Illinois federal court alleging the products were contaminated with a chemical additive used in cattle feed that is poisonous to horses. The complaint filed by Beth Berarov and Annelisa Bindra alleges that Archer Daniels subsidiary ADM Alliance Nutrition Inc. makes horse feed and supplements at facilities where it produces cattle products in order to lower costs, even though this puts the equine products at high risk of being contaminated by monensin, an additive that increases cattle weight and market value but causes heart failure and other health problems in horses. The complaint says:
The harm to purchasers caused by this risk of cross-contamination is exacerbated by the inability of modern veterinary medicine to determine whether a living horse has ingested monensin. Monensin poisoning is generally only detectable in a live horse within a few days of consumption; after that, it usually cannot be detected until the horse is dead and a necropsy is performed.
The chemical’s effects sometime occur gradually, with monensin destroying a horse’s heart fibers and opening the door to sudden heart failure, putting both the animal and rider at risk, the horse owners say. Monensin ingestion can also cause permanent cardiac and skeletal muscle damage, usually meaning the horse cannot be safely ridden or worked again, according to the complaint. In light of these well-known risks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires livestock feeds containing monensin to include a warning label indicating that they shouldn’t be consumed by horses or other equines, the owners allege.
Despite this, ADM manufacturers a number of horse products — including GroStrong vitamin-mineral products and Ultra-Fiber and Patriot feeds — in multi-species facilities while touting the products as safe and healthy, the suit says. As a result of these misrepresentations, Berarov — who owns an equestrian center in Michigan — said she purchased ADM feed and supplements for years, using only the company’s products to feed her 13 horses and the six others she cared for during the class period. After all of the horses she stabled fell ill with symptoms like lethargy and severe weight loss, Berarov had the feed products analyzed, discovering that they were contaminated with monensin, according to the complaint. Ultimately, nine of the horses had to be euthanized. Bindra stabled her horse at a South Carolina center that also used ADM feeds, the complaint says. Within days of exhibiting signs of dehydration and digestive problems, her animal and another died.
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