Word on the street is that this was a HUMAN GRADE Rice Protein - this has not been confirmed yet. But it was from the US and not China. http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/2007-04-17-premium-pet-food-recalled_N.htm
Premium pet food company recalls dry foods
By Julie Schmit, USA TODAY
Natural Balance Pet Foods said Tuesday it found melamine in two of its pet food products, which the company has recalled.
Melamine is the chemical suspected of causing pet deaths and illnesses related to the Menu Foods recall, covering more than 60 million cans and pouches of wet dog and cat food from dozens of brands the past four weeks.
But Natural Balance doesn't use wheat gluten, the ingredient contaminated with melamine in the Menu recall. Instead, it suspects that melamine was in a rice protein concentrate, a new ingredient used in the dry foods, said Natural Balance president Joey Herrick. "That was the only change in the product," he says.
The concentrate is now being tested, he added. Melamine was detected in samples of the food. The recalled foods are: Venison & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food and Venison & Green Pea Dry Cat Foods.
Whether other pet food makers got the same rice protein concentrate is unclear at this time. Herrick says the food was made for Natural Balance by Diamond Pet Foods.
Diamond Pet Food makes no other food that includes rice protein concentrate, spokesman Jim Fallon says.Herrick also said Diamond got the rice protein concentrate from an American company,
which he wouldn't name. The melamine in the Menu Foods recall was in wheat gluten imported from China.
The company has recalled all dates of the two products, although Herrick says it has only received complaints for food made March 28.
Herrick says Natural Balance, a premium pet food maker based in California, started getting calls Thursday from consumers reporting that dogs were vomiting. By Friday, the company had received calls from seven households regarding 11 dogs, Herrick said. The company also says it has received reports of animals suffering kidney problems, which has also occurred in the Menu recall.
The consumer calls set off alarms because "we don't get that," Herrick said.
The company has also received reports involving three or four cats, he said.
Natural sent out the food Friday to be tested for the usual things that would cause animals to vomit, such as pesticides and heavy metals, Herrick says.
No animals had yet died but that the company had reports that some were hospitalized, he said.
Melamine is not allowed in human or pet food. It is an industrial chemical used in plastics making in the USA and as a fertilizer in Asia, the Food and Drug Administration says. While melamine is not highly toxic, the FDA is investigating whether it, or something related to it, is responsible for pet deaths in the Menu recall.
UPDATE ON HEARTGARD:
A friend of mine called Merial (the manufacturer of the product). She spoke with Kelle Straw. Kelle said there is no wheat gluten in Heartguard, nor has there ever been any. Anyone wishing to confirm this can call Kelle directly. She is head of their media department: 678-638-3687.
Permission given by Kelle to cross post and distribute.
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.petfood19apr19,0,4141728.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlinesPet food probe turns to possibility of fraud
Toxic additive boosts protein and shipment value
By Jonathan D. Rockoff
April 19, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Federal investigators are probing whether Chinese producers laced a key ingredient in pet food with an industrial chemical in order to boost the price of their shipments, Sen. Richard J. Durbin said yesterday.
Referring to the contamination that has prompted the recall of more than 100 brands of pet food, he said investigators are trying to determine whether Chinese producers purposely added melamine to their wheat gluten shipments to Menu Foods.
"It could have been intentional, not accidental," Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said in an interview after meeting privately in his office with federal health officials. "Economic fraud is a theory" the investigators are pursuing, Durbin said.
The Food and Drug Administration found melamine, a plastic component whose use is not approved in food, in pets that died. Investigators traced the melamine to wheat gluten, shipped from China, that is used to thicken pet food.
According to Durbin, investigators are examining whether Chinese manufacturers added nitrogen-rich melamine to wheat gluten in order to raise its nitrogen level. Nitrogen levels are measured to calculate the protein content, which determines the value of a shipment.
The FDA is sampling all imports of wheat gluten from China and the Netherlands, which also received shipments from China. The agency says it has found no evidence that the wheat gluten entered the human food supply.
A bag with the word "melamine" stenciled on the side was found Sunday in a shipment of rice protein concentrate, a second pet food ingredient that has been linked to the pet food scare.
Investigators want to visit Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd., the suspected wheat gluten producer, and Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Co. Ltd., which is thought to have made the rice protein, according to Durbin.
But FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach told the senator that investigators haven't been able to make the trip because they cannot get visas from the Chinese government. FDA officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Durbin and Democratic Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut wrote yesterday to China's ambassador to the United States, protesting the failure to respond to visa requests from the FDA on April 4 and 17 and urging cooperation in the investigation.
A man who answered the telephone at the Chinese embassy's press office refused to confirm that visas had not been granted. Xuzhou Anying, the manufacturing company, has denied making the tainted wheat gluten.
The developments come a month after Menu Foods, of Ontario, Canada, recalled 60 million cans of pet food following reports of kidney problems and deaths in dogs and cats.
The recall has since expanded to more Menu Foods products, as well as food made by other companies that found tainted wheat gluten in their brands.
On Tuesday, Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. recalled Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods and dog treats, and Venison and Green Pea dry cat food.
The company, based in Pacoima, Calif., said it acted after pet owners reported kidney failure in some dogs and one cat that ate its food.
Laboratory tests on the Natural Balance products indicated that they contained melamine. Natural Balance doesn't use wheat gluten, but recently began using rice protein concentrate, which the testing indicated had melamine.
The rice protein was distributed in the United States by Wilbur-Ellis Company. On Sunday, the San Francisco company found a bag with the word "melamine" stenciled on the side in a shipment of rice protein concentrate it had received from China.
The bag tested positive for melamine, and the company has sealed the rest of the shipment in a warehouse until it completes safety tests, Wilbur-Ellis said on its Web site.
Durbin met with the FDA officials after complaining about the agency's handling of the pet food scare. He and DeLauro plan to offer legislation that would require FDA to develop national inspection standards for pet food-making facilities, rather than relying on states.
The proposed measure would also strengthen penalties that FDA could impose on pet food makers who delay reporting safety problems, an accusation critics have levelled against Menu Foods.
Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, said von Eschenbach should have already penalized Menu Foods for waiting three weeks to report its email@example.com
Recall -- Firm Press Release
FDA posts press releases and other notices of recalls and market withdrawals from the firms involved as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties. FDA does not endorse either the product or the company. This listserv covers mainly Class I (life-threatening) recalls. A complete listing of recalls can be found in the FDA Enforcement Report at: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/Enforce.html
Wilbur-Ellis Voluntarily Recalls Rice Protein Concentrate
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- San Francisco, CA -- April 18, 2007 -- Wilbur-Ellis Company is voluntarily recalling all lots of the rice protein concentrate the San Francisco company's Feed Division has shipped to pet-food manufacturers because of a risk that rice protein concentrate may have been contaminated by melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers that can lead to illness or fatalities in animals if consumed.
Wilbur-Ellis noted that it obtained rice protein from a single source in China and shipped to a total of five U.S. pet-food manufacturers located in Utah, N.Y., Kansas and two in Missouri.
Last Sunday, April 15, Wilbur-Ellis notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that a single bag in a recent shipment of rice protein concentrate from its Chinese supplier, Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Co. Ltd., had tested positive for melamine. Unlike the other white-colored bags in that shipment, the bag in question was pink and had the word "melamine" stenciled upon it. Wilbur-Ellis separated that bag and quarantined the entire shipment for further testing and since that time, no further deliveries of rice protein concentrate have been made. Samples from the white bags tested negative for melamine. However, subsequent and potentially more sensitive tests by the FDA came back positive for melamine, leading Wilbur-Ellis to voluntarily issue the recall.
Wilbur-Ellis began importing rice protein concentrate from Binzhou Futian Biology Technology in July 2006. A total of 14 containers holding 336 metric tons of rice protein concentrate were sent from Futian to Wilbur-Ellis. Wilbur-Ellis has distributed 155 metric tons to date.
On Monday (April 16), a pet food distributor issued a voluntary recall of its pet food, believing the source of contamination to be rice protein concentrate supplied by Wilbur-Ellis. As an additional precaution, Wilbur-Ellis is urging all pet food manufacturers using rice protein concentrate supplied through Wilbur-Ellis to recall any pet food that may be on supermarket shelves.
Consumers with questions about the pet food they use should visit the FDA Web site at www.fda.gov
FDA's Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts Page: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/7alerts.html
Pet Food Recall Expanded
By ANDREW BRIDGES
The Associated Press
Thursday, April 19, 2007; 1:35 AM Eastern
WASHINGTON -- An industrial chemical that led to the nationwide recall of more than 100 brands of cat and dog food has turned up in a second pet food ingredient imported from China.
The discovery expands the monthlong cascade of recalls to include more brands and varieties of pet foods and treats tainted by the chemical.
"This has exposed that the safety standards for pet foods are not in place in any significant way and the kind of drumbeat, day after day, of recalls has shaken consumers' confidence in the pet food industry's adherence to food safety standards," said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States.
The chemical, melamine, is believed to have contaminated rice protein concentrate used to make a variety of Natural Balance Pet Foods products for both dogs and cats, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.
The FDA has there is no evidence so far to suggest any of the rice protein went to companies that make human food, said Michael Rogers, director of the agency's division of field investigations. But the FDA has not accounted for all the imported ingredient.
Previously, the chemical was found to contaminate wheat gluten used by at least six other pet food and treat manufacturers.
Both ingredients were imported from China, though by different companies and from different manufacturers.
The FDA on Wednesday began reviewing and sampling all rice protein concentrate imported from China, much as the agency has been doing for wheat gluten, Rogers said.
A lawmaker said Wednesday the Chinese have refused to grant visas to FDA inspectors seeking to visit the plants where the ingredients were made. An FDA spokesman later said the visas were not refused but that the agency had not received the necessary invitation letter to get visas.
"It troubles me greatly the Chinese are making it more difficult to understand what led to this pet food crisis," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told The Associated Press after meeting with the FDA commissioner, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach.
A message left Wednesday with the Chinese Embassy in Washington was not immediately returned.
Natural Balance said it was recalling all its Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods, its Venison and Brown Rice dog treats and its Venison and Green Pea dry cat food. The supplier of the tainted rice protein said early Thursday it was recalling all the ingredient it had distributed to U.S. manufacturers and in turn urged them to recall any products that may be on store shelves.
The recalls now include products made by at least seven companies and sold under more than 100 brands.
The Pacoima, Calif., company said recent laboratory tests showed its recalled products contain melamine. Natural Balance believes the source of the contaminant was rice protein concentrate, which the company recently added to the dry venison formulas.
A San Francisco company, Wilbur-Ellis Co., began importing the ingredient in July from a Chinese company, Futian Biology Technology Co. Ltd., according to Wilbur-Ellis president and chief executive John Thacher.
It resold the ingredient to five pet food manufacturers, including Diamond Pet Foods Inc. of Meta, Mo. Diamond manufactured the dry dog and cat foods recalled by Natural Balance, Diamond Pet Foods spokesman Jim Fallon said.
Thacher declined to identify his company's other four customers, except to say two tested the ingredient and found no melamine. Wilbur-Ellis has not heard from the other two, both of whom received limited amounts of the ingredient, Thacher said.
The FDA's tests detected melamine in a rice protein sample; the agency would not disclose the sample's origin.
The source of the melamine remains unclear. It may have contaminated the rice protein through the reuse of dirty bags used to ship the products.
Thacher said an April 4 delivery from Futian Biology included 146 1-ton bags of rice protein concentrate. All were white except for a single pink bag, which was stenciled "melamine."
Wilbur-Ellis isolated the entire shipment at a Portland, Ore. warehouse and sent out samples for testing. The pink bag's contents tested positive for melamine while the two white bags tested were negative, Thacher said.
Futian Biology later told Wilbur-Ellis that a damaged bag was replaced with a clean one, Thacher said. The company then "certified the product was all fine," he added.
The Las Vegas importer of the contaminated Chinese wheat gluten, ChemNutra Inc., that led to the original pet food recall has suggested that spiking a product with melamine can make it to appear to be richer in protein during tests, thus increasing its value.
ChemNutra also imported rice protein concentrate from China, though from another source. Spokesman Steve Stern said the company is testing those shipments.
The recalls began March 16 when Menu Foods recalled 60 million cans of dog and cat food after the deaths of 16 pets, mostly cats, that had eaten its products. The FDA said tests indicated the food was contaminated with melamine, which is used in making plastics and other industrial processes.
Five other companies later recalled pet products also made with wheat gluten tainted by the chemical. The FDA has since blocked Chinese imports of wheat gluten.
Menu Foods continues to add more varieties to its recall list. Menu Foods spokesman Sam Bornstein did not know if the Streetsville, Ontario-based company also used rice protein concentrate as an ingredient in its pet foods, sold under more than 100 different major and store brands.
A House committee is holding a food safety hearing Tuesday and is expected to discuss the pet food recall.
Now contaminated corn gluten!!!!
Pet-food poison from SA firm
19/04/2007 16:23 - (SA)http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2101493,00.html
Johannesburg - Tests have confirmed that Vets Choice and Royal Canin dog and cat dry pet-food products contained corn gluten contaminated with melamine
, says the manufacturer.
The contaminated corn gluten was delivered to Royal Canin by a South African third-party supplier and appears to have originated from China.
Those products subject to the present recall were manufactured by Royal Canin South Africa in its Johannesburg plant between March 08 2007 and April 11 2007 and were sold exclusively in South Africa and Namibia.
The company said all other Vets Choice and Royal Canin products (including those made in South Africa before March 8 2007 and products made outside South Africa) were not affected and could be fed to pets.
Managing director Gregory Watine said: "We will continue to co-operate totally with the relevant public authorities, vets , customers and pet owners to help them by all means possible.
"They can rest assured that Royal Canin remains committed to putting the interests of pets and their health and nutrition first."
He said the company wanted to express their support and offer condolences to pet owners whose pets may have fallen ill or died as a result of eating the contaminated food.
Sales of all Vets Choice products were suspended on April 11 2007 and all affected products were being recalled from the market.
Measures had been taken in co-ordination with the South African Veterinary Association (Sava) and the Pet Food Institute (PFI) to ensure this contamination did not happen again.
Royal Canin South Africa Call Centre can be contacted on 011 446 1025.
April 19, 2007
Dear Royal Canin USA Customer,
It is with sincere regret that I inform you of a new and unfortunate development with some of our pet food products.
Although we have no confirmed cases of illness in pets, we have decided to voluntarily remove the following dry pet food products that contain rice protein concentrate due to the presence of a melamine derivative.
ROYAL CANIN SENSIBLE CHOICE® (available in pet specialty stores nationwide)
Dry Dog Food
- Chicken Meal & Rice Formula Senior
- Lamb Meal & Rice Formula Puppy
- Lamb Meal & Rice Formula Adult
- Lamb Meal & Rice Formula Senior
- Rice & Catfish Meal Formula Adult
ROYAL CANIN VETERINARY DIETT (available only in veterinary clinics)
Dry Dog Food
- Canine Early Cardiac EC 22T
- Canine Skin Support SS21T
Dry Cat Food
- Feline Hypoallergenic HP23T
We are taking this proactive stance to voluntarily recall these products to avoid any confusion for our customers about which Royal Canin USA products are safe and which products may be affected.
Pet owners should immediately stop feeding their pets the Royal Canin USA dry pet food products listed above. Pet owners should consult with a veterinarian if they are concerned about the health of their pet. No other Royal Canin diets are affected by this recall and CONTINUE TO BE safe for pets to eat.
In addition, Royal Canin USA will no longer use any Chinese suppliers for any of our vegetable proteins.
This decision to recall some of our dry pet food products is driven by our philosophy that the "Pet Comes First". The safety and nutritional quality of our pet food is Royal Canin USA's top priority. Pet owners who have questions about this recall and other Royal Canin USA products should call 1-800-592-6687.
On behalf of the entire Royal Canin family, our hearts go out to the pet owners and everyone in the pet community who have been affected by all of the recent recalls. We are as passionate about the health and happiness of our customers' pets as we are of our own, so we are committed to taking the steps necessary to ensure this never happens again.
President and CEO
Royal Canin USA
LARGEST PET FOOD RECALL EVER:
FULL INQUIRY CALLED FOR: AND ACCOUNTABILITY
By Michael W. Fox B.Vet.Med., Ph.D., D.Sc. M.R.C.V.S.
In March 2007, millions of concerned pet owners became aware of the massive recall by Menu Foods of 60 million cans and packages of contaminated, poisonous cat and dog food, in an effort to prevent the development of acute kidney disease and even death in the nation’s pets. This one company in Canada, Menu Foods Income Fund, produced over one billion containers of pet food in 2006. This compounded and processed food for dogs and cats was distributed to the major brand name pet food companies and mega-stores for sale under close to 100 different labels.
So which labels to trust? And how can one trust the industry when Menu Foods, after receiving many complaints about problems with its products, took 3 weeks to notify the FDA after running feed tests on some 50 cats and dogs that resulted in the unnecessary suffering and deaths even more animals. Noted as a ‘horrible coincidence’, the CFO of Menu Foods sold about half of his stake in the company three weeks before the widespread pet food recall.
This recall eventually involved around 100 different brand names and distributors, including major well known ones such as Iams, Eukanuba, Nutro, Hills, Nutriplan, Natural Balance, Waltham’s Royal Canin, Pet Pride, Your Pet, America’s Choice-Preferred Pet, Sunshine Mills, as well as store brands such as PetSmart, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Stop and Shop Companion, Price Chopper, Laura Lynn, KMart, Longs Drug Stores Corp, State Bros. Markets and Wal-Mart, and a host of private labels of mainly canned (moist) cat and dog foods. Under each brand name are usually many different varieties of cat and dog foods, and this meant that hundreds of different types of pet food were recalled. When coupled with the recalls of other pet food manufacturers who had bought the purportedly poisonous gluten and did not contract with Menu Foods that included other well known company brand names like Purina, Alpo, and Del Monte Pet Products, the quantity of material recalled must be in the hundreds of thousands of tons.
The FDA has no mandatory authority to demand a pet food recall. All recalls are ‘voluntary’, upon written request notification by the FDA. There is no mandatory requirement for pet food manufacturers to inform the FSDA in a timely fashion, or any penalty for not doing so. Even so, upon request, IAMS recently recalled pet foods supplemented with Cadmium, and in early 2006 Royal Canin recalled some of their prescription-only dog food that contained toxic levels of Vitamin D 3, that is also, in high doses, used as a rat poison. Some people believe that this is the main problem behind the ‘melamine cloud’ that the FDA has set up, and that independent laboratory tests are called for. But at this stage of the investigation, I concur with others (see www.aplus-flint-river-ranch.com
) that Vitamin D is not the issue in this massive recall. Testing for this would have been on top of the FDA’s agenda, and if problematic, impossible to ultimately hide from public knowledge.
This debacle of the commercial processed pet food industry puts us all on notice. Better quality controls, oversight and testing are called for, but one must be realistic. There have been recent massive recalls of human food commodities, including ground beef, poultry, onions, and spinach. Costs aside, no system of mass production can be fail-safe. The recycling of human food industry by-products, and products considered unfit for human consumption, into livestock feed and processed pet food presents a monumental risk-management challenge.
On March 19, The FDA notified the press that the manufacturer, Menu Foods, had performed tests on 40-50 dogs and cats on Feb 27, one week after receiving reports of dogs and cats dying from kidney failure. Seven of the test animals died, cats being more severely affected than dogs.
I began to receive letters from dog and cat owners thanking me for ‘saving their animal’s lives’ because they were feeding them the kind of home-made diet that I have been advocating as a veterinarian for some years. Other letters document the suffering and deaths of several companion animals, their care givers’ disbelief, outrage, and financial as well as emotional loss. These letters came during and after what turned out to be the largest pet food recall in the industry’s history.
On March 23, 2007 the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that they had found ‘rat poison’ in contaminated wheat gluten imported from China initially thought responsible for the suffering and deaths of an as yet uncounted numbers of cats and dogs across North America. The poison is a chemical compound called aminopterin.
Veterinary toxicologists with the ASPCA and American College of Internal Veterinary Medicine shared my concern that there may be some other food contaminant (s) in addition to the aminopterin that was sickening and killing many pets. Experts were not convinced that the finding of rat poison contamination was the end of the story.
On March 30, the FDA reported finding a widely used compound called melamine, described as a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics, as a wood resin adhesive and protective, in the wheat gluten. The FDA claimed that the melamine was the cause of an as yet uncounted number of cat and dog poisonings and deaths. The FDA could not find the rat poison, aminopterin, in the samples it analyzed. However a lab in Canada, at the University of Guelph, confirmed the presence of rat poison.
The Environmental Protection Agency identified melamine as a contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides, including cryomazine. People began to question if there is also pesticide contamination of the wheat gluten. Was there a possibility of deliberate contamination, or was it the result of gross mismanagement and lack of effective food-safety and quality controls that account for levels of melamine reported to be as high as 6.6% in FDA analyzed samples of the wheat gluten?
The widely used insect growth regulator cryomazine is not only made from melamine. It also breaks down into melamine after ingestion by an animal. Wheat gluten is wheat gluten, fit for human consumption, so the question still remains, what was wrong with this imported gluten that it was only bought for use in pet food?
On April 3 Associated Press named the US importer as ChemNutra of Las Vegas, reporting that the company had recalled 873 tons of wheat gluten that had been shipped to three pet food makers and a single distributor who in turn supplies the pet food industry. Close to 100 different brand labels of cat and dog food were recalled.
Until there is evidence to the contrary, the following concerns remain to be addressed by the FDA.
1. The wheat gluten imported from China was not for human consumption, because, I believe, it had been genetically engineered. The FDA has a wholly cavalier attitude toward feeding animals such ‘frankenfoods’ but places some restrictions when human consumption is involved (yet refuses appropriate food labeling).
2. The ‘rat poison’ aminopterin is used in molecular biology as an anti-metabolite, folate antagonist, and in genetic engineering biotechnology as a genetic marker. This could account for its presence in this imported wheat gluten.
3. The ‘plastic’, ‘wood preservative’, contaminant melamine, the parent chemical for a potent insecticide cyromazine, could possibly have been manufactured WITHIN the wheat plants themselves as a genetically engineered pesticide. This is much like the Bt. insecticidal poison present in most US commodity crops that go into animal feed.
4.So called ‘overexpression’ can occur when spliced genes that synthesize such chemicals become hyperactive inside the plant and result in potentially toxic plant tissues, lethal not just to meal worms and other crop pests, but to cats, dogs, birds, butterflies and other wildlife; and to their creators.
My suspicion is that the FDA was aware that the gluten came from genetically engineered wheat that was considered safe for animal consumption. To admit that the gluten came from a genetically engineered food crop could harm the US agricultural biotechnology industry by raising valid consumer concerns: So better for the FDA to focus on the melamine question.
I could be wrong. But a greater wrong is surely for the pet food industry to use food ingredients and food and beverage industry by-products considered unfit for human consumption; to continue to do business without any adequate government oversight and inspection; and for government to give greater priority and support to agricultural biotechnology ( that requires far more food quality and safety tests and surveillance than conventional crops--- all at the public’s expense)---than to organic, humane, ecologically sound and safe food production.
On April 6, 2007, FDA’s veterinarian Stephen Sundlof told CNN that the melamine found in the contaminated wheat gluten from China could actually have been added as a 'cheap filler'. Melamine crystal is a urea-derived,
synthetic nitrogen product that is used as a fertilizer that could have been added to the wheat gluten, But in fact it is NOT cheap. Fine Chem Trading Ltd Special Offers lists China Melamine Price Indication for 1 metric ton at
$1,130, while other sources list China wheat gluten at around $750.
How this melamine got into the gluten is still an open question, and some toxicologists still doubt that this is the main cause of so many dogs and cats becoming sick and even dying from kidney failure. I believe that the
China contaminant is the tip of the iceberg, and could become the scapegoat.
Possibly glyphosate, an herbicide that is liberally applied to crops across the US, and is a absorbed by crops that are genetically engineered (transgenic or GM, genetically modified), so that they are not harmed by the weed killer while all else growing in the fields is wiped out, could be part of the problem. This widely used herbicide has caused kidney damage and other health problems in laboratory tested animals. It is most probably in the pet food that made so many animals sick and even die, and is in most of the crops currently being fed to beef cattle, pigs, poultry, and dairy cows whose produce is not Certified Organic.
Farmed animals, whose various produce non-vegans consume, are also fed corn and other feeds from genetically engineered crops that produce their own insecticide called Bt. High levels of Bt in crops have made farmers ill and poisoned sheep. Since pet foods show no labels to the contrary, and the FDA does not even permit the labeling of human foods when they contain GM ingredients, we have no way of knowing what we are really eating or feeding to our pets.
(For details see my books ‘KILLER FOODS: What Scientists Do to Make Food Better is not Always Best.’ The Lyons Press, 2004 and "EATING WITH CONSCIENCE: THE BIOETHICS OF FOOD. New Sage Press, 1997)).
While my theory that a melamine-like derivative insecticide like cyromazine could have been produced within the wheat plants as a result of genetic engineering may not hold up, and we are dealing instead with a simple chemical contamination, accidental or deliberate, one fact remains. Two independent laboratories found the chemical aminopterin in samples of the recalled pet food that they identified as a rat poison. And that it is, but rarely used, and costly. This chemical is used as a genetic/DNA marker, and is included in U S Patent 6130207, filed Nov 5, 1997 (Cell-specific molecule and method of importing DNA into a nucleus).
Although the U S has resisted the temptation of genetically engineering the staff of life---wheat, our daily bread, ---China has forged ahead, in collaboration with the UK's Rothamsted Agricultural Research Center to develop GM/transgenic varieties of wheat, as well as rice and other commodity crops.
So it is surely incumbent upon the FDA to determine if this imported wheat gluten from China was indeed genetically engineered. It most probably was,
since it was not imported for human consumption, and was possibly an experimental crop with anti -fungus blight and viral disease genetic insertions that could have gone haywire as a result of 'overexpression.' Other endogenous toxins not yet identified could well have resulted in so much sickness, suffering and death in companion animals across North America.
The ‘life science’ industry has convinced legislators that genetically engineered crops are safe, and ‘substantially equivalent’ to conventional varieties of food and animal feed crops. But the scientific evidence, and documented animal safety tests, point in the opposite direction. The US government even attempted to have genetically engineered seeds and foods included under the National Organic Standards. Genetically engineered crops of corn, soy and canola that are herbicide resistant, and corn that produces its own insecticidal poison called Bt, get into the human food chain, and are put into livestock feed and pet foods with the government’s blessing. Herbicide resistant crops actually absorb the herbicide that is repeatedly sprayed to kill competing weeds which we and the animals subsequently consume, along with whatever endogenous pesticides they have been genetically engineered to produce.
While scientists and environmental health experts, along with the Sierra Club’s Laurel Hopwood, are pointing to agrichemicals and to the pollen of genetically engineered crops as being possibly responsible for the collapse of the honey bee population---that could mean an agricultural apocalypse, ---veterinarians and toxicologists are unraveling the cause of the epidemic of food poisoning and untimely death of thousands of beloved cats and dogs across the nation. My theory awaits answer from the FDA , namely that the most probable cause was the source of the poison. It had been extracted from wheat genetically engineered to produce its own insecticidal chemical, or an as yet unidentified biopharmaceutical or other chemical that became concentrated in the gluten after it arrived in the US.
The possibility of synergism of toxic pet food contaminants, where two or more harmful additives or contaminants resulted in this pet food poisoning pandemic, still remains open. The massive pet food recall in 2004 of dry cat and dog food manufactured in Thailand by Pedigree Pet Foods after reports of kidney failure in hundreds of pets, mostly puppies, in nine Asian countries is a matter of public record, but no toxic agent/s were ever reported to the public by this multinational pet food company.
This latest pet food recall in North America should mobilize the public and their elected representatives to take control of how our food is produced, and where it comes from. Without labeling as to country of origin and method of production, with Organic Certification being the watermark, prepared human foods and manufactured pet foods (that should include no ingredients considered unsafe for human consumption) can no longer be considered safe and wholesome.
The FDA's Dr. Stephen Sundlof, Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, (CVM) told a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on April 11 that the FDA had 16 reported deaths and some 9,000 complaints of adverse reactions. This figure of 16 deaths is curiously low since I have 18 reported deaths---12 dogs and 6 cats--- from readers of my syndicated newspaper column 'Animal Doctor' that is far from being in every city across the US. Now surely the FDA & CVM have better communication networks with consumers and veterinarians than I. And if not, then why not?
Or is the FDA down-playing the severity of this nation-wide pet food poisoning scandal? One major question has not yet been answered---why was the imported wheat gluten not intended for human consumption?
What is the pet food industry doing to compensate people for their veterinary expenses? Evidently nothing. They are just setting up yet another expert committee.
Duane Ekedahl, head of the Pet Food Institute(PFI) that represents the pet food industry, told the senators at this hearing that the Institute had set up a National Pet Food Commission, as he held up a full page ad that the PFI had placed that day in major newspapers. He asserted that "Pet foods are perhaps the most regulated product on market shelves."
When challenged by Sen. Richard Durbin, representatives for the PFI and the American Association of Feed Control Officials, whose AFCO labeling is standardized on most processed pet foods but can give no valid guarantees on quality or safety, became extremely defensive and contradicted themselves when it came to actual inspection and testing of ingredients. Dr. Sundlof cited a Federal inspection rate frequency of only 30% for the last 3 years for pet food processing facilities that was actually more than usual because of the mad cow disease issue.
As for the actual origin of the melamine, this chemical is the parent of a widely used crop insecticide called cyromazine that is actually absorbed by plants and is converted into melamine. This could be the source of gluten contamination, and was why the gluten was not considered fit for human consumption. But melamine, according to Dr. Sundlof "is not very toxic as a chemical." Since it was purportedly found in some 873 tons of wheat gluten from China the dilution in the vast volume of pet foods being recalled must be considerable. So perhaps melamine is a smoking gun, a symptom and not the primary cause of so many animals becoming sick, and even dying.
This pet food recall is a wake-up call to every consumer as well as every pet owner. The FDA has questions to answer (go to www.fda.gov/cvm
). Surely it is now incumbent upon the Pet Food Institute in Washington DC (www.petfoodinstitute.org
) to coordinate with all the pet food manufacturers involved, and with agribusiness pet food subsidiaries for which it lobbies and represents, an emergency fund to compensate people for all veterinary expenses resulting from their animal companions becoming sick and even dying, and requiring life-long care as a consequence of this largest pet food recall in recent history.
Postscript.There are many vested interests that would like to see this poisoned pet food pandemic forgotten because it exposes the unhealthful nature of industrial food production, processing and marketing that harm people and their animal companions, as well as wildlife and the increasingly dysfunctional natural environment.
Mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins, and thousands of other industrial pollutants, and especially those highly toxic petrochemicals used ironically in the production and preservation of food---from fertilizers to herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides, now contaminate our drinking water, our food, even the milk of human, polar bear, whale and elephant mothers: and lead to the untimely death, often after prolonged suffering, of our loved ones, including our animal companions. This need not be, but will continue so long as there is public apathy and indifference rather than outrage and political action.
Dr. Fox writes the syndicated newspaper column Animal Doctor, with United Features, NY, and is author of the forthcoming two books on pet care, Dog Body, Dog Mind: Exploring Canine Consciousness and Well-Being, and Cat Body, Cat Mind: Exploring Feline Consciousness and Total Well-Being, published by The Lyons Press. His website is www.doctormwfox.org
BLUE BUFFALO RECALLS SPA SELECT KITTEN DRY FOOD
From Blue Buffalo's website:
The Blue Buffalo Company has undertaken a voluntary recall of one production
run of our Spa Select Kitten dry food. The production code on the recalled
"Best Used By Mar. 07 08 B."
We have taken this action because the rice protein concentrate used for this
run was obtained from Wilbur-Ellis, the same company who supplied this
ingredient to Natural Balance. Test results received late last evening
(4/18) indicated that this rice protein concentrate tested positive for
melamine. This is the first and only time our manufacturing partner sourced
an ingredient from Wilbur-Ellis, and we had no knowledge that they had
imported the ingredients from China.
Humans at risk from tainted pet food?
By Karen Roebuck
Friday, April 20, 2007
Federal officials confirmed Thursday they are investigating whether pork products intended for humans are contaminated with the same industrial chemical that prompted a massive pet food recall and sickened cats and dogs nationwide.
Researchers also have identified three other contaminants in the urine and kidneys of animals sickened or killed after eating the recalled foods, including cyanuric acid, a chemical commonly used in pool chlorination, three researchers told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Cyanuric acid is what most likely sickened pets, one researcher said.
Melamine previously was found in the recalled pet food and two ingredients -- wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate -- as well as in the urine, blood, kidneys and tissues of infected animals.
Researchers and U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials said since it was discovered in the pet food, wheat gluten and in animals' urine and kidneys, they did not believe it was what sickened the animals.
The Trib learned yesterday that melamine-contaminated feed was fed to hogs.The FDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture are investigating.
Some animals that are believed to have eaten the contaminated food were slaughtered and sold as food before authorities learned their feed had been contaminated, said Nancy Lungren, spokeswoman for the California agriculture department.
The state quarantined the farm Wednesday, she said.
Yesterday, the urine of some pigs at the 1,500-animal American Hog Farm in Ceres, Calif., tested positive for melamine, although all appeared healthy, Lungren said. About half a dozen pigs were put down and researchers at the University of California-Davis are testing their kidneys, tissues, blood and other body parts for melamine contamination, she said.
The contaminated feed was bought April 3 and 13 as salvage pet food from Diamond Pet Foods Inc., which received contaminated rice protein concentrate used in some recalled Natural Balance pet food, Lungren said.
Diamond Pet Foods made the dog and cat foods recalled this week by Natural Balance after melamine was found in an ingredient, rice protein concentrate.
Researchers isolated a spoke-like crystal in pet food, wheat gluten and in the urine, kidneys and tissues of infected animals. That crystal serves as a marker for determining what animals were sickened in the outbreak. About 30 percent of those crystals are made up of melamine, one investigator said, and researchers spent several weeks trying to identify what is in the remainder.
Researchers in at least three labs found cyanuric acid, amilorine and amiloride -- all by-products of melamine -- in the crystals of animals' urine, tissues and kidneys, according to Dr. Brent Hoff, a veterinarian and clinical toxicologist and pathologist, at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada; Richard Goldstein, associate professor of medicine at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and a kidney specialist, and Dr. Thomas Mullaney, acting director of Michigan State University's Center for Population and Animal Health.
Michigan State's lab so far has found only the amilorine and amiloride, but Mullaney said he was aware of at least three other labs finding the cyanuric acid in the animals. The FDA asked labs involved in the pet food recall to test for the three chemicals.
All three are by-products of melamine, which researchers said they believe were formed as the animals metabolized the melamine.
Finding cyanuric acid is the more significant finding, Hoff, Goldstein and Mullaney said, although they are not yet certain how toxic it is to animals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web site said, "When ingested (by humans) in large amounts, the substance may have effects on the kidneys, resulting in tissue lesions."
Because cyanuric acid was used in pool chlorination, more scientific studies have been done on that chemical than on melamine, amilorine and amiloride, Goldstein said. However, tests in dogs and rats found it is safe, he said.
Hoff, Goldstein and Mullaney said amilorine and amiloride were found earlier this week in low concentrations.
The findings have not been announced yet, because officials overseeing the research are seeking confirmation from as many labs as possible, they said.
Researchers ruled out aminopterin -- used as rat poison in other countries -- which New York state officials previously announced was in the pet food.
The FDA said the contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate used in pet food in the United States and Canada and melamine-tainted corn gluten used in recalled pet food in South Africa have been traced to companies in China.
The Chinese government told the Trib and the FDA yesterday that the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd., which the FDA said supplied the tainted wheat gluten, did not export any wheat gluten intended to be used in food.
The FDA has received more than 15,000 calls reporting sick or dead cats and dogs since the pet food recall began last month, but the agency has not confirmed those yet.
Karen Roebuck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (412) 320-7939.http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_503671.html
Chemical found in state hogs
By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, April 20, 2007
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A1
The chemical linked to cat and dog deaths on two continents has made
it into pig feed and perhaps onto California tables, with state
agricultural officials announcing late Thursday they've quarantined a
Ceres hog farm where lab tests showed melamine in pig urine.
"The farm is cooperating with us to determine the disposition of all
animals that have left the premises since April 3," Richard
Breitmeyer, the state veterinarian, said in a prepared statement.
That's the first time melamine-tainted food is known to have been
shipped to the farm.
He said the 1,500-animal American Hog Farm was quarantined "out of an
abundance of caution."
Melamine has caused tumors in rats and shouldn't be used in animal
feed, according to toxicologists.
The farm sells to both private individuals and others whom the state
declined to identify, saying it is still investigating what happened
to the pork. The state Health Services Department is urging people who
bought pigs from the farm not to eat the meat until further notice.
So far, "evidence suggests a minimal health risk" to people who have
consumed it, Dr. Mark Horton, the state's public health officer, said
in the same press release.
The theory that Chinese suppliers put melamine in starches to boost
their protein content, and thus command higher prices, becomes
increasingly credible as melamine is found in more ingredients, said
Stephen Sundlof, head of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for
The FDA wants to probe that and other theories by inspecting Chinese
factories, but Chinese officials have not allowed their entry, Michael
Rogers, FDA's field investigations director, said Thursday.
"A number of letters" have been sent to China, Rogers said, adding
that he expects Chinese officials will cooperate.
The FDA wants to learn how widely melamine has spread and which other
products it might have contaminated.
That question became more urgent Thursday with reports from South
Africa that corn gluten in Royal Canin pet foods there was
contaminated with melamine, killing about 30 pets. The Web site for
Royal Canin U.S. announced an eight-product recall late Thursday.
The South Africa report brings to three the number of Chinese products
with melamine contamination -- wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate
and corn gluten.
Veterinarians and nutritionists said that other potential targets for
tampering could include whey protein isolate, soy protein isolate, soy
protein concentrate, soy grits and soy lecithin.
All are pet food ingredients valued for the protein punch that they pack.
The melamine at the quarantined hog farm apparently came from salvage
pet food sold as pig feed by Diamond Pet Food's Lathrop plant, the
state said. Diamond had gotten rice protein imported from China by a
San Francisco distributor who recalled it on Wednesday because of
A man who answered the phone for the American Hog Farm late Thursday
declined to comment, the Associated Press reported.
What little is known about melamine suggests its cancer-causing
effects are limited. In studies, melamine caused bladder tumors in
male rats but not in female rats and not in mice of either gender,
said Dr. Stephen McCurdy, a UC Davis Medical School professor of
public health sciences.
"I wouldn't argue that it's safe or that people should take a
lackadaisical attitude toward their exposure," McCurdy said, but
there's insufficient evidence whether it may cause cancer in humans.
Since the first U.S. recall more than a month ago, thousands of
products from 100 brands have been yanked from the market. Thousands
of dog and cat deaths are suspected.
The FDA has gotten about 15,000 consumer calls.
In the latest pet food recall Thursday, Blue Buffalo company pulled
back its Spa Select Kitten dry food, in bags stamped "Best Used By
Mar. 07 08 B."
The FDA confirmed Blue Buffalo was one of five companies that received
rice protein concentrate from Wilbur-Ellis, a San Francisco
distributor that recalled the ingredient late Wednesday night.
The company has shipped 155 metric tons of the suspect rice protein to
five pet food makers since July. Neither Wilbur-Ellis nor the FDA
would name them.
The FDA is checking which companies put the rice protein into pet
foods. It expects those companies to issue their own recalls, Rogers said.
As the melamine investigations widen, a question haunting pet owners
and regulators is how early the first tainted foods reached consumers,
and whether previous episodes of contamination passed unnoticed.
"I am not so sure that this phenomenon is new," said Yorba Linda
veterinarian Elizabeth Hodgkins.
"I honestly think pet foods have been making dogs and cats sick for a
long time," she said.
Hodgkins, who testified at a congressional hearing last week, said
it's less complicated to cook at home for dogs than pet food companies
want people to believe. Home cooking for cats is a little more
complex, she said, and people should seek advice.
Some vets recommend home cooking -- with professional nutritional
guidance -- or specialty brands that avoid additives, at least until
sources of contamination are tracked and eliminated.
Alternative pet food companies report being swamped.
In Elk Grove, Sheryl Gunter had about 35 people turn out for a free
course on cooking for pets at her store, Corner Pet.
The Honest Kitchen, a San Diego pet food company, stepped up
production and hired a person just to handle calls.
"We've seen about a fourfold increase in sales in the last four
weeks," said Lucy Postins, who helped found the firm.
April 22, 2007
FDA’s Update on Tainted Pet Food
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating an imported shipment of rice protein concentrate which has been found to contain melamine. The rice protein concentrate may have been used as an ingredient in some pet foods. FDA’s investigation of the rice protein is being carried out by specialists in FDA headquarters and in eight FDA district offices. Thus far, the following has been established:
* The suspect shipment of rice protein concentrate was imported and offloaded during the week of April 2, 2007 by Wilbur-Ellis, an importer and distributor of agricultural products, including rice protein concentrate, with headquarters in San Francisco, CA. The source of the product is identified as Binzhou Futian Biological Technology in China.
* The shipment consisted primarily of rice protein concentrate in white bags, but also included one pink bag that was labeled, in part, with the word “melamine.”
* On April 15, Wilbur-Ellis notified FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine about the suspect shipment. On April 16, FDA launched a nationwide investigation tracing eight import entries identified as being shipped from the Chinese firm since July 2006. FDA testing revealed melamine in both the white and pink bags.
* Wilbur-Ellis has initiated a recall of all suspect rice protein concentrate it had imported and distributed; see http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/wilburellis04_07.html
FDA investigators have obtained records showing distribution to five pet food manufacturers in seven locations. Investigators are currently inspecting all five manufacturers and collecting additional samples, as appropriate.
* FDA initiated inspections at Royal Canin USA and C.J. Foods and, as a result, both companies have voluntarily recalled certain products; see http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/royalcanin04_07.html
* FDA also has confirmed the presence of melamine in finished pet food products containing rice protein concentrate. Those products, and others within the same product line, are currently under recall by Natural Balance Pet Foods and are labeled as: Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods; Venison and Brown Rice dog treats; and Venison and Green Pea dry cat food; see http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/naturalbalance04_07.html
If FDA’s investigation determines that additional pet food products have been manufactured from the suspect rice protein concentrate, FDA will expect manufacturers to initiate voluntary actions to remove these products from the marketplace. FDA will continue to communicate its findings promptly.
In a related development, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) issued a press release on April 19, 2007, stating that CDFA laboratory testing had detected melamine in urine from hogs at the American Hog Farm in Ceres, CA. For further information, see: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/exec/pa/pressreleases/PressRelease.asp?PRnum=CDFA07-038
Due to the involvement of animal feed, FDA is working with CDFA on this development.
FDA continues to work comprehensively to protect the nation’s pet food as well as to conduct a full investigation to determine any impact on the human food supply. The agency is now sampling all rice protein concentrate from China and continues to sample all wheat gluten imported from China, and it is ready to increase its surveillance of other products, if necessary.
To search for the latest list of recalled products, which will be updated when new information is received, please see: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/petfoodrecall/
Royal Canin Canada Recalls Additional Cat and Dog Food Due to New Toxin
UPDATE: The toxin found in these foods is cyanuric acid - not melamine. This is the first recall attributed to cyanuric acid.
Royal Canin has discovered a new contaminant in rice gluten. This contaminant is cyanuric acid, which is chemically related to, but distinct from, melamine.
ORIGINAL POST: Due to contaminated rice protein concentrate, Royal Canin has recalled the following cat and dog products from Canada on Friday:
* Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine EARLY CARDIAC
* Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine SENSITIVITY RC (Rice and Catfish)
* Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine SKIN SUPPORT
* Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Feline HYPOALLERGENIC HP
* Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Feline SENSITIVITY RD (Rice and Duck)
These differ from the products pulled from the US. Two products, Feline Sensitivity RD and Canine Sensitivity RC are not currently recalled in the US. We do not know whether the food was made in Canada or the US. Therefore, it is also not clear whether the tainted rice protein went to Canada.
So far, Royal Canin has pulled products due to tainted wheat gluten, corn gluten and rice protein in the US, Canada, and South Africa. And is being sued for Vitamin D overdose.
Full release from Medi-Cal Canada homepage after the jump.
They have also promised to no longer use vegetable protein from China.
(Thanks D&K and anonymous reader)
Medi-Cal/Royal Canin Canada Voluntary Product Recall
April 20, 2007 - Medi-Cal/Royal Canin Canada Voluntary Product Recall
(all date codes of):
ROYAL CANIN VETERINARY DIET CANINE EARLY CARDIAC EC
ROYAL CANIN VETERINARY DIET CANINE SENSITIVITY RC (Rice and Catfish)
ROYAL CANIN VETERINARY DIET CANINE SKIN SUPPORT SS
ROYAL CANIN VETERINARY DIET FELINE HYPOALLERGENIC HP
ROYAL CANIN VETERINARY DIET FELINE SENSITIVITY RD (Rice and Duck)
Royal Canin has discovered a new contaminant in rice gluten. This contaminant
is cyanuric acid, which is chemically related to, but distinct from, melamine.
Consequently, we are recalling all date codes of these dry products.
We recommend you stop feeding these specific diets and return them to your veterinary clinic for a substitute diet or refund. If you have any concerns over the health and well-being of your pet, please contact your veterinary clinic. You can also contact Medi-Cal/Royal Canin Veterinary Diet at 1-866-494-6844. Please leave a voice message with your name, number, and a brief description of your concern. This will help us determine the appropriate routing of your questions. All calls will be returned by a Medi-Cal/Royal Canin Veterinary Diet team member within 24 hours.
We cannot express how devastated we are to notify you of this new finding, and we offer you our sincere regrets and apologies. The steps we are taking are driven by our philosophy of putting pets first.
http://www.macleans.ca/business/companies/article.jsp?content=20070430_104326_104326The Great Pet Food Scandal
How one supplier caused a huge crisis, and why it's just the tip of the iceberg
CHARLIE GILLIS AND ANNE KINGSTON | April 30, 2007 |
Sometime in the next couple of years, when the public gaze has drifted from the tainted pet food epidemic and we've all forgotten what melamine is, a judge in Ohio or California or Ontario will take up the daunting question of what a dog or cat is worth. There was considerable legal debate on this topic even before the current uproar. But if an animal's curative effect on the human heart plays any part in the calculation, the courts might start at a small house in Floral Park, N.Y., where the wounds wrought by the poisoning epidemic will stay raw for a long time to come.
It was here in the Long Island suburbs that Donna Opallo and a couple of relatives brought home Checkers, a chocolate-eyed beagle puppy, three years ago, figuring she might lend solace to Opallo's grief-stricken sister, Debbie DiGregorio. The previous week, DiGregorio's 16-year-old son, Louis, had died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. Frantic for ways to help, the family took a flyer on the dog, and their instincts proved correct. "That dog filled a very big void in her life," says Opallo, 47, who lives with her 45-year-old sister. As the months passed, it became clear that Checkers possessed healing powers no psychiatrist, friend or relative could equal.
Then, in mid-February, the family was thrown back into crisis. Checkers began vomiting incessantly and defecating blood, sending the sisters on a series of futile visits to a local veterinarian. Test after test proved inconclusive, and only after Mississauga, Ont.-based Menu Foods issued its first recall of contaminated food on March 16 did the penny finally drop. Both Checkers and Opallo's own dog, an 11-month-old Bichon-Shih Tzu cross named Taco, had been eating food from foil pouches sold under the Nutro brand name, one of the products on Menu's list. Checkers survived the initial illness, but her gruesome symptoms persisted. Today her vets can't say whether she'll survive. Taco, who hadn't showed any outward signs of trouble, turned out to be in near-total renal failure. He spent more than a week in an animal hospital in nearby Westbury, with an intravenous line attached to his leg and his owner by his side. "Three-quarters of his kidneys are destroyed, and I don't know what his life expectancy will be," says Opallo. "It's like there's a little ticking time bomb inside of him."
The plight of Checkers and Taco is by no means unique: it is believed some 40,000 pets who ate Menu Foods products made with melamine-laced wheat gluten have been sickened in the U.S. and Canada. While mortality estimates vary, a recent survey by the Davis, Calif.-based Veterinary Network estimated the death toll in the U.S. in the thousands. But it does give some sense of the debacle's reach -- as well as its ruinous effect on each family it touched. Quite apart from the collective US$6,200 in vet bills Opallo and DiGregorio have paid out of their line of credit, or the thousands more they're willing to spend, they quake knowing they might lose one or both of their beloved animals. "I don't think I could ever buy another dog," says Opallo. "I'm basically in denial."
The scope of the tragedy -- emotional and financial -- continues to widen. The recall has been expanded four times in the last four weeks, with 889 separate items under 100 different brand names yanked off the market. The company's explanations raise more questions than answers, and there's been predictable talk of reform at the government level. In Canada, talks between pet food makers, vets and a variety of federal agencies have already begun, with a view to imposing rules on an unregulated industry. In the U.S., members of the Senate's agriculture appropriations subcommittee have held hearings into the Food and Drug Administration's handling of the crisis, while the FDA itself continues to investigate the cause of the contamination.
But the economic model that led to the poisoning shows little sign of change. Even in the throes of a PR nightmare, the big grocery chains continue to support Menu, a production behemoth with whom they share a mutual dependency. Loblaw Companies, for one, which sells Menu products under its President's Choice and No Name brands, has no plans to switch suppliers. "They've been a valued partner," says spokeswoman Elizabeth Margles. "We do have confidence about them at this point."
Loblaw may remain unshaken, but for the average dog or cat owner the entire affair has been a faith-testing experience. Little did pet owners know that, whether they were buying a budget supermarket brand or splurging on top-of-the-line fare at a specialty pet store or from a veterinarian, the food was being produced at the same factory and even shared some of the same ingredients. How could they? Menu Foods' name appeared nowhere on the label. The company existed as an invisible cog in the food chain, churning out most of North America's most popular wet food in cans and foil pouches to its customers' blue-chip specifications -- Science Diet for Colgate Palmolive, Iams for Procter & Gamble, Whiskas for Purina. It also manufactured an estimated 75 per cent of private label brands in Canada, including Wal-Mart's, Sobey's and Pet Valu's. In the United States, where its customers include PetSmart, Safeway and Wal-Mart, Menu supplies between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of wet pet food.
The story of how a tiny, shoestring operation in Toronto's western suburbs came to dominate its industry reflects the seismic shifts in the manufacturing food chain over the past three decades. Increasing power wielded by the margin-obsessed, cutthroat supermarket industry has forced manufacturers to source cheaper ingredients globally. Those forces have favoured faceless giants -- players capable of supplying myriad products demanded by retailers, retooling and remixing recipes as the orders came in. But as the Menu case demonstrates, the system also ensures a continent-wide catastrophe when something goes wrong. Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, doesn't see the Menu tragedy as an aberration. Rather she calls it "the tip of the iceberg."
Suffice to say, no such spectre troubled Robert Bras, the sharp young supermarket executive who bought into Menu Foods in the late 1970s and turned the plodding company into a trailblazer. At the time, Bras was working for Loblaw Companies, a firm in the midst of its own astounding turnaround from down-at-the-heels grocery chain. Central to its recovery strategy was a private-label program that would rival the big national brands in quality and sales. Without the advertising and distribution costs that inflated the prices of national labels, executives reasoned, a supermarket could sell its own brand -- often made at national brands' factories -- at a lower cost for a higher margin. Pet food was a critical part of the scheme: it is a high-frequency purchase that brings people into the store. Desirable proprietary brands presented a way to cultivate customer loyalty. Sensing untapped opportunity, Bras left Loblaw in 1977 and bought a 50 per cent stake in Menu, a manufacturing generalist that made everything from bargain-basement pet food to bleach.
Bras quickly stripped away extraneous product lines and purchased a factory in New Jersey with an eye to expanding into the U.S. But his big break came in 1979, with a contract to produce Loblaw's "no-name" canned pet food. The first offering, a No Name Luxury meat mix, claimed to match brand leader Dr. Ballard's formula in quality at a lower price. The "luxury" reference was a master stroke: it seduced pet owners into believing they were buying status for the same price as "maintenance" -- an industry term for standard product. Within six months, it was the No.1-selling product at Loblaw's Ontario stores.
Menu's sales grew 25 per cent a year on average during the 1980s, fuelled by the growing number of supermarkets cluing in to the fact they could make margins of 35 to 40 per cent profit on their own premium house-label pet food. Business was buoyed by the fact that pets were increasingly viewed as full-fledged family members -- "furkids" as they came to be called. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the pet bowl. When canned dog food was introduced in 1922 there was no pretense of nutritional benefits; the only benefactors were meat packers who seized on a profitable way of disposing of surplus offal and horse meat. By the 1980s, however, pets' diets were mirroring their owners' own peccadillos, food phobias and culinary dispositions, be they kosher, hypo-allergenic, vegetarian or low-fat.
"We have anthropomorphized our pets," says Kelly Caldwell, editor of Dogs in Canada. "You want to feel you're giving your dog the best possible food. It's a way to show we care, that we're not scrimping, that they're valuable." Caldwell buys only "organic" feed for her purebreds because that's what she eats. "I've bought into the packaging and promises," she says. Nutrition tops the concern of Dogs in Canada readers, she says. Bras understood the business was "counter-economic." Pet food wasn't sold on price alone; if your dog or cat isn't going to eat it, you're not going to buy it. And if people believed they'd improve the health or extend life of their pet, they'd spend more on higher-priced premium labels.
Menu's expansion in the United States was ramped up in the 1990s when Cott Corporation, a Toronto-based manufacturer of private-label soft drinks with grand plans for global domination, bought the remaining 50 per cent stake in the company. Wal-Mart and Safeway were added to Menu's customer roster. The company also benefited from the fact that national brands, under assault from retailer labels, were increasingly outsourcing their manufacturing so they could focus on "managing the brand." It was an ironic twist: managing the brand became synonymous with distancing itself from the grimy business of production.
Menu, meanwhile, invested heavily in a U.S. infrastructure. A state-of the-art factory was built in Emporia, Kan. In 2001, Menu bought the wet food operations of Doane Pet Care for US$15 million. The following year, the company went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange as an income trust, a structure that avoids most corporate taxation because most of the company's income is paid directly to its unit holders. If there's a discernible turning point in the company's history, however, it is 2002, when Bras died of cancer. He was replaced by Paul Henderson, a former chief operating officer at Cott. In 2003, Menu assumed US$85 million in new debt to purchase a Procter & Gamble plant in North Sioux City, S.D. With that purchase came a five-year supply agreement to be the exclusive supplier of Iams and Eukanuba wet foods, which now account for about 11 per cent of Menu's sales.
But even as Menu's business grew exponentially, its margins were reportedly under constant pressure. It was rumoured within the industry that Wal-Mart and Loblaw, eager to maintain their own margins in a competitive pricing environment, kept a lid on prices that squeezed Menu's profits. Specifically, Menu was expected to deliver expensively made foil packs -- now at the centre of the contamination controversy -- at the same price as cans. "They definitely had to eat margins to a point they weren't making any money selling to Wal-Mart," says an industry insider who explains Menu couldn't afford to lose the contracts because they provided credibility with potential customers. Loblaw says there was no freeze on prices. "We always try to keep prices down but didn't say you couldn't raise prices," Margles says. "We always try to keep costs down for our customers. We have to remain competitive."
At the end of 2005, Menu reported a loss of $54.6 million and suspended payments to its unit holders, blaming the decline in the value of the U.S. dollar. The next year Menu returned to profitability, yet its cash distributions remain suspended. By early 2007, with a revived Canadian dollar and new price increases, prospects appeared on the upswing. Improved cash flow was being used to pay down debt and industry analysts were expecting it to resume distributions to unit holders.
If the engines of Menu's success were humming again, they cut out abruptly on March 16, 2007. The recall notice the company issued that morning downplayed the implications, describing the removal of 60 million units from the market as "precautionary" and omitting all reference to any potential contaminant. Within days, however, the FDA was asking awkward questions about wheat gluten shipped from China, and pet owners were starting to exchange horror stories on the Internet.
What the company did next will surely go down as a case study in how not to manage a crisis. Far from tackling the matter head-on -- by, say, quickly withdrawing all products made with suspect material -- it left items on the shelves for what by human food-safety standards seemed an eternity. On March 24, eight days after its original notice, Menu expanded its recall to include all varieties of its wet pet food, a rearguard action that encompassed those household names it had so assiduously cultivated, from Iams to Wal-Mart's house brand Ol' Roy. Two more recalls would follow, the first on April 5 for all Menu products made with the suspect wheat gluten, including dry food; the next on April 10, when Menu pulled products made at its plant in Mississauga (previous recalls affected product made at the Kansas plant).
At the centre of all of this was an ingredient few North Americans had heard of before the crisis. Wheat gluten -- essentially, destarched flour dough -- is used in pet food to bind and add texture. Menu had previously been buying it from U.S. sources, but had switched last November to an obscure Chinese manufacturer called XuZhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Menu cited a gluten shortage in North America for the change, but a cynic would point to other potential motivations: in 2006, wheat gluten from China sold for about 20 cents per pound less than that made by U.S. competitors.
Whatever the savings Menu realized, however, could not possibly have been worth what followed. By Feb. 22, according to timelines provided by the company, Menu was receiving warnings from consumers that its food was sickening pets. On Feb. 27, routine taste tests of its own products resulted in the deaths of at least two and, by some accounts, as many as 10 animals. Still, it took Menu until March 8 to notify ChemNutra, the Las Vegas-based distributer of the Chinese product, that it was investigating the possibility the gluten was causing illness. The recall, however, wouldn't come for another eight days.
The contempt implicit in this tardiness infuriates pet owners. Jody Tomlinson of Coquitlam, B.C., lost his job as a warehouse supervisor after spending hours on the phone last winter researching the mysterious kidney ailment that eventually claimed the life of his two-year-old mastiff, Binky. The idea that Menu may have sat on vital information leaves the 38-year-old fuming, and calling for government regulation. "Greed started this," he says, "not common sense." Lance Ganske, a Calgary sheet-metal worker who lost Blackie, one of several pet cats, now distrusts the entire industry. "When I buy something, I don't know whether it's going to be good or not," he says, "and I still have to feed my animals."
Menu officials haven't helped matters, allowing their phones to ring unanswered for hours at a time, according to angry consumers, and providing confusing explanations for what went wrong. (In one interview, vice-president Randall Copeland blamed part of the contamination on a "clerical error" that saw the wheat gluten bags receive false U.S. labelling; photos supplied by the product's U.S. distributor clearly show the words "Made in China" printed directly on the bags.) In an email to Maclean's last week, Menu CEO Paul Henderson disputed suggestions that the company dragged its feet. While Menu did receive reports of cat illnesses on Feb. 22 and 28, he said, "the vets who attended these cats informed Menu that they each had access to various contaminants and could have gotten into something they should not have, such as antifreeze." A third call reporting a cat death came in on March 5, Henderson said, and while Menu did not receive veterinary information about the third case, the consumer did send in the unused food. "We tested the food, but the testing did not reveal anything wrong with it," he wrote.
The irony in all of this is that Menu was blindsided as well -- the company just can't seem to communicate it. In the end, lab tests performed in late March on the Chinese gluten identified the likely cause of the poisoning as melamine, a plastic by-product that is entirely foreign to the production of wheat gluten -- or, for that matter, pet food. "It's unheard of," says Steve Pickman, a vice-president at Atchison, Kan.-based MPG Ingredients Inc., which makes wheat gluten for human and pet consumption. "You'd never think to test for it."
Indeed, reports out of Washington last week said the FDA was investigating the possibility that workers at the XuZhou Anying factory tainted their product deliberately -- that they were using the substance to amp up the apparent nutrient value of their product. Melamine, it turns out, mimics protein when mixed into wheat gluten, creating the illusion that the substance is packed with value. Whether the supposed saboteurs knew it was fatal to animals is one question. How you guard against miscreants half a world away is quite another.
Despite what seems to be an unsurmountable crisis, analysts remain optimistic about Menu's future. Aleem Israel, an analyst at Cormack Securities in Toronto, currently rates Menu Foods Income Fund a "buy," noting that its status as the primary supplier of wet pet food, as well as the only source of foil pack pet food, ensures its survival. And while most of its customers aren't locked into long-term supply contracts, no other manufacturer has the economies of scale that can provide the same profits.
That retailers have an economic stake in maintaining the status quo also works to Menu's advantage. No grocery giant is standing by the company more staunchly than the one that helped create it. "To say [the contamination] is extremely unfortunate is an understatement," says Margles, the Loblaw Companies' spokeswoman. "People feel very strongly about their pets and we feel very strongly about product integrity. Still, they've been a valued partner and we have a very detailed recall process here and we are keeping on top of it, as we're sure they are with any products they're manufacturing."
Margles, like others, blames the tainted raw material, not the manufacturer, for the catastrophe. "It does seem to be linked to the wheat gluten in China," she says. Such a rationale doesn't reassure nutritionist Marion Nestle, who compares the Menu case to last summer's E. coli outbreak in the continental spinach supply. "What this has exposed about globalization issues is just breathtaking," she says. "No one knew this kind of thing. People knew that spinach was centralized because of what happened over the summer. But the idea that one ingredient from China could go into 100 brands of pet food is something no one had any idea about."
Nestle, currently writing a book about pet food, believes the recall should make customers question the price differentials in the pet food market. "The disclosure is particularly striking for people who were paying a lot of money for Iams or one of those expensive brands," she says. "The idea that the same ingredients are going into cheap brands as expensive brands disturbs pet owners to no end. It's not that the formulas are the same but that they're using the same ingredients."
It certainly upsets Benjamin DeLong, 33, and his wife Jennifer, 32, a Wadsworth, Ill., couple who believed they were doing their cats Freddie and Rita a favour when they upgraded from no-name brands to Iams' "Tuna and Sauce" and "Salmon and Sauce" in foil packs. They now blame the products for Freddie's death and Rita's illness, and have joined a class-action lawsuit launched in Chicago. "We thought, let's spend a little more on our pets, get them a little better food and maybe they'll last a little longer," Benjamin DeLong says ruefully.
DeLong was particularly incensed by a full-page newspaper ad taken out shortly after the first recall announcement by Iams-Eukenuba, asking pet owners to keep buying product that was made in its "own" factories in the U.S., and not by Menu Foods. "Hey, you know what, I thought I was buying Iams," he says. "Obviously there was not enough oversight and management responsibility for somebody over at Menu Foods to stop this from happening. So not only do I hold Menu Foods responsible, but Iams as well."
The tragedy has also laid bare the lack of pet food regulation in Canada. The U.S., United Kingdom and European Union all have government agencies that monitor pet food for safety. Though the Department of Consumer and Corporate affairs oversees labelling claims, the Canadian industry is left to police itself. The Pet Food Association of Canada, comprised of manufacturers, has imposed a voluntary nutritional assurance program, while the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association runs a voluntary standards program that certifies only about two per cent of Canadian-produced pet food. Without systematic oversight, however, it's impossible to know whether the tainted pet food still sits on store shelves in Canada. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration said a random check of 400 retail outlets across the U.S. found some still stocking previously recalled dog and cat food; consumers north of the border have access to no such information.
How, then, to respond? Who is to blame when poison makes it into an ingredient made by a foreign supplier for a U.S. distributor, who in turn sells to a Canadian processor who supplies retail outlets for pets across North America? How do you stop it from happening again?
At least part of the fallout will take the form of legal retribution. Within days of the first recall, class-action lawyers assumed their customary circling pattern, in some cases posting sign-up sheets on their firm websites for potential clients. Frank Jablonski, an attorney from Madison, Wis., says he's received 3,000 inquiries, nearly half from people whose pets have died. "The stories are devastating," he says. "You end up spending a lot of time on each one of them because essentially you're consoling the person." Jay Strosberg, a class-action lawyer based in Windsor, Ont., who has filed suit against Menu, says he's received more than 100 calls from people whose pets were sick or had died. The company says it faces more than 50 suits in the U.S.
These actions are primarily aimed at recouping vet bills. But it's a measure of how widely the case has resonated that some owners hope to break new legal ground by winning awards for emotional distress. "There's no way you can tell me that emotion doesn't factor into this," says DeLong from Illinois. While courts on both sides of the border have resisted such findings, preferring to treat pets as property rather than family, both Illinois and Tennessee have legislation allowing damages for emotional loss. And in a precedent-setting decision last year, a Superior Court judge in Ontario awarded $1,417.12 to an owner whose dog was let out of a boarding facility and died. The ruling was significant because the judge specifically stated that pets should not be considered "owner's chattel so as to preclude damages for pain and suffering."
The Canadian government, meanwhile, is reconsidering its hands-off approach to pet food safety. Bill Hewett, the executive director of policy and planning for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says the Menu case highlights the importance of pets in modern households, and has prompted his branch to reassess its options, including all-out regulation of the industry. The review comes after meetings with the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, which warned that the absence of rules and standards could expose humans to risk, as well as pets. "What if this had been something other than melamine, like a virus?" asks Dr. Paul Boutet, the association's president. "Government needs to know these things, because a lot of things that affect pets affect people as well. Look how close these pets are to us now. They're sleeping in our beds. You could probably find [homes] where pets are eating at the table."
Still, neither Boutet nor Hewett foresees a new era of risk-free pet food. The vastness and complexity of the industry, they acknowledge, make it difficult to police effectively. "We have everything from large, internationally competitive manufacturers to mom-and-pop, niche-type producers," says Hewett. The Menu contamination, he adds pointedly, occurred despite FDA rules requiring pet food makers to ensure the safety of their products, demonstrating the "opportunity for failure" even in the context of government regulation.
Under the circumstances, pet owners -- even those who escaped this particular crisis -- have little reason to feel confident. Barring a complete restructuring of the economics of food manufacturing -- or a regulatory regime that would see Canadian inspectors combing through factories in China -- the question is not how this contamination happened, or how it might have been handled better, but when the next crisis will strike. Henderson, Menu's CEO, reassures customers that melamine testing will become standard operating procedure for his beleaguered firm. But the broader sentiment in the industry is best summed up in his prediction of Menu's immediate future: "It will be a return to business as usual."
Pet-food maker, ingredient supplier searched
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal agents searched facilities of a pet food manufacturer and one of its suppliers as part of an investigation into the widening recall of products made with ingredients contaminated by an industrial chemical, the firms disclosed Friday.
Food and Drug Administration officials searched an Emporia, Kan., pet food plant operated by Menu Foods and the Las Vegas offices of ChemNutra, the supplier of one of two ingredients suspected in the contamination of millions of cans of recalled dog and cat food, according to the companies.
BEIJING PROBE: China admits tainted food link
Menu Foods also said the U.S. Attorney's offices in Kansas and the western district of Missouri have targeted the company as part of misdemeanor investigations into whether it violated the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. The sale of adulterated or contaminated food is a misdemeanor. A Justice Department spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
"Menu Foods has been doing everything it can to cooperate with the FDA," company chief executive officer Paul Henderson said in a statement. "Even before commencement of this investigation we have given the FDA full access to our plant and our records, have answered questions and provided documents to them any time they have asked."
FDA spokeswoman Julie Zawisza would not confirm or deny that a search warrant was executed. "We have a strict policy of not discussing activities of our Office of Criminal Investigations," she said.
ChemNutra said it had been informed the company could be held accountable because it imported the melamine-adulterated wheat gluten used in the tainted pet food even though the company had no knowledge that its Chinese supplier had introduced melamine into the product.
"We have cooperated and complied fully with FDA investigators both prior to and since being served with today's search warrant, and will continue to do so," Steve Miller, chief executive officer of ChemNutra, said in a statement. "We keep very good records, which has made it relatively easy for the investigators to retrieve what they needed."
ChemNutra spokesman Steve Stern said FDA agents copied computer hard drives, Stern said, adding, "we complied completely with the FDA."
Menu Foods Midwest, an affiliate of Menu Foods, the company that last month recalled 60 million cans of pet food, earlier this week filed a lawsuit that seeks to have ChemNutra pay the costs of the recall plus damages.
ChemNutra maintains Menu Foods waited several weeks before notifying it about the problem. ChemNutra also says Menu Foods had other suppliers of wheat gluten.
Menu Foods, based in Streetsville, Ontario, recalled its products after 16 pets, mostly cats, died from eating contaminated food. Other manufacturers continue to recall pet food.
The lawsuit, which lists Menu Foods Midwest, Menu Foods Ltd., Menu Foods Holdings Inc. and Menu Foods Inc. as plaintiffs, accuses ChemNutra of breach of contract and breach of implied warranties about the safety of the wheat gluten and its fitness for use in pet food. It said each shipment of wheat gluten came with a certificate saying it met Menu Foods' requirements.
"ChemNutra knew that Menu Foods was relying on ChemNutra's skill and judgment to supply high-quality wheat gluten," the lawsuit said.
Menu Foods said it faces more than 50 lawsuits.http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/2007-04-27-company-raided_N.htm?csp=34
China admits tainted food link
By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY
BEIJING — Chinese authorities acknowledged for the first time that ingredients exported to make pet food contained a prohibited chemical, stepping up their probe of two Chinese companies' roles in one of the USA's largest animal-food recalls.
While pledging cooperation with U.S. authorities investigating the recall, the Chinese government in a statement Thursday also disputed that the chemical — melamine, which is used to make plastic — was responsible for harming pets.
IN CHINA: All's quiet in, around offices at core of probe
"There is no clear evidence showing that melamine is the direct cause of the poisoning or death of the pets," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing argued in a prepared statement. "China is willing to strengthen cooperation with the U.S. side … to find out the real cause leading to the pet deaths in order to protect the health of the pets of the two countries."
In a sign of government urgency, Chinese police two days ago sealed the headquarters of Binzhou Futian Bio-Technology, which exported rice protein concentrate to the USA for use in pet food. Paper strips were pasted across the doors of the eight ground-floor rooms the company rents in Wudi County, a five-hour drive southeast of Beijing.
As inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prepare to visit the firms where the ingredients were made, Chinese and American food experts here say China's vast and fragmented food-processing industry makes inspection difficult and increases the likelihood of future problems.
FDA tests identified melamine in imported wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate in pet foods. It also has said cyanuric acid, a chemical related to melamine used in cleaning pools, was found in wheat gluten. The agency has said melamine, a chemical high in nitrogen, might have been added to the grain products to make them appear higher in protein than they were.
Since March 16, cat and dog food sold under more than 100 brand names have been recalled. The FDA has said 14 pets died after eating recalled foods, but anecdotal reports from veterinarians and pet owners point to higher numbers.
President Hu Jintao this week urged officials to intensify work on food safety, a growing concern among consumers in China, where mass poisonings from tainted products are common. Hu called on officials to monitor the entire food-production process and focus on prevention and resolving problems at their source.
That won't be easy, said Luo Yunbo at the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering at China Agricultural University, who briefed China's leader Monday on the FDA's role in food safety. "China is such a large country, with such a large population, and agricultural production is by individual farmers on a very small scale," Luo said. "There are so many farmers and food producers that it is a great challenge to inspect all foodstuffs and teach people better agricultural standards."
About 6,000 hogs in eight U.S. states may have been fed pet food made from salvage products that had the tainted rice gluten. The pet food was sold for reformulation before melamine was found. Several hundred hogs may have entered the human food supply, FDA officials said. While there is no tolerance for melamine in food, the FDA's Daniel McChesney said, "we believe the risks to be very low to humans."
Two more recalls were announced Thursday.
Costco Wholesale Corp. announced a recall of its Kirkland Signature Super Premium Lamb and Rice pet food with sell by dates of Aug. 21 2008 to April 15 of 2009. The food was made by American Nutrition using rice protein concentrate from Wilbur-Ellis, which imported the product from Binzhou Futian in China. Costco will mail 230,000 letters to all members who purchased the canned food on Friday, said Craig Wilson, food safety chief for Costco.
Chenango Valley Pet Foods also has begun voluntarily recalling pet foods manufactured with a certain shipment of rice protein concentrate it received from Wilbur-Ellis, the company said Thursday.
The pet foods were sold to customers in Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, who in turn sold the products to their customers through catalog mail orders or retail outlets.
Find this article at:http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/2007-04-26-pet-food-china_N.htm
Diamond Pet Foods has announced it is withdrawing a limited number of canned products manufactured by American Nutrition. This action is limited to three specific canned products: Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Kitten Formula 5.5 oz. cans, and Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Puppy Formula 13 oz. cans, and Diamond Lamb & Rice Formula for Dogs 13 oz. cans.
Diamond Pet Foods took this action after learning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed rice protein concentrate was used by American Nutrition in the above three canned formulas.
The products being withdrawn were not formulated or labeled to contain rice protein concentrate. The rice protein concentrate was put into our products without our knowledge. It should also be noted that we have not received any notices of pet illnesses. All tests received to date verify the absence of any contaminants. No other Diamond brand or Chicken Soup brand canned or dry pet food formulas are affected by the American Nutrition recall.
We are appalled that this action was necessary, and will continue to work with the FDA on this issue. In the meantime, withdrawing these three canned products is the right thing for our company to do.
Customers with these products should stop feeding them immediately and return them to their retailer for a full refund.
Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul dry pet food and dog treats ARE NOT part of any pet food or treat recall. We manufacture all of our own dry pet foods.
Please contact our customer call center at (866) 214-6945 if you have any questions about these products.
FDA link to search for recalled products.
Recalls are still going on! I am trying to keep this thread updated but PLEASE if you feed kibble or canned pet food, keep checking here and do searches yourself for updated information!
Some items may still be on store shelves, so please stay informed!
Jeebus. Is there ANYTHING we can feed our animals anymore?
http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/04/30/business/30food.php Filler in animal feed is open secret in China
By David Barboza and Alexei Barrionuevo
Sunday, April 29, 2007
ZHANGQIU, China: As American food safety regulators head to China to investigate how a chemical made from coal found its way into pet food that killed dogs and cats in the United States, workers in this heavily polluted northern city openly admit that the substance is routinely added to animal feed as a fake protein.
For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.
"Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed," said Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company, which sells melamine. "I don't know if there's a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says 'don't do it,' so everyone's doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren't they? If there's no accident, there won't be any regulation."
Melamine is at the center of a recall of 60 million packages of pet food, after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked this month to the deaths of at least 16 pets in the United States.
No one knows exactly how melamine (which is not believed to be particularly toxic) became so fatal in pet food, but its presence in any form of American food is illegal.
The link to China has set off concerns among critics of the Food and Drug Administration that ingredients in pet food as well as human food, which are increasingly coming from abroad, are not being adequately screened.
"They have fewer people inspecting product at the ports than ever before," says Caroline Smith DeWaal, the director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. "Until China gets programs in place to verify the safety of their products, they need to be inspected by U.S. inspectors. This open-door policy on food ingredients is an open invitation for an attack on the food supply, either intentional or unintentional."
Now, with evidence mounting that the tainted wheat gluten came from China, American regulators have been granted permission to visit the region to conduct inspections of food treatment facilities.
The Food and Drug Administration has already banned imports of wheat gluten from China after it received more than 14,000 reports of pets believed to have been sickened by packaged food. And last week, the agency opened a criminal investigation in the case and searched the offices of at least one pet food supplier.
The Department of Agriculture has also stepped in. On Thursday, the agency ordered more than 6,000 hogs to be quarantined or slaughtered after some of the pet food ingredients laced with melamine were accidentally sent to hog farms in eight states, including California.
Scientists are now trying to determine whether melamine could be harmful to humans.
The pet food case is also putting China's agricultural exports under greater scrutiny because the country has had a terrible food safety record.In recent years, for instance, China's food safety scandals have involved everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair to instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their color and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim.
For its part, Chinese officials dispute any suggestion that melamine from the country could have killed pets. But regulators here on Friday banned the use of melamine in vegetable proteins made for export or for use in domestic food supplies.
Yet what is clear from visiting this region of northeast China is that for years melamine has been quietly mixed into Chinese animal feed and then sold to unsuspecting farmers as protein-rich pig, poultry and fish feed.
Many animal feed operators here advertise on the Internet, seeking to purchase melamine scrap. The Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company, one of the companies that American regulators named as having shipped melamine-tainted wheat gluten to the United States, had posted such a notice on the Internet last March.
Here at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group factory, huge boiler vats are turning coal into melamine, which is then used to create plastics and fertilizer.But the leftover melamine scrap, golf ball-size chunks of white rock, is sometimes being sold to local agricultural entrepreneurs, who say they mix a powdered form of the scrap into animal feed to deceive those who raise animals into thinking they are buying feed that is high in protein.
"It just saves money if you add melamine scrap," said the manager of an animal feed factory here.
Last Friday here in Zhangqiu, a fast-growing industrial city southeast of Beijing, two animal feed producers explained in great detail how they purchase low-grade wheat, corn, soybean or other proteins and then mix in small portions of nitrogen-rich melamine scrap, whose chemical properties help the feed register an inflated protein level.
Melamine is the new scam of choice, they say, because urea — another nitrogen-rich chemical — is illegal for use in pig and poultry feed and can be easily detected in China as well as in the United States.
"People use melamine scrap to boost nitrogen levels for the tests," said the manager of the animal feed factory. "If you add it in small quantities, it won't hurt the animals."
The manager, who works at a small animal feed operation here that consists of a handful of storage and mixing areas, said he has mixed melamine scrap into animal feed for years.
He said he was not currently using melamine. But he then pulled out a plastic bag containing what he said was melamine powder and said he could dye it any color to match the right feed stock.
He said that melamine used in pet food would probably not be harmful. "Pets are not like pigs or chickens," he said casually, explaining that they can afford to eat less protein. "They don't need to grow fast."
The resulting melamine-tainted feed would be weak in protein, he acknowledged, which means the feed is less nutritious.
But, by using the melamine additive, the feed seller makes a heftier profit because melamine scrap is much cheaper than soy, wheat or corn protein.
"It's true you can make a lot more profit by putting melamine in," said another animal feed seller here in Zhangqiu. "Melamine will cost you about $1.20 for each protein count per ton whereas real protein costs you about $6, so you can see the difference."
Feed producers who use melamine here say the tainted feed is often shipped to feed mills in the Yangtze River Delta, near Shanghai, or down to Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong. They also said they knew that some melamine-laced feed had been exported to other parts of Asia, including South Korea, North Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.
Evidence is mounting that Chinese protein exports have been tainted with melamine and that its use in agricultural regions like this one is widespread. But the government has issued no recall of any food or feed product here in China.
Indeed, few people outside the agriculture business know about the use of melamine scrap. The Chinese news media — which is strictly censored — has not reported much about the country's ties to the pet food recall in the United States. And few in agriculture here do not see any harm in using melamine in small doses; they simply see it as cheating a little on protein, not harming animals or pets.
As for the sale of melamine scrap, it is increasingly popular as a fake ingredient in feed, traders and workers here say.
At the Hebei Haixing Insect Net Factory in nearby Hebei Province, which makes animal feed, a manager named Guo Qingyin said: "In the past melamine scrap was free, but the price has been going up in the past few years. Consumption of melamine scrap is probably bigger than that of urea in the animal feed industry now."
And so melamine producers like the ones here in Zhangqiu are busy.
A man named Jing, who works in the sales department at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group factory here, said on Friday that prices have been rising, but he said that he had no idea how the company's melamine scrap is used.
"We have an auction for melamine scrap every three months," he said. "I haven't heard of it being added to animal feed. It's not for animal feed."
FDA: Contaminated Pet Food Used in Chicken Feed
38 Indiana farms implicated; affected broiler chickens have already been consumed, officials say
TUESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- The potential threat to human health from contaminated pet food has now widened to include chickens, with U.S. health officials announcing that melamine-tainted pet product made its way into poultry feed at 38 Indiana farms.
Much of the adulterated feed was eaten in early February by broiler chickens that have since been sold and consumed nationally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a joint statement issued late Monday.
The melamine-contaminated feed was used at 30 broiler poultry farms and eight breeder poultry farms across Indiana; all of the broiler chickens have since been sold to outlets nationwide. The breeder chicken have been quarantined and may be euthanized, the FDA and USDA said. The agencies also warned that "as the investigation continues, additional farms will likely be identified that received contaminated feed."
The announcement comes on the heels of similar discoveries at hog farms across the United States. The USDA first announced on Thursday that meat from 345 hogs suspected of eating the contaminated feed had entered the U.S. food supply. Some 6,000 hogs suspected of eating the contaminated product have since been quarantined and meat from these animals will be withheld from the food supply, both agencies said.
"As with exposure from hogs fed contaminated pet food and for similar reasons related to the dilution of the contamination, FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating chicken fed the contaminated product is very low," the agencies said Monday night. "Because there is no evidence of harm to humans associated with consumption of chicken fed the contaminated product, no recall of poultry products processed from these animals is being issued."
In a similar vein, U.S. health officials have continued to reassure American consumers that pork products from hogs fed contaminated pet food were safe, even as reports surfaced that China has routinely added the contaminant melamine to its exported animal food supplements.
In a joint statement issued late Saturday, the FDA and USDA stressed that, "We are not aware of any human illness that has occurred from exposure to melamine or its byproducts." They added that they have also identified no illnesses in swine fed the salvage food tainted by melamine, which was imported from China as an additive to wheat gluten used in dog and cat food.
Melamine, a derivative of coal, is at the center of the United States' largest pet food recall, involving more than 60 million packages of 100 name-brand products. The chemical has been linked to the deaths of at least 16 pets and the illness of possibly thousands of animals.
In the Saturday statement, the FDA and the USDA said the possibility of human illness from eating swine exposed to melamine remains low for several reasons: "First, it is a partial ingredient in the pet food; second, it is only part of the total feed given to the hogs; third, it is not known to accumulate in the hogs, and the hogs excrete melamine in their urine; fourth, even if present in pork, pork is only a small part of the average American diet."
On Monday, The New York Times reported that Chinese producers routinely add melamine to wheat gluten and rice protein in animal feed products to falsely inflate levels of protein.
In interviews with agricultural workers and managers in China, the newspaper reported that animal feed producers have secretly added melamine to their feed for years because, during tests, it appears to be a protein, even though it doesn't add any nutritional benefits.
"Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed," Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company, which sells melamine, told the Times. "I don't know if there's a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says 'don't do it,' so everyone's doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren't they? If there's no accident, there won't be any regulation."
On Thursday, China banned melamine from its food products, but rejected the charge that the substance caused the U.S. pet deaths, the Associated Press reported.
It's not clear how -- or even if -- melamine became fatal in pet food, because it's not believed to be particularly toxic. But U.S. law bans its presence in any form of food, the newspaper said.
The rice protein was imported to the United States by Wilbur-Ellis, an agricultural product importer and distributor. The FDA said it is continuing its investigation of the source of the adulterated pet food, including "tracing products distributed since August 2006 by Wilbur-Ellis throughout the distribution chain."
In their latest statement, the FDA and the USDA said that, as of April 26, they had identified sites in six states where contaminated pet food was received and used in feed given to hogs: California, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah.
On Friday, FDA officials searched the facilities of a pet food manufacturer and one of its suppliers in the continuing probe of the contamination, the Associated Press reported.
The officials searched an Emporia, Kan., pet food plant operated by Menu Foods and the Las Vegas offices of ChemNutra Inc., the news service said, citing information supplied by the companies.
Menu Foods made many of the major brands of dog and cat foods that were recalled because of the melamine-contaminated wheat gluten. ChemNutra supplied Menu Foods with the wheat gluten, which was also imported from China but reportedly from a different supplier than the rice protein.
Both companies said they were cooperating with the investigation, the AP said.
Meanwhile, the USDA will compensate hog farmers affected by the tainted pet food, Kenneth Peterson, an assistant administrator for field operations at the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, said during a Thursday teleconference.
"The pork and pork products from these animals will be destroyed," Peterson added. Each year, more than 105 million hogs are slaughtered in the United States, the AP said.http://health.msn.com/healthnews/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100161930>1=10008
Pet Food Crisis Now People Food Crisis...
The FDA has finally acknowledged that adulterated animal food has killed thousands of pets in the United States and has been allowed to enter the human food chain. Now the U.S. public at large are to be their guinea pigs and they appear to be frighteningly comfortable with that position.
The FDA has danced around the topic of whether the toxins had entered the human food supply for weeks, and it has been both amazing and appalling to watch as each shoe has dropped. Each day brings bigger and far more shocking revelations about the results of lax safety standards in our nation's food supply.
usatoday.com - FDA: Feed no human threat:http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/2007-05-01-food-safety-usat_N.htm
Almost 3 million chickens may have eaten feed containing small amounts of pet food contaminated with melamine, but the health risk to consumers is minimal, federal officials said Tuesday.
David Acheson, FDA assistant commissioner for food protection, said there is little threat to human health because the proportion of melamine in the original pet food was less than 6%, and the re-purposed pet food made up less than 5% of the chicken feed.
How much toxic food exactly do I need to eat Dave?
Tell me exactly what is the level of toxin the FDA considers it safe for me to ingest?
What is the level of toxin the CDC considers it safe for me to ingest?
Is the CDC even tracking melamine-related illnesses or testing for melamine?
How about my elderly parents and my school age nephews and nieces?
How about people with impaired immunities?
Do we have to wait for PEOPLE to start dying before it moves your stat meter any?
Do I have to die in your office for it to be confirmed, or would it be better for me to die in the CDC's office?
This is not a pet food crisis, this is a food crisis.
What does it say about this country's homeland security when I have to take off my shoes to board an airplane or face getting trundled off by 10 or 15 guards, and yet someone in a foreign country can introduce literally tons of toxins into our food supply with no oversight? Why waste billions on a nuclear program when you could introduce bulk shipments of ricin or anthrax-tainted rice gluten into our food supply instead, at a fraction of the cost, and maybe even turn a profit.
And here are my scariest questions Dave, the ones that I really fear the answer to the most...
How long and what else? When is the next shoe going to drop? How long has toxic, adulterated food been allowed into our food supply and what other toxins have I been ingesting? How many illnesses, cancers and deaths has this toxic food caused or enhanced in the public and for how long? We talk about a rise in things such as autism, allergens, cancer, and other health issues; how much has impact has toxic, adulterated food had on that?
Pet owners did not foment this crisis; dead and dying pets, lax regulations, poor systematics, lack of security, and shoddy oversite at the FDA did. Pets, then pet owners, then bloggers, then finally a few mainstream media houses brought this frighteningly huge hole in homeland security to light. It is fortunate, in a sense, that our pets acted as a tripwire to sound the alarm. It is unforgivable that so many had to die and will continue to die over the coming months for playing this role. Who knows what terrible act their deaths might have prevented? Or has their sacrifice already come too late?
Some people have referred to the bloggers and print journalists covering this as alarmists or sensationalists. If 3 million toxic chickens in the food supply isn't setting off bells and alarms somewhere, it damn well should. If Drudge and the rest of the mainstream media want to continue to ignore the situation, then I hope the journalists that are covering this ring as many bells as they can.
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