China Admits Importing Tainted Pet Food IngredientNov 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
For the first time since the most recent China melamine scandal broke, authorities there are finally admitting that some ingredients used to make pet food did contain melamine, reports USA Today. The admission led to increased investigations into two Chinese companies and their links to enormous animal food recalls here, said USA Today, which also noted that China claims melamine did not harm pets.
"There is no clear evidence showing that melamine is the direct cause of the poisoning or death of the pets … 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," Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted as saying by USA Today. Meanwhile, USA Today reports that Chinese police sealed Binzhou Futian Bio-Technology’s headquarter offices; the company exports rice protein concentrate to the U.S. for use in pet food.
Melamine is an industrial chemical that has gained notoriety in recent years for its ability to cheat nutrition tests and was originally designed to make plastics, fertilizer, and fire retardants. Because melamine possesses high nitrogen contents, it can create the appearance in food of being high in protein and has been used in recent years to falsify protein levels in foods. In the milk formula melamine-tainting scandal, the toxic chemical was added to watered-down baby formula to create the impression of high protein levels in the diluted milk products. In the melamine scandal involving animal feed and food, melamine was likely added to the products for the same purpose. Melamine can cause kidney problems—including kidney stones and kidney failure—when ingested. Cyanuric acid has also been known to be added—with melamine—to wheat gluten added to pet food, reported USA Today. Cyanuric acid is another industrial chemical and is used in swimming pools. When added with melamine to food, the combination
can create cystic growths in the kidneys and has proven fatal.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will be going to China to conduct inspections; however, there is concern over that country’s “vast and fragmented food-processing industry,” USA Today points out. Luo Yunbo at the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering at China Agricultural University, “briefed China's leader Monday on the FDA's role in food safety,” and was quoted in USA Today as saying, "China is such a large country, with such a large population, and agricultural production is by individual farmers on a very small scale. There are so many farmers and food producers that it is a great challenge to inspect all foodstuffs and teach people better agricultural standards." USA Today noted that since mid-March, cat and dog food sold under over 100 brand names have been recalled and that while the FDA states 14 pets died after eating recalled foods, veterinarians and pet owners say the actual number is much higher.
Meanwhile, in addition to two more recalls this week—Costco Wholesale Corporations Kirkland Signature Super Premium Lamb and Rice canned dog pet food with sell by dates of August 21, 2008 to April 15, 2009 and some shipments of Chenango Valley Pet Foods—added to the ongoing roster of recalls, USA Today said approximately 6,000 hogs in eight U.S. states might have been fed pet food made from “salvage products” containing tainted rice gluten; hundreds of the hogs may be in “the human food supply,” according to FDA officials.