Melamine Tainted Pet Food Scandal Yields IndictmentsFeb 7, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Last year’s tainted pet food poisoning scandal resulted in three indictments against two Chinese companies and an American importer. The tainted federal pet food poisoning indictments accuse the Chinese firms Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company and Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products, Arts and Crafts and the owners of the Las Vegas-based importing company, ChemNutra, of intentionally defrauding and misleading American manufacturers about tainted wheat gluten used in pet food last year.
Melamine-tainted wheat gluten, used as an ingredient in moist pet food, killed at least 16 dogs and cats, sickened thousands of others and led to one of the biggest pet food recalls in American history. The pet food poisoning scandal was only one of several incidents involving defective Chinese imports last year. Defective tires, lead-tainted toys, and chemical laced toothpaste where just a few of the Chinese products involved in safety scandals and product recalls in 2007.
According to The New York Times, the tainted pet food poisoning indictments resulted from a Food and Drug Administration investigation and was filed by the United States attorney’s office in Kansas City, Mo., which was the port of entry for the tainted wheat gluten. The indictment cites e-mail traffic between the Chinese manufacturers and the American importer that investigators say proves the importer knew tainted wheat gluten knew was being mislabeled to avoid inspection. After news of the tainted wheat gluten emerged last spring, all of the companies charged in the indictment said they did not know how toxic melamine had made its way into the gluten.
But the owner of Xuzhou Anying eventually confessed to Chinese authorities that the melamine was added to the wheat gluten so that it appeared to be higher in protein than it actually was. Melamine is used in many industrial products like glues, inks and fertilizers, but it has no approved uses in food in the United States. Melamine is a common additive in animal feeds in China.
According to the indictment, Xuzhou Anying shipped at least 13 loads of the melamine tainted wheat gluten, more than 800 metric tons, through Suzhou Textiles, which created false labels for the shipments so that the melamine would not be found by Chinese inspectors. The US Attorneys Office said ChemNutra and its owners, a married couple, Sally Qing Miller and Stephen S. Miller, knew that the shipment was mislabeled.
The indictment also accuses ChemNutra of defrauding its customers – pet food manufacturers that purchased the importer’s wheat gluten.
The indictment is seeking jail time and fines from executives at the Chinese companies and the owners of ChemNutra. However, there is some doubt that the US will be able to extradite the Chinese executives to stand trial.