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Wal-Mart Says Pet Treats Were Contaminated with Melamine

Aug 22, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

Melamine has once again been found in pet food made in China.  This time, dog treats sold by Wal-Mart have tested positive for the dangerous chemical.  The retailing giant announced last night that Chicken Jerky Strips from the Import Pingyang Pet Product Co and Chicken Jerky made by Shanghai Bestro Trading were both tainted with melamine.  Wal-Mart also revealed that it has suspected the problem for some time, but waited to warn consumers.  At least one of the companies involved in the Wal-Mart melamine incident has had a sketchy history with its pet food imports to the US.  In 2005, the Food & Drug Administration blocked imports of some Pingyang products because of Salmonella contamination.

The Wal-Mart incident is similar to a pet food recall last March that involved 150 brands of melamine-laced pet food.  The chemical, a by product of pesticides, was found in wheat gluten used in the food.   At least 14,000 animals became ill and 16 died in US as a result of the poisonous pet food.

Wal-Mart said that it had been receiving complaints from customers about the pet treats since July.   At that time, the retailer quietly removed the jerky snacks from Wal-Mart stores around the country.  The company also placed a block on its computers so store cashiers would not be able to ring up the tainted pet food.   Wal-Mart said that it did not alert consumers to the problem in order to avoid worrying customers unnecessarily.   The company said that it wanted to wait until tests confirmed the presence of melamine before it raised the alarm.

Yesterday, Wal-Mart announced that 17 tests done on the product had found melamine.   The company could not say if the treats contained enough melamine to harm an animal.  But Wal-mart did say that customers should not use the pet treats.  Rather, they should be returned to the nearest Wal-Mart store for a refund.  All of the products bear the UPC code 0087784900006.

Wal-Mart said that it did not know how many of its stores sold the treats.  But a spokesperson for the company told the Associated Press that Wal-Mart only issues pull-and-hold orders when most stores are affected.  

Though melamine is banned from food products in the US, use of the chemical in animal feeds is common in China.  In fact, many animal feed producers in China advertise for the chemical over the internet.  They mix a powdered form of melamine into the feed to inflate the product’s protein levels.   Following the March recalls, China banned the use of melamine in products made for export.

Since the recall of melamine-tainted pet food in March, many other Chinese-made products have come under scrutiny.  This year, tires, lead-painted toys, toothpaste and other Chinese imports have been recalled for defects.  Over the last few decades, many US companies have moved production to China in a quest for cheaper goods and higher profits.  The pressure placed on Chinese manufacturers to make inexpensive products often leads them to use low-quality components and shoddy manufacturing techniques


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