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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

FDA crawls forward in melamine scandal

The Pet Connection Blog is all over the Chinese protein additive scandal (there's also a diary posted by Pet Connection's ChristieKeith at Daily Kos:)
In an import alert buried deep on its website and just uncovered tonight, the FDA last Friday expanded its hold on imported foods from China - ingredients including Wheat Gluten, Rice Gluten, Rice Protein, Rice Protein Concentrate, Corn Gluten, Corn Gluten Meal, Corn By-Products, Soy Protein, Soy Gluten, Mung Bean Protein, Soy Bean Meal/Powder/Gluten/Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Powder, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Flour Gluten, Wheat Gluten, Rice Protein, Rice Gluten, Rice Protein, Corn Gluten, Milled Rice Products, Amino acids and protein hydrosylates.

They also, for the first time, published estimates of pet deaths closer to what other authoritative sources have been speculating for weeks now:

"As of April 26, 2007, FDA had received over 17,000 consumer complaints relating to this outbreak, and those complaints included reports of approximately 1950 deaths of cats and 2200 deaths of dogs."

These numbers are very much in line with what we've seen in our own database of self-reported cases at PetConnection:
  • Total reports of illness or death: 14,228
  • Total cats reported dead: 2,334 cats
  • Total dogs reported dead: 2,249
At long last, the FDA has seemingly done something. From USA Today:
The Food and Drug Administration is enforcing a new import alert that greatly expands its curtailment of some food ingredients imported from China, authorizing border inspectors to detain ingredients used in everything from noodles to breakfast bars.

The new restriction is likely to cause delays in the delivery of raw ingredients for the production of many commonly used products.


According to the alert notice posted on the FDA website Friday, the agency has so far taken 750 samples of wheat gluten and products made with wheat gluten and found 330 positive for melamine or melamine combined with another substance. It also found 27 positives out of 85 samples of rice protein concentrate and products made with rice protein concentrate.
Yikes. Seeing as scientists don't seem to understand why melamine caused pet deaths, and have speculated that some as yet unknown chemical transformation may be responsible, that's profoundly disturbing.

Here's a little, um, sampler from that FDA alert:
For the vegetable proteins and finished products that have been found to be contaminated, it is unknown who the actual manufacturers are, how many manufacturers there are, or where in China they may be located.

The samples of vegetable proteins that have tested positive for the presence of melamine and melamine analogs have, thus far, been traced to two Chinese firms, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd. and Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Co. Ltd. Records relating to the importation of these products indicate that these two firms had manufactured the ingredients in question. There is strong evidence, however, that these firms are not the actual manufacturers. Moreover, despite many weeks of investigation, it is still unknown who the actual manufacturer or manufacturers of the contaminated products imported from China are.
The FDA alert is going to require importers to provide evidence that their product is free from melamine using third party laboratory tests, which is a step in the right direction. It does nothing, of course, to bring back the dead pets nor does it provide anything approximating a solution. It's a stop-gap measure at best. I still don't understand why we would still import this stuff right now.

And finally, you knew it would be Goldy who brings up Soylent Green. ("FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating Soylent Green would be very low.)

Double yikes.

You know, I guess we need to remember something in all this: there are strong suspicions that the melamine was added to foodstuffs on purpose for economic fraud. By importing food from China, we are essentially transporting our country back in time 100 years to the era detailed by Upton Sinclcair in "The Jungle."

Pass the sausage.

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