Thursday, April 26, 2007

Caveat Emptor; Caveat Bestia-The Saga Continues

A 4/24 press release from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that the FDA investigation regarding the recent pet food contamination recall has expanded to include the quarantine of hog farms in at least five states including California, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Utah, and possibly Ohio. In addition, it is possible one poultry farm in Missouri may have been exposed. Unfortunately, it seems Pandora's Box may have been cracked open!

The trigger for this broadened investigation has been the detection of melamine in the urine of hogs fed "salvage pet food" originating from those manufacturers of pet food that have issued recalls due to melamine contamination. The FDA's chief veterinarian Stephen Sundlof could not confirm wether or not any of these hogs entered the human food supply. The FDA and the USDA are presently investigating this possibility noting thousands of hogs could potentially be affected.

In the US, wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate ingredients imported from China have been implicated as primary sources of the melamine contamination. Interestingly, South Africa has issued a pet food recall due to melamine contaminated corn gluten.

To date, all of the contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate located by the FDA comes from China imported through two different distributors. I am still having trouble wrapping my head around why the US, quite a large exporter of wheat would import wheat gluten back into the states.

In a recent article, I touched on an interesting internet group discussion about this:

"The vast majority of this wheat (US) is human food grade quality and fetches a premium price in the international commodities market. The Chinese wheat harvest, on the other hand, does not meet US or most other international standards for human consumption and can be an attractive cheaper alternative for some pet food companies or their suppliers...The fact that many companies are using cheap and questionable materials is because they can (lack of effective regulatory control) and because they have to (low profit margins and a highly competitive arena)."

There is an interesting take on this at David Goldsteins site HorsesAss.Org regarding the possibility of "economic adulteration".

"Testifying this morning before the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, ChemNutra CEO Steve Miller- the importer of melamine-tainted wheat gluten...explains the theory: We at ChemNutra strongly suspect, at this point, that XuZhou Anying Biologic Technology Development CO. Ltd may have added melamine to the wheat gluten as an "economic adulteration" designed to make inferior wheat gluten appear to have a higher protein content. "

What ever the case may be, there is a problem. What I didn't realize was just how far this might actually go. The AVMA press release adds that the FDA is now testing 100% of wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate, and corn gluten being imported from China. In addition, the testing is now expanding to include corn meal, rice bran, and soy protein as well. The FDA adds that these imported ingredients may be used for human consumption in products such as bread, pasta, baby formula, and pizza dough. Geees!

Though there is no evidence any of these melamine contaminated products have been sent to human food processing facilities "an expanded investigation is the prudent thing to do" the FDA release notes. Indeed!

At the end of the release it is mentioned that "the FDA will be conducting an outreach effort to communicate the need for manufacturers to know their suppliers well." Good advise for all of us.

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