Today’s Update on the Pet Food Recall—4/24/2007

China has agreed to admit FDA investigators to pursue the contamination of pet food that has sickened thousands of pets and killed who knows how many:

BEIJING, April 23 — China on Monday has given American regulators permission to enter the country to investigate whether Chinese suppliers exported contaminated pet food ingredients to the United States earlier this year, leading to one of the largest pet food recalls in American history.

Representatives of the United States Food and Drug Administration had been blocked from entering China, despite growing evidence that the tainted pet food that killed at least 16 cats and dogs and sickened thousands of other animals in the United States originated with Chinese exporters of wheat gluten and other animal feed ingredients.

The F.D.A. confirmed Monday that it has now opened a criminal investigation into the pet food scandal, but the agency did not name the target or say whether any American companies may have intentionally laced animal feed with banned ingredients. On Tuesday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is scheduled to hold hearings on how to secure the safety of the country’s food supply.

Last Thursday, the F.D.A. expanded its already large pet food recall after it found more evidence that an industrial chemical called melamine had contaminated the supplies of additional pet food makers, including Royal Canin US and C. J. Foods.

The agency, which has already recalled more than 60 million packages of pet food, is also investigating imports of rice protein from China.

Regulators in California said this week that they had found melamine in rice protein animal feed that was fed to livestock, and the fear is that the chemical could have entered the human food supply chain through hogs.

Laboratory testing in California had detected melamine in urine from hogs at the American Hog Farm in Ceres, Calif. California regulators have alerted anyone who purchased pork from American Hog Farm from April 3 to April 18 to be cautious.

In its news release over the weekend, the F.D.A. also identified a second Chinese company that had exported animal feed tainted with melamine to American pet food and animal feed suppliers.

Terse but true:

But let’s be clear: What’s wrong with pet food is not that it contains animal parts such as beaks, intestines, animal necks, feet and undeveloped eggs that finicky Americans reject as icky. After all, Fido’s ancestral diet includes deer carcass and Fluffy is partial to rat parts.

The problem with pet food—whether it’s ground steak or chopped rectum, sawdust or grain filler—is that with FDA approval, it can include ingredients that are putrid, disease-ridden, and filled with the chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

There’s a great article on a cattle industry web site. It’s short so I’ll quote it in full:

Last week’s news of additional pet food recalls was certainly not a welcome development for pet owners and veterinarians. Adding insult to injury, allegations now exist that the inclusion of melamine may have been intentional. However, weekend reports of potential contamination, albeit unintentional, at a California hog farm (resulting from ration inclusion of salvaged pet food) bring the situation home for animal agriculture.

America’s food industry infrastructure is vulnerable to such incidents and subsequent loss of business continuity. The system possesses a high degree of interdependence – critical to its efficiency and produces unmatched productivity across the globe. That attribute is a double-edged sword: connectedness, and resulting synergism, also makes the entire system vulnerable to hasty decisions and/or criminal threats. Subsequently, the need to secure all inputs and locations becomes especially important – damage to any one location possesses potential widespread ramifications. That’s not an easy task. Production of commodities and raw materials is widespread and difficult to protect or continuously monitor.

Miscues at any level of production can potentially shut down a large portion of the food production system. Maintaining business continuity is a relatively new concern for animal agriculture in recent years. Producers at all stages of the production chain need to become increasingly aware of their role within the system. Such awareness leads to improved integrity for maintaining agriculture security.

Perhaps most helpful would be the initiation of preferred supplier networks. In other words, be certain that inputs, supplies and equipment come from reputable, known sources. Ultimately, the preferred scenario for all of production agriculture would include secure facilities and widespread utilization of Security-Certified Select Suppliers: vendors and suppliers would operate within secure environments while deliveries to various operations would be accepted only if they were derived from a previously established network.

So others are catching on to the point I’ve been making for weeks: this is a security issue.

The recall has gone international: there’s apparently some evidence that contaminated pet food has been shipped to other countries.

Finally, we still haven’t heard from two of the pet food manufacturers who received the contaminated rice gluten and the FDA has declined to identify them. The longer contaminated pet food stays on store shelves and in our larders the more pets will be injured. Call or write your Congressman!

Other resources on the pet food recall:

Menu Food Recall page
FDA Pet Food Recall page
AVMA Comprehensive List of Recalled Foods

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