Today’s Update on the Pet Food Recall—4/28/2007 (Updated)

There have been additional recalls of pet foods due to contamination with melamine. Ogden, Utah-based American Nutrition has recalled 28 varieties of food:

Samples of rice protein from an Ogden pet-food manufacturer were positive for the industrial chemical melamine in federal testing, and products made by American Nutrition, Inc. (ANI) are now part of a nationwide pet food recall.

The Denver office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked the company to voluntarily recall pet foods manufactured with rice protein imported from China by San Francisco-based Wilbur-Ellis Co.

The products recalled were manufactured by American Nutrition for other independent companies and American Nutrition brands are not part of the recall, the company said in a statement.

However, several of the companies recalling food contend in statements on their Web sites that American Nutrition added the rice protein concentrate to their products without their knowledge or approval.

”It appears that ANI had been adding the unauthorized rice protein concentrate to Harmony Farms products for some time and only told the company when the FDA was about to conclude that some of ANI’s rice protein concentrate [supplied by Wilber-Ellis] was contaminated with melamine,” said a statement on the Harmony Farms site.

Other companies making similar allegations are The Blue Buffalo Co., Natural Balance, Canine Caviar, Diamond Pet Foods and Mulligan Stew Pet Food.

Brand names affected by the recall include Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul and Kirkland Signature in addition to the brands listed above. The complete list of varieties and production runs in the ANI recall is here. This brings the total number of brands and varieties that have been recalled to over 300.

Yesterday the FDA executed a search warrant on ChemNutra, the company the imported the adulterated wheat gluten and sold it to Menu Foods.

The pet food recall expands weekly and now a Las Vegas company is at the center of the investigation. Federal agents served a search warrant at ChemNutra, which is a supplier of one of the two ingredients suspected of the contamination.

The food was recalled after 16 pets, mostly cats, died from kidney failure after eating the food.

The FDA took documents and hard drives from ChemNutra hoping to find information on the wheat gluten containing melamine. ChemNutra claims the company they bought from in China added the melamine and had no idea it was in their product when it was bought.

On Friday, ChemNutra spoke with Eyewitness News about the FDA’s search.

ChemNutra’s local office remains closed, but the company’s spokesperson said it’s business as usual. On Thursday, the FDA came and took documents from the company. ChemNutra says they are cooperating fully, but their headaches are far from over.

Menu Foods, one of the companies who bought wheat gluten from ChemNutra, filed a lawsuit against the Las Vegas company. They want ChemNutra to reimburse them for the recall costs plus damages. Menu Foods says they were relying on ChemNutra to supply them with a safe product.

Just to refresh your memory, Menu Foods is one of the largest pet food manufacturers in the world, supplying most of the major pet food companies on a private label basis. ChemNutra is a small, privately-held company, specializing in imports from China and boasting of substantial expertise in that area.,

There’s more on the search here:

The FDA also is looking at all other ingredients imported by ChemNutra, and trying to reconcile what it imported with what it supplied to customers, said agency spokeswoman Julie Zawisza.

Import records obtained by The Associated Press show that since May 2006 alone ChemNutra also imported 440,000 pounds of the second suspect pet food ingredient, rice protein concentrate, from the same Chinese trading agent that handled exports of the tainted wheat gluten.

It’s unknown if ChemNutra’s rice protein concentrate was contaminated. Limited testing suggests it wasn’t. However, another company’s imports of that same ingredient, albeit from a different source, have been found to be tainted.

Ten of the 11 containers of rice protein concentrate imported by ChemNutra over the last year went to undisclosed pet food companies, spokesman Steve Stern said. The 11th is under quarantine and being tested. But just one of the other 10 is known to have been tested; results from those tests, done last week, showed it was not contaminated, Stern said.

The origin within China of the wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate remains murky. For example, ChemNutra’s source for the two vegetable proteins, Suzhou Textile Import and Export Co., told The AP that food ingredients aren’t part of its business — but that employees often take on side deals. Stern said ChemNutra dealt with the company’s president.

There’s quite a verbal battle going on between Menu Foods and ChemNutra:

NEW YORK—Menu Foods said on Friday that ChemNutra was wrong in implying that suspicious wheat gluten used in its pet food may have come from other suppliers, since it did not start having problems with tainted supplies until it starting working with ChemNutra.

U.S. officials have said the wheat gluten used in pet food made by Menu Foods was tainted with melamine, an industrial chemical that is not approved for use in food, and is linked to a U.S. pet food recall that includes over 100 brands and could expand further.

“ChemNutra’s statement is wrong, and unnecessarily alarms consumers,” a Menu Foods spokesman said via e-mail.

Earlier in the day, ChemNutra, whose offices were searched by the FDA, said it believed Menu Foods used significantly more wheat gluten every month than ChemNutra provided.

“We hope that Menu Foods will disclose its other sources to the FDA to ensure that any suspect product is quarantined,” ChemNutra Chief Executive Steve Miller said.

Menu Foods, which is based in Canada, acknowledged that it has been using wheat gluten from two suppliers in the United States and Europe for many years, but had not experienced any problems until it also started buying the ingredient from ChemNutra.

Post hoc propter hoc.

So far three contaminants, aminopterin (a rat poison), melamine (an industrial chemical used in dinnerware, counter-tops, and as a fertilizer in Asia), and cyanuric acid (used in swimming pools to keep the chlorine from breaking down in sunlight). Here’s a good primer on some of the research that’s going on.

Other resources on the pet food recall:

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


I’ve put some additional thoughts of my own on the possible source and nature of the contamination here.

3 comments… add one
  • Rick Link

    Could someone please explain to me why US and Canadian companies are importing wheat and corn products from China in the first place? It is my understanding that producing vast excesses of these agricultural products was one of the few remaining things at which we (north americans) excelled.

  • There are a couple of reasons, Rick. First, although the U. S. and Canada produce a lot of wheat and corn they don’t produce a lot of wheat, corn, or rice gluten. Most of that is produced either by the EU or China.

    Why that’s true is kind of complicated. The wheat we grow here tends to be somewhat lower in gluten than that grown in Europe. The Europeans and Chinese use more wheat gluten than we do by and large. Other reasons.

    And, of course, Chinese wheat gluten tends to be about 20% cheaper than European wheat gluten. Now I think we know why.

  • Jeff Yaki Link

    Since the communist Chinese government owns all Chinese companies, they should be held directly liable for all damages caused by this contamination. If they don’t comply, I think an American boycott of all things made in China is in order!

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