The New York Times has a story today claiming that the adulteration of animal feed to make it appear that it contains more protein than it actually does is a common, well-known practice in China—an open secret:
ZHANGQIU, China, April 28 — As American food safety regulators head to China to investigate how a chemical made from coal found its way into pet food that killed dogs and cats in the United States, workers in this heavily polluted northern city openly admit that the substance is routinely added to animal feed as a fake protein.
For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.
“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed,” said Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company, which sells melamine. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there won’t be any regulation.”
Melamine is at the center of a recall of 60 million packages of pet food, after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked this month to the deaths of at least 16 pets and the illness of possibly thousands of pets in the United States.
This is no particular surprise. I predicted something of the sort in my near-daily coverage of this story here on The Glittering Eye weeks ago. To me the significance is that it’s being reported by The New York Times as its lead story in the online edition rather than being relegated to the back pages or the Health section. Where is it in the print edition?
The Chinese have steadfastly maintained that, while at least acknowledging that Chinese exporters supplied wheat gluten (and now rice and corn glutens) adulterated with melamine, the melamine had nothing to do with the deaths and injuries of pets in this country. That continues to be possible.
However, as I noted in my post, it’s at least plausible to suspect that melamine, combined with cyanuric acid (a product of decomposition of atrazine—a commonly used herbicide), may form crystals that can block the kidneys.
Canada is stopping vegetable proteins from China at the border:
Canada’s food inspectors have issued border lookouts for vegetable proteins coming from China to prevent melamine — a chemical used to make plastics — from contaminating the human food chain, CBC News has learned.
Inspectors will seize wheat gluten, soy proteins, corn glutens and rice proteins from China — ingredients already found to contain melamine and other contaminants in hundreds of pet-food products. The proteins are destined for human food.
Melamine, also used to make fertilizer, was blamed for the deaths of a number of cats and dogs in North America and making hundreds of pets ill.
“That’s why we have the border lookout for the ingredient, so that we can proactively assess any potential that the product is contaminated,” said Paul Mayers of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
“We will subject the shipments to testing and the shipment will be held until the results of the test clear it in terms of the absence of the contaminant.”
Hat tip: Steve Jahnke
The official FDA position continues to be that there is no threat to the human food supply. I see no way they can determine this without knowing the scope of the problem which, according to the NYT story, appears pretty large. Why aren’t we taking measures like this in the U. S.? Isn’t it more important to preserve our health than make us feel good?
At this point we know or have good reason to believe the following:
- Some number of cats and dogs have been killed or injured as a result of eating contaminated pet food. The the number of deaths may be in the thousands; the number of injuries in the tens of thousands.
- Wheat, rice, and, possibly, corn gluten obtained from China has been found to be contaminated with melamine.
- These products were sold as human-grade—suitable for human consumption.
- Melamine shouldn’t be in animal or human food at all.
- Adding melamine to vegetable products to boost its apparent protein content is active fraud—a crime.
- The practice may be commonplace in China.
IMO we should be taking active measures against Chinese agricultural products immediately—at least until China can demonstrate that what we buy from their exporters is what it’s being sold as. This should also be added to the U. S.’s growing WTO case against China.