There have been several important developments in the pet food recall which continues to unfold. You may recall that yesterday I reported that there had been a recall of imported Chinese rice gluten which had also been found to be contaminated with melamine. This may have a broader impact than might have been initially imagined:
STANISLAUS COUNTY — A Stanislaus County hog farm was placed under quarantine after an industrial chemical that’s tainted more than 100 brands of dog and cat food was found in pig urine there, state agriculture officials said late Thursday.
Additional testing was under way to determine if the chemical, melamine, was present in the meat produced by American Hog Farm in Ceres since April 3, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
“Although all animals appear healthy, we are taking this action out of an abundance of caution,” State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer said in a statement. “It is unknown if the chemical will be detected in meat.”
State officials believe the melamine came from rice protein concentrate imported from China by Diamond Pet Food’s Lathrop facility, which produces products under the Natural Balance brand and sold salvage pet food to the farm for pig feed.
Unfortunately, that’s not all. A third product, also imported from China, has been determined to be contaminated with melamine:
Meanwhile in South Africa, melamine has been found in Royal Canin pet food company’s Vets Choice and Royal Canin dry dog and cat food sold exclusively in South Africa and Namibia. The source of the melamine appears to be from corn gluten imported from China, according to published reports.
The FDA believes that the pet food product contamination might be intentional. Melamine can make it appear that the protein content of the wheat or corn gluten or protein concentrate is higher than it actually is.
“We are aware that melamine can increase protein content,” Sundlof said. “It’s still a theory, but it seems to be a plausible one. The motivation would be economic in that you can take a product that is low in protein and would not qualify for the designation as protein supplement and make it appear that it has a high protein content so it can be sold at a higher price.”
Where things stand now
Three products, imported from China for use in pet foods through three different Chinese exporters, wheat gluten, rice gluten concentrate, and corn gluten, have all been determined to have been contaminated with melamine in an apparent attempt to make them appear to contain more protein that they actually do. It is not known how the products became contaminated but with three different products from three different suppliers showing the contamination it now strains credulity that the contamination was an isolated incident or that it was accidental.
More than 100 brands and varieties of pet food have been recalled. Fot details on what has been recalled see the following resources:
We’re left with a number of unanswered questions:
- How did the wheat gluten, rice gluten concentrate, and corn gluten become contaminated with melamine? Melamine shouldn’t be present in these products in any quantity.
- Is melamine toxic to dogs and cats? Melamine has not been considered a toxin.
- If melamine isn’t toxic, what is causing the kidney failure and deaths in pets?
- Is melamine toxic to humans? If so, we’ve got an enormously larger problem before us. Melamine is used in dinnerware, cooking implements, and kitchen countertops both in private homes and commercially.
- Has melamine entered the human food supply? The FDA says “they have no reason to believe…”, etc., but that’s weaselly bureaucratese. I continue to see no way they can make that determination without knowing the scope of the problem (and, since additional products are being recalled nearly daily, it’s obvious they can’t identify the scope of the problem at this time), how the melamine got into the wheat gluten, rice gluten concentrate, and corn gluten, and where else the contamined products were sold.
Write your congressman. This is a serious problem.