Criminal indictments in melamine-in-pet food scandal

I'm glad the FDA has gotten serious about people knowingly importing and selling tainted food from China. They have indicted two Chinese nationals living in the US and an executive of an American company. It would be nice if they did this for foods that threaten human beings, but for the next 347 days I guess I'll have to settle for crimes against pets.

Several companies are involved, including Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products, Arts and Crafts I/E Co. LTD. (SSC), a Chinese export broker that exports products from China to the United States; and ChemNutra, Inc., a Las Vegas, Nevada corporation that buys food and food components from China to sell to U.S. companies in the food industry:

The indictments allege that more than 800 tons of purported wheat gluten, totaling nearly $850,000, was imported into the United States between Nov. 6, 2006, and Feb. 21, 2007. According to the indictments, SSC falsely declared to the Chinese government that those shipments were not subject to mandatory inspection by the Chinese government prior to export.

Melamine can be used to create products such as plastics, cleaning products, glues, inks, and fertilizers. Under certain conditions, melamine mixed with wheat gluten can make the product appear to have a higher protein level than is actually present. Melamine has no approved use as an ingredient in human or animal food in the United States. Wheat gluten is a natural protein derived from wheat or wheat flour, which is extracted to yield a powder with high protein content. Pet food manufacturers often use wheat gluten as a thickener or binding agent in the manufacture of certain types of pet food.

ChemNutra contracted with SSC, a Chinese registered export broker, to purchase food grade wheat gluten, according to the indictment. SSC then entered into a separate contract with XAC to supply the wheat gluten it needed to fulfill its contract with ChemNutra.

The indictments allege that the products purported to be wheat gluten were misbranded because the labels incorrectly represented that the purported wheat gluten had a minimum protein level of 75%. (US FDA Press Release)

We covered this earlier (see here, here). We're not knocking the FDA for getting after people who callously put pets at risk for their own greed. We have always had dogs, which are like members of our family, so we understand the outrage. But it would be nice if we could also get up the same outrage for putting people at risk.

Maybe that's asking too much.

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It should never be an either/or argument. Both pets and people should be protected. My cat was one of thousands that died of kidney failure. "Brat" was in agony before her death. I'd hate to think of any person who suffered as much as she did, because of too little focus and funding in a place where our trust has been betrayed....repeatedly.

Was any of this tainted gluten used in human foods? I make my own bread, and have a bag of wheat gluten purchased a year or more ago from a bulk food seller, and use a half tablespoon in each batch. Is there anywhere I can find out if it is okay? rb

arby: I've not heard that this found its way into the human food chain. So I think the answer is "no". You could check with the FDA. The company that sold the gluten is also mentioned in the FDA press release which is linked in the post, above. You could try comparing what is on the package (if you till have it) and the companies named there.

Thanks, I'll call the FDA #. It was re-bagged by the seller, so no identifiers on the package. I suppose the sensible thing would be to throw it out, and with no identifiers the FDA probably wouldn't be able to say. They might know if any was used for humans tho. I buy it from an Amish store, about an 80 mile round trip, so I guess I'll see if the local supermarket carries it. Thanks again, rb

While the 2007 contaminated glutens did not make it directly into the human food supply, such melamine did make it into the human food chain:

In the United States, five potential vectors of impact on the human food supply have been identified. The first, which has already been acknowledged to have occurred by FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, is via contaminated ingredients imported for use in pet foods and sold for use as salvage in animal feed which has been fed to some number of hogs and chickens, the meat from which has been processed and sold to some number of consumers: "There is very low risk to human health" in such cases involving pork and poultry.[89][90][91][20] On 1 May 2007, the FDA and USDA stated that millions of chickens fed feed tainted with contaminated pet food had been consumed by an estimated 2.5 to 3 million people.[8]

The second potential vector is via contaminated vegetable proteins imported for intended use as animal feed, which has apparently been acknowledged to occur with regard to fish feed in Canada,[92][93] while the third possible route is via contaminated vegetable proteins imported for intended use in human food products, and the FDA has issued an import alert subjecting all Chinese vegetable proteins to detention without examination.[7][94]

A fourth potential vector is referred to in the 10 May 2007 FDA-USDA press conference, viz. incorporation of contaminated vegetable proteins into products intended for human use and subsequent importation.[93]

A fifth vector is acknowledged to have occurred in the 30 May 2007 FDA/USDA press conference, whereby U.S. manufacturers of livestock and shrimp/fish feed have acknowledged adding melamine to their products as a binder.[31][9]

Chinese protein export contamination

By Abby Kelleyite (not verified) on 17 Aug 2009 #permalink

And sadly melamine made it into infant formula and other dairy products in China in 2008 and perhaps again in 2009.
2008 Chinese Milk Scandal

By Abby Kelleyite (not verified) on 05 Jan 2010 #permalink