FDA Links Melamine Fertilizer to Tainted Menu Food and Confirms Dry Food May Have Been Affected
Thanks to Ted R. for barking over more news from the New York Times on the Menu pet food scandal.
F.D.A. Tests Show Chemical in Pet Food
By BRENDA GOODMAN
Published: March 30, 2007
ATLANTA, Ga., March 30 Scientists with the Food and Drug Administration have linked a chemical to the illness and deaths of cats eating tainted food and raised for the first time the possibility that dry pet food may have been affected as well as wet food.
F.D.A. officials said at a news conference today that they have linked the chemical melamine, which they said is used as a fertilizer in Asia, to the kidneys of the affected cats. Thousands of owners of both cats and dogs who feed their pets wet or dry food have complained that their pets have become ill, but the F.D.A. has not yet determined if those illnesses are linked to pet food.
The agency has recalled a batch of contaminated Chinese wheat gluten that was sent to many pet food manufacturers, including one that makes dry dog food.
But they said they do not know yet if the contaminated wheat gluten has been used to make pet food. And the F.D.A.s finding was also immediately disputed by the New York State Food Laboratory, the testing facility that announced last Friday it had identified Aminopterin, a rat poison, in samples of tainted cat food.
Because the F.D.A. identified melamine crystals in the kidneys of affected cats, the agency is presuming the illnesses are related to the chemical, said Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the F.D.A.s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
F.D.A officials have not yet released the name of the dry pet food company that received the contaminated wheat gluten, saying it was not clear if any of that gluten had yet been made into dog food.
We are in the plant right now," said Michael Rogers, director of the division of field investigations in the office of regulatory affairs for the F.D.A. At this time, were not certain any dry food was made with that wheat gluten. As soon as we find out what dry food, if any, was manufactured, we will announce it publicly."
Jessica A Chittenden, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, said We dont think this is the final conclusion. Melamine is not a known toxin. Theres not enough data to show that it is toxic to cats."
She added: We are confident we found Aminopterin, and it makes sense with the pathology. She also said another laboratory, Animal Health Laboratory at the University of Guelph in Canada, had confirmed the presence of Aminopterin in the samples.
But the F.D.A. said they had been unable to find Aminopterin in the pet food samples it had tested. Researchers at Cornell said they were also unable to find any evidence of the rat poison.
We believe the laboratories involved in this investigation should continue to maintain an open forum to definitively identify the one or more agents that are causing the deaths and illnesses of cats and dogs so that they do not enter the animal or human food chain in the future," said Patrick Hooker, the agricultural commissioner for the state of New York.
Though Dr. Sundlof said he was not certain melamine was the chemical causing illness in dogs and cats, at this point in the investigation, we are not focusing on Aminopterin."
F.D.A. officials announced they had received more than 8,000 complaints from pet owners with sick pets, but they have not yet had the luxury of time to confirm all of those complaints are linked to tainted pet food.
Officials did acknowledge, however, that many of the complaints were from owners who only fed their pets dry food.