Thanks to USAToday for this article.
China admits tainted food link
By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY
BEIJING Chinese authorities acknowledged for the first time that ingredients exported to make pet food contained a prohibited chemical, stepping up their probe of two Chinese companies’ roles in one of the USA’s largest animal-food recalls.
While pledging cooperation with U.S. authorities investigating the recall, the Chinese government in a statement Thursday also disputed that the chemical melamine, which is used to make plastic was responsible for harming pets.
“There is no clear evidence showing that melamine is the direct cause of the poisoning or death of the pets,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing argued in a prepared statement. “China is willing to strengthen cooperation with the U.S. side to find out the real cause leading to the pet deaths in order to protect the health of the pets of the two countries.”
In a sign of government urgency, Chinese police two days ago sealed the headquarters of Binzhou Futian Bio-Technology, which exported rice protein concentrate to the USA for use in pet food. Paper strips were pasted across the doors of the eight ground-floor rooms the company rents in Wudi County, a five-hour drive southeast of Beijing.
As inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration prepare to visit the firms where the ingredients were made, Chinese and American food experts here say China’s vast and fragmented food-processing industry makes inspection difficult and increases the likelihood of future problems.
FDA tests identified melamine in imported wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate in pet foods. It also has said cyanuric acid, a chemical related to melamine used in cleaning pools, was found in wheat gluten. The agency has said melamine, a chemical high in nitrogen, might have been added to the grain products to make them appear higher in protein than they were.
Since March 16, cat and dog food sold under more than 100 brand names have been recalled. The FDA has said 14 pets died after eating recalled foods, but anecdotal reports from veterinarians and pet owners point to higher numbers.
President Hu Jintao this week urged officials to intensify work on food safety, a growing concern among consumers in China, where mass poisonings from tainted products are common. Hu called on officials to monitor the entire food-production process and focus on prevention and resolving problems at their source.
That won’t be easy, said Luo Yunbo at the College of Food Science and Nutritional Engineering at China Agricultural University, who briefed China’s leader Monday on the FDA’s role in food safety. “China is such a large country, with such a large population, and agricultural production is by individual farmers on a very small scale,” Luo said. “There are so many farmers and food producers that it is a great challenge to inspect all foodstuffs and teach people better agricultural standards.”
About 6,000 hogs in eight U.S. states may have been fed pet food made from salvage products that had the tainted rice gluten. The pet food was sold for reformulation before melamine was found. Several hundred hogs may have entered the human food supply, FDA officials said. While there is no tolerance for melamine in food, the FDA’s Daniel McChesney said, “we believe the risks to be very low to humans.”