Tainted Pet Food Found in Hogs in Several States
April 25, 2007 03:55:45 PM PST
By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) — Contaminated pet food, the focus of a massive nationwide recall last month, has been fed to hogs in at least five states, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.
Ten pet food manufacturers sent unusable dog and cat food containing the toxic chemical melamine to hog producers in California, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and possibly Ohio, FDA officials announced during a late afternoon press conference. Contaminated pet food was also sent to one chicken farm in Missouri, the officials added.
“Hogs that have been fed salvage pet food in North Carolina, South Carolina and California were tested, and levels of melamine were detected in their urine,” Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, FDA’s director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, told reporters at the teleconference.
Whether any of the contaminated meat has entered the U.S. food supply isn’t known, Sundlof added. But all the hogs at the farms have been quarantined, he said.
In addition, he said, the FDA has begun to test several types of imported protein supplements used both in human and pet food for the presence of melamine, a chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers.
The imported melamine found in dog and cat food was apparently used to boost the protein content of the foods, and has sickened and killed an unknown number of animals.
“The FDA will begin testing a variety of protein ingredients in finished products commonly found in the U.S. food and feed supply for the presence of melamine,” Sundlof said. The agency will focus on newly imported products as well as products already in the country, he added.
Products to be tested include wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate, corn gluten, corn meal, soy protein and rice bran, Sundlof said. Other products may be added to the list later.
These ingredients are used widely in human foods, Dr. David Acheson, FDA’s chief medical officer at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told reporters. “Things like breads, pastas, cereals, pizza dough, energy bars and protein shakes,” he added.
However, he said, “At this time there is no indication that melamine has been added to ingredients other than those used in the pet food.”
Melamine was first found in pet foods manufactured by the Canadian company Menu Foods, which began its recall March 16 with moist dog and cat foods made with melamine-contaminated wheat gluten from China.
The recall has since expanded to other pet food manufacturers and other pet food ingredients, including the imported rice protein concentrate and corn gluten.
On Tuesday, however, Sundlof also announced that in addition to melamine, the FDA has now found cyanuric acid in the rice protein concentrate used for the pet food.
Like melamine, cyanuric acid is a chemical that can be used to boost the apparent protein content of foods but is normally used as a stabilizer in outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs.
“We are testing for that compound as well,” Sundlof said.
The pet food recall has gotten the attention of the U.S. Congress, and two senators have asked the FDA to be more forthcoming in disclosing information about the companies involved in importing pet food ingredients.
In a letter to the FDA, Democratic Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Maria Cantwell of Washington state asked the agency to reveal the names of all importers of the contaminated rice protein concentrate, which was first recalled last week by Wilbur-Ellis Co. of San Francisco, and the names of the companies that received the shipments.
“We have learned that in addition to Wilbur-Ellis, a second United States company imported a shipment of rice protein from China that is also likely to be contaminated with melamine,” the senators wrote. “We request the FDA identify this second importer as well as those manufacturers to which it may have sold the contaminated product.”
The FDA confirmed at Tuesday afternoon’s teleconference that another company also imported rice protein concentrate from the same Chinese company as Wilbur-Ellis, but the agency continued to refused to identify the U.S. company.
On Monday, however, China finally gave U.S. regulators permission to enter the country to investigate whether Chinese suppliers had exported contaminated pet food ingredients to the United States this year, The New York Times reported.
Previously, China had barred FDA representatives from entering the country despite evidence that the contaminant in the U.S. pet food supply came from Chinese exporters of wheat gluten and other animal feed ingredients, the Times said.