I’m glad to see the activity but I worry that the Chinese AND the FDA will try to pin everything on one or two supposedly rogue operators. Its very apparent that the system is broken and ALL food stuffs from China (including things such as ascorbic acid put in our foods and drinks to increase Vitamin C levels) need to be BLOCKED. Stop the imports until China fixes its system (if it can). Until then, a few arrests mean nothing.
China Makes Arrest in Pet Food Case
By DAVID BARBOZA
Published: May 4, 2007
SHANGHAI, May 3 The general manager of one of the companies accused of selling contaminated wheat gluten to pet food suppliers in the United States has been detained by the Chinese authorities, according to police officials here and a person who was briefed on the investigation.
Mao Lijun, head of the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company, is being held in coastal Jiangsu Province, about 320 miles northwest of Shanghai, though a police spokesman in Pei County declined to say on what charges.
In a telephone interview a few weeks ago, Mr. Mao denied any knowledge of how melamine, an industrial chemical, had adulterated pet food supplies sold under his company label earlier this year. He also insisted that his company had never exported any wheat gluten and that his products were only sold in the domestic market.
But regulators in the United States identified Xuzhou Anying and another Chinese company in nearby Shandong Province as the only sources of the contaminated ingredients that led to one of the biggest pet food recalls in American history.
Scientists are still trying to explain how melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, fertilizer and surface coatings but not considered very toxic, caused so many deaths.
The contamination which affected some of the leading American pet food brands has killed 16 animals and sickened thousands of others, according to the F.D.A.
The arrest of Mr. Mao may be an indication that the Chinese government is stepping up its own investigation into the scandal and also trying to show its willingness to cooperate with Food and Drug Administration investigators who arrived in China on Monday.
Concerns about the quality and safety of Chinas agriculture exports have already led to an American ban on all wheat gluten entering the country from China and a warning for importers to sample or test all food and feed additives coming from this country.
Last month, South Africa also announced a pet food recall after more than 30 dogs died from eating food contaminated with melamine-tainted ingredients imported from China.
The Chinese government had initially reacted angrily to suggestions that Chinese food exports could have been the cause of death in so many American pets. At one point, the Chinese government even insisted that the country had not exported any wheat gluten to the United States this year.
People briefed on the United States investigation also complained that the Chinese government was reacting slowly to efforts by American regulators to get information from China as well as visas to visit the country.
But last week, with the pet food scandal widening and touching off global concerns, the government dropped the denial and only insisted that it was unlikely melamine could cause such harm in pets. Last Friday, however, China banned the use of melamine in vegetable proteins that are made for export or for use in domestic food.
The government also approved the visas for regulators to travel here in the hopes of finding the source of the contamination.
The Chinese government now appears to be cooperating with American regulators. Last week, the F.D.A. issued an import alert circular that said the Chinese government had evidence that Xuzhou Anying was not the manufacturer of the tainted wheat gluten but may have had as many as 25 wheat gluten suppliers.
ChemNutra, the Las Vegas company that bought the wheat gluten and resold it to pet food makers in the United States, said it thought that Xuzhou was the manufacturer.
Regulators also said that Xuzhou had failed to disclose to Chinas export authorities that it was shipping food or feed products to the United States and thereby avoided having its goods checked by food inspectors.
The Xuzhou shipments to ChemNutra were made through another Chinese company, the Suzhou Textiles Silk Light Industrial Company.
Despite its denials of knowing anything about melamine contamination, Xuzhou appears to have sought to buy large supplies of melamine, even in the weeks after the pet food recall.
The company had posted more than a dozen advertisement on the Internet seeking supplies of melamine scrap, the impure waste of an industrial chemical that animal feed producers here often mix into the feed to artificially increase the reading of the protein.
The producers here do that, many acknowledge, to cheat buyers into thinking they are getting higher grade feed, even though the melamine has no nutritional value.
On March 21, Xuzhou Anying had posted this on an Internet trading site called EC21: We urgently need a lot of melamine scrap.”
Calls made today to the other Chinese supplier under suspicion, the Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Company, went unanswered.
Despite the ban on melamine in vegetable protein, chemical companies in China continue to say they sell melamine scrap to animal feed companies and even to food companies that make bakery items.