Pieces of melamine displayed by a worker. The melamine is ground into a powder
and added to animal feed as a filler to keep costs low.
Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in
ZHANGQIU, China, April 28 — As American food safety regulators head to China
to investigate how a chemical made from coal found its way into pet food that
killed dogs and cats in the United States, workers in this heavily polluted
northern city openly admit that the substance is routinely added to animal feed
as a fake protein.
For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented
their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like
protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits,
according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.
“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed,”
said Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company,
which sells melamine. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on it. Probably not.
No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing it. The laws in
China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there won’t be any
Melamine is at the center of a recall of 60 million packages of pet food,
after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked this month to the deaths of
at least 16 pets and the illness of possibly thousands of pets in the United
No one knows exactly how melamine (which is not believed to be particularly
toxic) became so fatal in pet food, but its presence in any form of American
food is illegal.
The link to China has set off concerns among critics of the Food
and Drug Administration that ingredients in pet food as well as human food,
which are increasingly coming from abroad, are not being adequately
“They have fewer people inspecting product at the ports than ever before,”
says Caroline Smith DeWaal, the director of food safety for the Center
for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. “Until China gets programs
in place to verify the safety of their products, they need to be inspected by
U.S. inspectors. This open-door policy on food ingredients is an open invitation
for an attack on the food supply, either intentional or unintentional.”
Now, with evidence mounting that the tainted wheat gluten came from China,
American regulators have been granted permission to visit the region to conduct
inspections of food treatment facilities.
The Food and Drug Administration has already banned imports of wheat gluten
from China after it received more than 14,000 reports of pets believed to have
been sickened by packaged food. And last week, the agency opened a criminal
investigation in the case and searched the offices of at least one pet food
The Department of Agriculture has also stepped in. On Thursday, the agency
ordered more than 6,000 hogs to be quarantined or slaughtered after some of the
pet food ingredients laced with melamine were accidentally sent to hog farms in
eight states, including California.
The pet food case is also putting China’s agricultural exports under greater
scrutiny because the country has had a terrible food safety record.
In recent years, for instance, China’s food safety scandals have involved
everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair to
instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their color
and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim.
For their part, Chinese officials dispute any suggestion that melamine from
the country could have killed pets. But regulators here on Friday banned the use
of melamine in vegetable proteins made for export or for use in domestic food
Yet what is clear from visiting this region of northeast China is that for
years melamine has been quietly mixed into Chinese animal feed and then sold to
unsuspecting farmers as protein-rich pig, poultry and fish feed.
Many animal feed operators here advertise on the Internet, seeking to
purchase melamine scrap. The Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development
Company, one of the companies that American regulators named as having shipped
melamine-tainted wheat gluten to the United States, had posted such a notice on
the Internet last March.
Here at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group factory, huge boiler vats
are turning coal into melamine, which is then used to create plastics and
But the leftover melamine scrap, golf ball-size chunks of white rock, is
sometimes being sold to local agricultural entrepreneurs, who say they mix a
powdered form of the scrap into animal feed to deceive those who raise animals
into thinking they are buying feed that is high in protein.
“It just saves money if you add melamine scrap,” said the manager of an
animal feed factory here.
Last Friday here in Zhangqiu, a fast-growing industrial city southeast of
Beijing, two animal feed producers explained in great detail how they purchase
low-grade wheat, corn, soybean or other proteins and then mix in small portions
of nitrogen-rich melamine scrap, whose chemical properties help the feed
register an inflated protein level.
Melamine is the new scam of choice, they say, because urea — another
nitrogen-rich chemical — is illegal for use in pig and poultry feed and can be
easily detected in China as well as in the United States.
“People use melamine scrap to boost nitrogen levels for the tests,” said the
manager of the animal feed factory. “If you add it in small quantities, it won’t
hurt the animals.”
The manager, who works at a small animal feed operation here that consists of
a handful of storage and mixing areas, said he has mixed melamine scrap into
animal feed for years.
He said he was not currently using melamine. But he then pulled out a plastic
bag containing what he said was melamine powder and said he could dye it any
color to match the right feed stock.
He said that melamine used in pet food would probably not be harmful. “Pets
are not like pigs or chickens,” he said casually, explaining that they can
afford to eat less protein. “They don’t need to grow fast.”
The resulting melamine-tainted feed would be weak in protein, he
acknowledged, which means the feed is less nutritious.
But, by using the melamine additive, the feed seller makes a heftier profit
because melamine scrap is much cheaper than soy, wheat or corn protein.
“It’s true you can make a lot more profit by putting melamine in,” said
another animal feed seller here in Zhangqiu. “Melamine will cost you about $1.20
for each protein count per ton whereas real protein costs you about $6, so you
can see the difference.”
Feed producers who use melamine here say the tainted feed is often shipped to
feed mills in the Yangtze River Delta, near Shanghai, or down to Guangdong
Province, near Hong Kong. They also said they knew that some melamine-laced feed
had been exported to other parts of Asia, including South Korea, North Korea,
Indonesia and Thailand.
Evidence is mounting that Chinese protein exports have been tainted with
melamine and that its use in agricultural regions like this one is widespread.
But the government has issued no recall of any food or feed product here in
Indeed, few people outside the agriculture business know about the use of
melamine scrap. The Chinese news media — which is strictly censored — has not
reported much about the country’s ties to the pet
food recall in the United States. And few in agriculture here see any harm
in using melamine in small doses; they simply see it as cheating a little on
protein, not harming animals or pets.
As for the sale of melamine scrap, it is increasingly popular as a fake
ingredient in feed, traders and workers here say.
At the Hebei Haixing Insect Net Factory in nearby Hebei Province, which makes
animal feed, a manager named Guo Qingyin said: “In the past melamine scrap was
free, but the price has been going up in the past few years. Consumption of
melamine scrap is probably bigger than that of urea in the animal feed industry
And so melamine producers like the ones here in Zhangqiu are busy.
A man named Jing, who works in the sales department at the Shandong Mingshui
Great Chemical Group factory here, said on Friday that prices have been rising,
but he said that he had no idea how the company’s melamine scrap is used.
“We have an auction for melamine scrap every three months,” he said. “I
haven’t heard of it being added to animal feed. It’s not for animal
Pet Food Toxin Said To Be Common In China
BEIJING, April 30, 2007
The mildly toxic chemical melamine is commonly added to animal
feed in China, a manager of a feed company and one of the chemical's producers
said Monday, a process that boosts the feed's sales value but risks introducing
the chemical into meat eaten by humans.
Customers either don't know or
aren't concerned about the practice, said Wang Jianhui, manager of the Kaiyuan
Protein Feed company in the northern city of Shijiazhuang.
running the melamine feed business for about 15 years and receiving positive
responses from our customers," Wang told The Associated Press in a telephone
"Using the proper quantity of melamine will not harm the
animals. Our products are very safe, for sure," Wang said.
apparently widely practiced in China, concern over the use of melamine arose
only in March, after the U.S. recall of nearly 100 brands of pet food made with
wheat gluten contaminated by the chemical. Adding melamine to food is illegal
under American law, and China's government last week said
it was banning its use in food products
Adding melamine raises the
nitrogen level of feed, making it appear that the feed is higher in protein
without increasing its nutritional value. That makes it attractive to makers of
feed for stock animals such as pigs, chickens, and fish, as well as companies
that make prepared foods for household pets such as cats and dogs.
Despite Wang's claim of safety, pet food tainted with melamine
apparently has resulted in kidney failure in an unknown number of cats and other
animals across the United States.
Some pet food was also shipped to hog
farms in several states for use as feed and was later discovered to have another
ingredient, rice protein concentrate, imported from China that was also tainted
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has blocked wheat
and rice gluten from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. and
Binzhou Futian Bio-technology Co. after melamine was found in samples taken from
batches used to make pet food.
Although the FDA said there is no reason
to believe the hogs pose any danger to humans, the quarantined swine will be
euthanized and not sent markets, CBS' The Early Show's
veterinarian, Dr. Debbye Turner reported.
China's government has
said it will allow officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to
investigate melamine contamination.
Melamine is not considered a human
health concern, but there is no scientific data on the health effects of
melamine combined with the other compounds. Made from coal, the chemical is
usually used in the making of plastics or fertilizer.
"A lot of
animal food companies buy melamine from us to add in the animal feed," said Ji
Denghui, manager of Sanming Dinghui Chemical Trading Co. based in the eastern
province of Fujian. "This can lower the production cost and increase nitrogen
Xuzhou Anying was found to have posted an advertisement on the
Web site of online market place 999ce.com in March seeking to buy melamine.
Other online searches for companies seeking to buy melamine were linked to
companies in the chemical industry.
Xuzhou Anying's ad did not say what
it intended to use the melamine for and managers have said they don't know how
melamine came to be in the contaminated wheat gluten, which it claims to have
purchased from another supplier.
However, Ji of Dinghui Chemical said
the practice was not considered illegal and downplayed the risk.
as I know, there are no rules of regulations that make this illegal. As to
whether melamine is toxic or not, I believe it won't do any harm if there is
only very small amount," Ji said. "Otherwise, those companies could not do
Calls to China's food safety regulator, the State Administration
of Quality Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine, rang unanswered Monday
Tainted animal feed is merely the latest revelation about
China's food safety woes, ranging from dye-tainted fish, and fake baby formula
to the alleged use of ingredients intended for animal consumption to make snack
China's entirely state-controlled media has given little
publicity to the melamine contamination, although the issue was being hotly
debated on online forums where Chinese often feel freer to express opinions
about controversial topics.
"The food industry is based on integrity,
but our society already lacks even the basic sense of conscience," said a writer
using the name "Rhino" in a message posted on a forum run by the official Xinhua
|Tuesday, May 01, 2007
|Pet food recall bolsters move to
RICK WEISS AND
ARIANA EUNJUNG CHA - The WASHINGTON POST
Note: searches of the Washington Post for pet food and for Ariana Eunjung Cha found other articles by Cha but did not find this article.
Amid growing revelations that suppliers in China frequently spike pet food
and other food ingredients with contaminants to boost profits, momentum is
building in Washington to bolster the Food and Drug Administration's capacity to
detect and screen out adulterated imports.
Several Chinese suppliers conceded over the weekend that adding melamine to
pet food ingredients -- now blamed for the deaths of many U.S. pets and possible
contamination of the human food supply -- is but the latest technique for
fooling U.S. companies into thinking they are purchasing a high-quality
Before melamine there was urea, Chinese traders said -- another nitrogen-rich
chemical that was used to give false high scores on tests of protein content but
was abandoned after it made animals ill.
The task of guarding against contaminants in imports has become far more
complicated because a growing portion of the tens of billions of dollars in
Chinese food and agricultural imports involves powders and concentrates for the
processed food industry -- including the wheat gluten and rice protein at the
center of the pet food scandal. Animal feed imports alone grew seven-fold from
2001 to 2006, the Commerce Department says.
Such products pose a threefold problem: Their makeup is not obvious by visual
inspection; they can be easily and invisibly contaminated or intentionally
spiked with chemicals that are not on the FDA's standard battery of tests; and
because they have been through several stages of processing and trade, their
origins are often vague.
Now a growing number of legislators, scientists and others are saying it is
time to modernize FDA's authority to trace the sources of food imports and
punish scofflaws -- legal powers that experts say have barely evolved in the
past 70 years.
Many also want to expand the agency's food safety budget.
"I do think this pet food thing has shown people, including people at the
very highest levels of the administration, that something needs to be fixed,"
said William Hubbard, who was associate director of the FDA from 1991 to 2005.
"If this isn't a wake-up call, then people are so asleep they are
Which new powers to give FDA, however -- and how to spend any extra funding
-- remains contentious. And some legislators want assurances that the agency is
worthy of added support.
"Leadership has been missing for far too long, and that needs to change
quickly," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs the subcommittee that
funds the agency. Others have complained that Senate-confirmed FDA commissioners
have been in place for less than one-third of President Bush's tenure.
Relying largely on laws passed in 1906 and 1938, which among other things
empower it to detain "filthy, putrid or decomposed" foods, the FDA today
oversees $1 trillion worth of products annually, including about half of all
imports. The $2 billion agency regulates products that together account for
fully 25 cents of every dollar spent by American consumers, and sheer volume
makes it impossible to inspect more than a very small fraction of the incoming
"It's a huge amount," said Dan Michels, a former director of the FDA's Office
of Enforcement and now a regulatory consultant. "You can't even look at
everything, let alone sample and test it."
About 99 percent of imported foods are simply acknowledged by computer and
Inspections were easier when imported food products were identifiable foods.
Things that looked like oranges were clearly oranges, even if they sometimes had
to be tested for pesticides. Raspberries were raspberries, even if some were
tainted with bacteria.
But processed ingredients are often nondescript. And in China, where a
national passion for commerce has far outpaced the adoption of regulatory
controls, marketers have repeatedly been caught adulterating such products --
spiking pig feed with diet pill chemicals to make swine leaner, for example, and
hiding sawdust in fishmeal.
Officials at Chinese companies that make melamine, which is used to make
plastics but can also give falsely elevated readings of a food's nutritional
value, have acknowledged the chemical is sometimes sold to makers of animal chow
"It's always been like that, people buying it as animal feed," said Xu Qin
Bin, a sales representative for Shandong Sanhe Chemical Co.
Other melamine brokers said the standard policy is, in effect, one of "don't
ask, don't tell."
"As long as you bring money, anyone can buy," said Zhao Yan, of the Shandong
Taian Ningyang County Weiye Chemical Co., which markets melamine.
A recent shift to online trading has facilitated this shadowy market by
adding a layer of anonymity between producers and consumers.
By far the largest online marketplace in China, and perhaps the world, is
Alibaba.com. It is based in the southeastern city of Hangzhou and specializes in
Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd. and Binzhou Futian
Biology Technology Co. Ltd., the two companies under investigation by Chinese
and U.S. officials, both sell vegetable proteins on Alibaba. Scores of others
hawk wheat gluten, rice protein or corn gluten -- virtually all advertising
their products as high-quality "feed grade," "food grade," or "export grade" and
none offering inferior "industrial" grade.
Seven wheat gluten companies advertising on Alibaba declined to answer
specific questions about where their products come from when reached by
That kind of opacity poses enormous challenges to pet food makers, said
Rodney Noel, a state chemist in Indiana and a member of the pet food committee
of the Association of American Feed Control. "How can these companies know the
source?" Noel asked. "They don't necessarily know if it came from China or
It also poses problems for the FDA, which has limited authority to demand
records identifying the sources of food.
But that is just one of many ways in which the agency is hobbled, experts
said. Another: Despite a temporary post-9/11 manpower increase inspired by fears
of terrorist attacks on food, the number of FDA employees working on port
inspections has returned to pre-9/11 levels -- part of a gradual shriveling of
the agency's food safety division relative to its burgeoning pharmaceutical
Moreover, while the Agriculture Department -- which has parallel
responsibilities for imported beef and poultry -- has the legal authority to
designate 10 U.S. ports as the only ones eligible to accept foreign meat,
allowing its inspectors to focus efforts in those places, FDA inspectors -- who
are far fewer in number -- must cover every U.S. border crossing.
Inspectors would benefit from portable, high-speed analyzers. Most samples
today are overnighted to distant labs. And since officials can sideline only
those shipments they deem suspicious, imported foodstuffs are typically well
into the chain of commerce before test results come back.
That problem is exacerbated by FDA's lack of authority to order recalls,
which means it must rely on the cooperation of companies when products need to
be pulled off shelves. And that assumes the agency has detected a contaminant,
which is not easy.
"There is this popular assumption -- maybe it comes from people watching CSI
-- that you can put a sample in a machine and get all the answers," said
Michels, the consultant. "Unfortunately, it's not like that. You have to . . .
have some idea of what you might be looking for."
Congress has a variety of avenues open to it as it considers how to
strengthen the beleaguered agency. One is to make permanent some provisions of
the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. In response to the pet food crisis, the FDA
invoked the act for the first time -- not because of any suspicion that
bioterror was at play but because of the added powers it provides to obtain
shipping records and detain shipments.
Some advocates want an expansion of the so-called Hazard Analysis and
Critical Control Point (HACCP) program USDA uses to prevent microbial
contamination of meat and poultry, and which FDA recently adopted for imported
seafood. The program makes companies legally liable for identifying where
contamination is likely to occur, and instituting suitable controls at those
"We need to take FDA from being a toothless agency to one with the authority
to act to protect the public health," DeLauro said.
That effort could still stall, but it is riding a wave it never thought it
would catch: a wellspring of concern for the nation's dogs and cats.
story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A3.
Melamine in big demand in China
30/04/2007 22:07 - (SA)
Beijing - Melamine is so popular as a protein lookalike feed additive that at least one Chinese manufacturer is believed to have torn down buildings to get to leftover scraps, industry officials said on Monday.
Melamine, used in making plastic and fertilisers, was blamed for killing pets in the United States and South America last month after it was found in wheat gluten and rice protein exported from China for use in pet food.
More than 100 brands of pet food were recalled, triggering a round of finger-pointing among pet food suppliers in the US China last week said it would ban melamine-tainted protein products from export and from domestic markets.
Melamine scrap is believed to be commonly mixed in animal feed in China to artificially boost the protein level, especially in soymeal, tricking feedlots and farmers into paying more for feed for chickens and pigs.
"The chemical plant next to us used the melamine scrap as waste for landfill and built houses on it. Then they tore down the buildings to get the scrap once the price rose," said a manager with Tai'an Yongfeng Feedmill Co. Ltd in the coastal province of Shandong.
"It is a very popular business here. I know people have been mixing this since 1991."
Shandong is the centre of China's poultry industry, which is undergoing an industrial revolution as a wealthier population demands more meat and poultry.
The industry has switched away from farmers raising a few chickens in backyards for sale in covered markets, to packed henhouses of thousands of birds that are slaughtered for national distribution.
Thin margins mean the temptation to cut corners is strong, especially for middlemen selling soymeal in bulk to small feedlots.
"For every percent of protein you gain, you can make 55 yuan. So if you can turn 38% protein soymeal into 43% meal, you can make more than 200 yuan per tonne," said the manager.
"Feed mills usually have poor equipment and they cannot detect the chemical through tests, not even the big mills."
"Fake" soymeal products were widely sold in Hebei and Shandong provinces, the manager said.
Beijing has issued no regulations to ban the use of the chemical in feed, said a China Feed Industry Association official. He denied any knowledge of use of the additive in feed.
But an official at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group, which produces urea for fertiliser, said all of its melamine scrap was sold to companies to boost the nitrogen content in their feed products.
"They add very small amount of melamine scrap to the feed, which does not lead to mass deaths of animals. But a few here and there might react," said the manager at the Shandong feedmill, who had not heard that the product had been linked to pet deaths overseas.
"It might be another story for pets though."
Article published May 1, 2007
Import alert on food products from China widens
Elizabeth Weise and Julie Schmit
WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration is enforcing a new import alert that greatly expands its curtailment of some food ingredients imported from China, authorizing border inspectors to detain ingredients used in everything from noodles to breakfast bars.
The new restriction is likely to cause delays in the delivery of raw ingredients for the production of many commonly used products.
The move reflects the FDA’s growing unease with what the alert announcement called China’s “manufacturing control issues” issues and that country’s inability to ascertain what controls are in place to prevent food contamination. For example, the agency says that, after weeks of investigation, it still does not know what regions of China are affected or what firms there are major manufacturers of vegetable proteins.
Inspectors are now allowed to detain vegetable-protein imports from China because they may contain the chemical melamine. Melamine, used in the manufacture of plastics, was found in the wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate that has led to the recall of 5,300 pet food products.
Melamine’s effects on humans, if ingested, is unclear. In fact, the chemical has not been found in earlier tests to be highly toxic, a fact that has scientists looking for second chemical agent that could be increasing its toxicity.
The agency for the first time also said it has received reports, which it has yet to confirm, that approximately 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs died after eating contaminated food. The only number of pet deaths that the FDA has confirmed thus far is 14.
An import alert of this breadth is rare. Before this new FDA action, only products from two Chinese companies that exported the melamine-tainted wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate had been detained.
Now for the products to reach U.S. foodmakers, the importers will have to prove to the FDA that they are safe. The ingredients restricted include wheat gluten, rice gluten, rice protein, rice protein concentrate, corn gluten, corn gluten meal, corn by-products, soy protein, soy gluten, mung-bean protein and amino acids.
The FDA has not reported finding melamine in food imports for humans from China, yet it last week launched sample testing “out of an abundance of caution,” said chief medical officer David Acheson.
The new restriction may be what’s needed to shore up consumer confidence that the FDA can protect the food supply, said Jean Kinsey, director of the Food Industry Center at the University of Minnesota. Without such action, the public’s distrust will grow, she said.
According to the alert notice posted on the FDA Web site Friday, the agency has so far taken 750 samples of wheat gluten and products made with wheat gluten and found 330 positive for melamine or melamine combined with another substance. It also found 27 positives out of 85 samples of rice protein concentrate and products made with rice protein concentrate.
All of the samples that tested positive were imported from China.
New York Times
Another Chemical Emerges in Pet Food
SHANGHAI, May 8 — A second industrial chemical that American regulators have
identified as a pet food contaminant may have been intentionally added to animal
feed by producers seeking larger profits, according to interviews Tuesday with
chemical industry officials.
Three chemical makers said Chinese animal feed producers often come to
purchase cyanuric acid to blend into their feed because it was cheaper and
helped increase protein content. In the United States, cyanuric acid is often
used as a chemical stabilizer in swimming pools, though it is not thought to be
highly toxic on its own.
Up until now, American regulators had focused on a chemical called melamine.
Animal feed producers here have acknowledged recently that for years they added
melamine to animal feed to gain bigger profit margins.
But American regulators and scientists have also been aware for several weeks
that cyanuric acid may have played a role in causing sickness or death in pets.
China said on Tuesday it had found two companies guilty of intentionally
exporting pet food ingredients containing melamine to the United States.
The country’s watchdog for quality control released a statement on its Web
site late Tuesday saying officials at the two companies were also detained for
their role in shipping tainted goods that may have contributed to one of the
food recalls in American history.
“The two companies illegally added melamine” to wheat gluten and rice
protein, the government said, “in a bid to meet the contractual demand for the
amount of protein in the products.”
The revelations from chemical producers help address uncertainties about the
presence of cyanuric acid. For instance, it has not been clear whether it is a
derivative or a byproduct when melamine is broken down in the animals, or
whether the cyanuric acid was separately placed in the feed.
In China, chemical producers say it is common knowledge in the chemical and
agriculture industry that for years feed producers in China have quietly and
secretly used cyanuric acid to cheat buyers of animal feed.
“Cyanuric acid scrap can be added to animal feed,” said Yu Luwei, general
manager of the Juancheng Ouya Chemical Company in Shandong Province. “I sell it
to fish meal manufacturers and fish farmers. It can also be added to feed for
Yang Fei, who works in the sales department of the Shouguang Weidong Chemical
Company in Shandong Province, echoed that view: “I’ve heard that people add
cyanuric acid and melamine to animal feed to boost the protein level.”
and Drug Administration in the United States said Tuesday that farmed fish
had been fed meal contaminated with melamine and other contaminants but that the
level was probably too low to harm anyone who ate the fish. Moreover, the feed
was mislabeled as wheat gluten, when in fact it was wheat flour spiked with
melamine and other nitrogen-rich compounds to make it appear more protein-rich
than it was, officials said. Two of the chemical makers said cyanuric acid was
used because it was even cheaper than melamine and also high in nitrogen,
enabling feed producers to artificially increase protein readings which are
often measured by nitrogen levels of the feed. Chinese chemical makers say they
also produce a chemical which is a combination of melamine and cyanuric acid,
and that feed producers have often sought to purchase scrap material from this
Competition among animal feed producers here is intense. But the practice of
using cyanuric acid may now provide clues as to why the pet food in the United
States became poisonous.
Scientists had difficulty pinpointing the precise cause of the deaths, for
neither melamine nor cyanuric acid are thought to be particularly toxic by
themselves. But scientists studying the pet food deaths say the combination of
the two chemicals, mixed together with perhaps some other related compounds, may
have created a toxic punch that formed crystals in the kidneys of pets and led
to kidney failure.
“I’m convinced melamine can’t do it by itself,” said Richard Goldstein, an
assistant professor at the Cornell
University College of Veterinary Medicine. “I think it’s this melamine with
other compounds that is toxic.”
On May 1, scientists at the University of Guelph in Canada said they had made
a chemical discovery that may explain the pet deaths.
In a laboratory, they found that melamine and cyanuric acid may react with
one another to form crystals that could impair kidney function. The crystals
they formed in the lab were similar to those discovered in afflicted pets, they
In the United States, some contaminated pet food and protein meal recently
found its way into hog and chicken feed, which led the government to ask farms
to quarantine and slaughter some animals as a precautionary measure.
But on Monday, a joint assessment by scientists working for the Food and Drug
Administration, the Agriculture Department and several other federal agencies
said there was a very low risk of danger to humans who consume meat from animals
that were accidentally fed melamine-tainted feed.
The scientists said the dilution was a major factor in lowering the risk. The
government also said that both chickens and hogs fed the melamine-tainted feed
appear to be healthy.
In pets that apparently consumed a higher concentration of melamine, however,
the result was often kidney failure.
The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine
in China said an investigation named two animal feed companies previously under
suspicion — the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company and the
Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Company.
China essentially acknowledged Tuesday that the two companies had cheated pet
food companies by adding a fake protein to the feed to make pet food suppliers
think that they were purchasing higher-protein feed when in fact they were
getting lower protein feed.
China also said that a nationwide survey did not uncover other companies
using melamine in feed products. Chemical producers of cyanuric acid, however,
say the practice for them may be different.
“The substance is nontoxic — it’s legal to add it to animal feed,” Mr. Yu at
Juancheng Ouya Chemical, said of cyanuric acid. “The practice has been around
for many years. I often sell it to animal feed makers.”
Tainted pet food: Lab says melamine not only culprit
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Melamine combined with a related chemical — rather than melamine alone — likely caused the kidney damage in pets that ate tainted food, one lab investigating the case has found.
The finding by a laboratory in Ontario, Canada, appears to substantiate many scientists' theory that the melamine found in wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate used in recalled pet food did not fully explain the foods' apparent toxic effects on some animals that ate it.
STORY: Poisoned pet food seems to hit cats harder
The other chemical, cyanuric acid, can be produced during the making of melamine.
Used in pool cleaning, it has also been found in samples of recalled pet food.
A team at the University of Guelph showed crystals formed in the kidneys of pets that ate food with the tainted ingredients are close to 50% melamine and 50% cyanuric acid.
"We took some ordinary cat urine and added three drops of melamine and three drops of cyanuric acid, and we got the identical crystals that we see in the kidneys" of the affected cats, said team leader Brent Hoff, a clinical toxicologist and pathologist at the university's Animal Health Laboratory.
Previous research had found melamine alone to be relatively non-toxic. It is used to make plastic.
The formation of these crystals in the kidneys appears to be the primary cause of renal failure in the affected animals, said Wilson Rumbeiha, a toxicologist at Michigan State University who is reviewing pathology reports on animal deaths related to melamine.
The FDA says melamine was added to two food ingredients, wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate, because it is high in nitrogen and makes the grain product look as if it is higher in protein — and therefore worth more — than it actually is. The ingredients were imported from China.
Pure melamine makes clear, rectangular or needle-like crystals. The melamine-cyanuric acid mix forms crystals that are round and yellow to dark brown, said Hoff.
Melamine is composed of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. In China, it is often made from coal, said James Kapin, a member of the American Chemical Society's chemical health and safety committee.
The coal is turned to a gas, and nitrogen-rich compounds are extracted from it. After more steps, the end result is melamine.
Melamine and cyanuric acid are chemically very closely related, said Kapin. So cyanuric acid could be created at several points in the processing of melamine.
As melamine prices have risen, melamine scrap may been substituted for pure melamine.
The Chinese company that sold the tainted wheat gluten had advertised for melamine scrap on websites before the pet-food recall.
MWC: Media With Conscience
China crackdown on food safety
US inspectors say tainted pet food killed an unknown number of dogs and cats [Reuters]
Already this year, the US states of Mississippi and Alabama have banned catfish from China after tests found they contained antibiotics banned in the US.
Excessive antibiotic or pesticide residues have also led to bans in Europe and Japan on Chinese shrimp, honey and other products.
Hong Kong blocked imports of turbot last year after inspectors found traces of malachite green - a potential cancer-causing chemical used to treat fungal infections - in some fish.
Within China meanwhile, babies have died after being fed fake baby formula, cancer-causing dyes have been injected into eggs to make yolks redder, and children have been given saltwater passed off as rabies vaccine.
At the same time, observers say, the Chinese agency that sets regulator standards for food and drug safety has been in disarray for years.
Its director, Zheng Xiaoyu, was sacked in 2005 and has since been accused of taking up to $780,000 in bribes to approve untested medicines, including an antibiotic that killed at least 10 patients.
He is scheduled to go on trial in mid-May on charges of corruption
China Factory Bulldozed by Owner before
US Officials arrived
Mon May 14, 2007 9:32 am (PST)
Factory linked to
tainted food found closed
By Don Lee and Abigail Goldman
XUZHOU, China -- Before Mao Lijun's business exported tainted wheat
products that may have killed U.S. pets, his factory sickened people and
plants around here for years.
Farmers in this poor rural area 400 miles northwest of Shanghai had complained to local government officials
since 2004 that Mao's factory was spewing noxious fumes that made their
eyes tear up and the poplar trees nearby shed their leaves prematurely.
Yet no one stopped Mao's company from churning out bags of food powders
and belching smoke -- until one day last month when, in the middle of the
night, bulldozers tore down the facility.
It wasn't authorities that finally acted: Mao himself razed the brick factory -- days before the
investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration arrived in China
on a mission to track down the source of the tainted pet
U.S. inspectors said Thursday the suspect facilities had been hastily closed down.
"There is nothing to be found. They are essentially shut down and not operating," said Walter Batts, deputy
director of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) office of
In the end, Chinese authorities caught up with Mao and arrested him. And Tuesday, after weeks of denials, China
acknowledged that Mao's company and another Chinese business had
illegally exported wheat and rice products spiked with melamine, a
chemical used in making plastics and fertilizers. That chemical is banned
in U.S. foods. in the U.S.
China's quality watchdog agency said the
businesses had added melamine to the food ingredients "in a bid to meet
the contractual demand for the amount of protein in the products."
Melamine can make animal feed appear to have more protein than it
Besides turning up in pet food, melamine has been found in feed for thousands of hogs and millions of chickens in the United States.
The FDA said Tuesday that melamine-contaminated foods also were fed
to fish raised for human consumption. But in each case, U.S. officials
said there was little risk to human health.
The number of U.S. fish hatcheries and farms known to have received the tainted feed rose sharply
Thursday, with U.S. officials reporting about 60, up from 13 known
Wednesday. That 60 included 23 in Oregon. The rest of the feed was
shipped mostly to other Northwest states.
The FDA also said that although the tainted Chinese products were labeled as wheat gluten and
rice protein, they were actually ordinary wheat flour -- with melamine
and related nitrogen-rich compounds.
Melamine producers in China have said that melamine scrap, a cheaper form of the chemical, has been widely
sold to entrepreneurs who use it to fool farmers into thinking that they
were getting higher-nutrient animal feeds. Among the apparent buyers of
melamine scrap were Mao, head of Xuzhou Anying Biologic
Technology Development, and Binzhou Futian Biology Technology.
Liu Zhaoyi, 64, a farmer who lives next to Mao's now-demolished
factory, recalled seeing globs of white and yellowish scrap, which may
have included melamine, piled in the yard behind the plant. One season
after rains, Liu said, water with residue from the compound flowed into
his family's cornfields and killed the crops.
Few people in town, which has a large food-manufacturing industry, seemed to know what Mao's
An Environment Protection Bureau official in Pei county, which is a part of Xuzhou, said one of his colleagues had visited Mao's
facility in recent years when it was processing yeast and wheat. The
inspection did not turn up any serious violations, and neighbors were
told to complain to a court or another agency.
In recent days, Mao's company removed wheat gluten from the product offerings on its Web
site. It also deleted something called ESB protein powder.
Xuzhou Anying had advertised the powder as its "latest researched, developed
and produced" item and touted it as "a new way to solve the problem of
shortage of protein resource." Several people with experience in China's
food industry say such powders are invariably made with
Researchers believe another compound -- cyanuric acid -- also
may have been added to the pet-food ingredients by Chinese firms or
formed as a byproduct. Combined with melamine, cyanuric acid can form
crystals and blocking kidney function in some animals.
China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and
Quarantine said Tuesday that Xuzhou Anying and Binzhou Futian had evaded
quality checks by labeling their products as exports not subject to
Farmer Liu said it was a shame officials failed to heed earlier complaints. "If they had done more, this company won't have such
a big problem." The Seattle Times staff, The Washington Post and The
Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 The
Seattle Times Company
From the New York Times - I edited in a passage that had been edited out.
China grapples with food
contamination credibility crisis
Thursday, May 17, 2007
SHANGHAI: Weeks after tainted Chinese pet food ingredients
killed and sickened thousands of dogs and cats in the United States, China faced
growing international pressure to prove that its food exports were safe to
But simmering beneath the surface is a thornier problem that worries Chinese
officials: how do they assure the world that this is not a nation of
counterfeits and that "Made in China" means well-made?
Already, the largest pet food recall in U.S. history has heightened global
fears about the quality and safety of Chinese agricultural goods. Now evidence
is mounting that China has also exported counterfeit drug ingredients that could
undermine the credibility of another of its booming exports.
"This isn't an international crisis yet, but if they don't do something about
it quickly, it will be," says David Zweig, a China specialist who teaches at the
Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. "The question is whether it
spills over and 'Made in China' becomes known as 'Buyer Beware.' "
With contamination spreading to meat and fish supplies, some of America's
biggest food companies, like Kraft Foods, are lobbying the US Government to
pressure China to improve its food safety measures.
Kraft, Kellogg and Cargill and other food companies have said that they were
reviewing their food safety standards and upgrading equipment.
Their executives worry that another such safety scare involving China could
set off a consumer backlash and reverse a trend that has seen big food makers
grow increasingly dependent on processed ingredients from developing
Experts also say doubts about the quality of China's food shipments and
worries about its fake drugs could affect other exports if buyers begin to find
safety problems or other product faults.
Indeed, the frequency of recalls of Chinese imports has risen in recent
years, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. For example, two
weeks ago, Wal-Mart Stores announced a nationwide recall of baby bibs made in
China after some tested positive for high levels of lead.
Just this week, the Cardinal Distributing Co recalled 300,000 children's
rings with dice or horseshoes, and Spandrel Sales and Marketing recalled about
200,000 necklaces, bracelets and rings. In both cases, the jewellery, which was
made in China, had high levels of lead.
Many consumers have also told pet food makers that they want goods that are
free of any ingredients from China, according to the Pet Food Institute
"This is beyond concern," said a long-time U.S. food industry official, who
spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
"All the major food manufacturers are terrified. They're worried this could lead
to the cutting off of imports from China. And where do you think we get 80
percent of our apple juice concentrate?"
At stake for China is more than $30 billion a year in food and drug exports
to Asia, North America and Europe.
The overall scare may prompt important changes in China. The former head of
the Chinese food and drug regulator is now standing trial in Beijing for
accepting bribes and failing to curb a scandalous market in fake and dangerous
Few trade experts say they believe that the Chinese export boom is going to
slow any time soon. But they say that certain industries could face greater
challenges because of growing concerns about counterfeiting and fake
One reason is the pet food case, where U.S. regulators suspect that two
Chinese companies intentionally mixed an industrial chemical called melamine in
with wheat flour to artificially increase protein readings.
"We're now learning some of the dirty secrets behind this fast-growing
economy," says Wang Fei Ling, a professor of international affairs at the
Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. "And the dirty secret is they're
cutting corners in making things."
In the aftermath of the pet food scare, which may have caused as many as
4,000 animal deaths, regulators around the world are stepping up inspections of
Chinese agricultural goods and even blocking some imports.
In Europe, food safety authorities are testing all Chinese protein imports
for melamine. One of the largest South Korean food and feed makers, CJ Foods,
said last week that it was recalling 42 tons of wheat gluten from China even
though the products had not tested positive for melamine.
"The major effect of this seems to me that the Chinese have been alerted that
they should get their house in order," M.D. Merbis, an economist at the Center
for World Food Studies in Amsterdam, said.
Trying to restore confidence in its agricultural exports, China promised
earlier this month to overhaul its food safety system and to upgrade its export
Last week, China found two Chinese companies guilty of exporting
melamine-contaminated vegetable protein to the United States.
The fallout is affecting a range of Chinese agricultural exporters.
"A Spanish company came to visit us and was planning to buy our product," Sun
Hong, chief executive of Sanfu Biochemical Company, a rice protein maker in
Hangzhou, said. "We were going to strike a deal at the end of the month. But
after what happened in the U.S., they haven't even replied to our e-mail
While China is not particularly well known for its food exports, its
shipments of vegetables and seafood have been soaring in recent years.
China is also pressing the United States and the European Union to accept
imports of Chinese poultry products, a move that is being opposed by U.S. and
European poultry farmers.
To restore confidence in its food exports, experts say, China needs to
confront the issue and not be seen as covering up or delaying the release of
information, which is what appeared to happen when Severe Acute Respiratory
Disease and bird flu reached the country.
The pet food case, they say, is much the same. In the days following the U.S.
pet food recall, for instance, China denied having shipped any wheat gluten to
the United States. One official even said that melamine could not have harmed
Only after an international storm surrounded the case in mid-April, and a
U.S. senator publicly rebuked China for its response, did China fully cooperate
with U.S. regulators.
Now, in what appears to be a sharp turnabout, China has banned melamine from
food and feed proteins and announced nationwide inspections.
Still, doubts remain about the ability of Beijing to tackle what many experts
see as rampant fraud in its booming economy, and a culture of
This is a country, after all, where lax regulation and a weak legal system
have allowed unscrupulous entrepreneurs to blend industrial fluids into
alcoholic beverages, to sell fake baby formula and to form counterfeiting
factories that pump out everything from fake car parts to copycat
Few things, though, are as dangerous as fake food and drugs. In Panama, more
than 100 people have died in recent years by consuming counterfeit drug
ingredients that were manufactured in a Chinese factory.
The problems here are compounded by the lack of press freedoms that keep the
public in the dark about the food and drug safety woes of the country, experts
Most people in China are still unaware of the pet food scandal because the
story has largely been ignored by the Chinese media.
Several Chinese editors contacted in recent weeks said that they were ordered
by the government propaganda department not to report on the case.
"This has been a key," Steve Tsang, who teaches at Oxford University, s
From the Los Angeles Times
China's additives on menu in U.S.
It is the leading supplier of many ingredients in
packaged food. Barring the imports is difficult.
By Don Lee
May 18, 2007
SHANGHAI — As the recall of tainted pet food
mushroomed into an international scandal, two of the largest U.S. food
manufacturers put out a blanket order to their American suppliers: No more
ingredients from China.
The directive from Mission Foods Corp. and Tyson
Foods Inc., made quietly this month, underscored consumers' and manufacturers'
fears about the safety of imported food ingredients after contaminated wheat
products from China killed and sickened cats and dogs in the United States.
The problem is, what Mission and Tyson want is next to
In the last decade, China has become the world's leading
supplier of many food flavorings, vitamins and preservatives. Like fingernail
clippers, playing cards, Christmas ornaments and other items, some food
additives are available in vast quantities only from China.
exported $2.5 billion of food ingredients to the United States and the rest of
the world in 2006, an increase of 150% from just two years earlier, according to
Chinese industry estimates. It is now the predominant maker of vanilla
flavoring, citric acid and varieties of vitamin B such as thiamine, riboflavin
and folic acid — nutrients commonly added to processed flour goods such as
Mission tortillas and Tyson breaded chicken.
"It would be somewhat
difficult to move away from all the vitamins in China," said Monte White,
president of Research Products Co., a large supplier of nutrients for flour
mixes. He said his Salina, Kan.-based company was stepping up its testing of
imported goods despite having had "very consistent results" from China in the
last five years.
Little oversight in China
overall food safety record is poor. Use of chemical fertilizers and toxic
pesticides is heavy. Fraud and corruption often thwart what lax controls exist.
In recent years, U.S. officials have issued alerts about Chinese honey tainted
with a harmful antibiotic; Chinese candy containing sulfites that can cause
fatal allergic reactions; and infant formula missing vital nutrients, which in
China left a dozen babies dead in 2004.
A small group of large
manufacturers dominate the production of food ingredients in China, but hundreds
if not thousands of small, virtually anonymous businesses — such as the two
linked to the pet-food scandal — operate in an industry lacking tough standards
"Some of them are driven by profits; you can see dollar
signs in their eyes," said Jan Willem Roben, head of Vision Ingredients, a
Shanghai-based trader of food additives.
In the U.S., major food
manufacturers often don't know where all their ingredients originate. Mission, a
Texas-based unit of Mexican food giant Gruma, would not comment about that or
its directive, but said it was working with its suppliers to ensure the products
were safe. Arkansas-based Tyson, one of the nation's largest providers of beef
and chicken, did not respond to interview requests.
Many packaged foods
contain dozens of items from around the world, acquired through complex networks
of traders and brokers, before they get processed at manufacturing plants where
companies have more direct oversight.
"Until now, companies just didn't
care about commodity additives," said Laszlo Somogyi, a retired senior
consultant at SRI International, a nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park,
Calif. "But that might be changing now. This was a warning," he said, referring
to the pet-food debacle.
Somogyi believes tainted food additives pose a
relatively low risk to humans because such ingredients are used in tiny amounts
in any given product. Still, it wasn't until the pet-food poisoning that people
learned that melamine, an industrial chemical banned in foods in the U.S., had
been widely added to animal feed in China to artificially boost its protein
"The same thing could have happened in the human food chain,"
Chinese-made ingredients are probably found in every aisle
of American supermarkets. Consider that American favorite, the Hostess Twinkie.
Of its 39 ingredients, at least half a dozen — such as vitamin B compounds, the
preservative sorbic acid and red and yellow colorings — are most likely made in
China, says Steve Ettlinger, author of the book, "Twinkie,
In an interview from New York, Ettlinger said he couldn't
be sure where Interstate Bakeries Corp., the maker of Twinkies, obtained those
ingredients. The Kansas City, Mo., company wouldn't help him with his research,
he said, and food makers rarely list the origin of individual ingredients on
packages. Nor do they necessarily want to know where it all comes
"The more you know, the pickier you get and the more it costs,"
David Leavitt, Interstate Bakeries' vice president of
snack marketing, said he wasn't aware of any Twinkie ingredients made in China.
But in a brief e-mail statement, he indicated that Interstate was polling some
of its smaller vendors to determine whether they obtained any products from
"This process involves gathering and verifying information from
hundreds of companies," Leavitt said.
That process could eventually lead
to a company such as Ningbo Wanglong Group, the world's largest maker of sorbic
acid — a preservative made from natural gas that helps keep mold off baked goods
and other products. The 14-year-old private company, located about 120 miles
south of Shanghai, produces 1,000 tons of the white crystals every month. About
one-third of that is exported to the U.S., said Li Ming, the company's office
Less than a decade ago, such food additives were made mainly in
Europe and the United States. But China's looser environmental regulations,
cheaper energy costs and lower wages helped shift the industry to Asia. Ningbo
Wanglong's average salary is less than $200 a month. Giant food chemical makers
such as BASF of Germany and Dutch-based DSM have teamed up with Chinese partners
and cut back at plants in the West.
Ningbo Wanglong says it sells sorbic
acid for about $1.30 a pound, including shipping charges to the U.S. The cost of
the same product made in the United States: about $4.
For food companies,
switching to non-Chinese vendors would almost certainly increase their costs,
though the move could give them a marketing advantage over rivals.
welcomed visitors to tour his company's 80-acre campus, where he said 400
employees, many of them wearing white gloves and gray uniforms, work in 20
"We have an analysis room, a quality lab and other
quality control departments," he said, adding that 70 workers have advanced
But for every additive maker such as Ningbo Wanglong, scores of
small operations compete in China, offering their cut-rate goods in food
industry journals, at trade fairs and on the Internet. On the Chinese e-commerce
site Alibaba.com, at least 43 businesses claimed to produce sorbic acid, a
complicated compound that requires considerable investment and government
For many other ingredients, though, people don't need
much more than basic knowledge of chemistry and some simple equipment: a kettle,
a scale and a dryer.
"The problem is that many small companies don't
register their products as food additives, thus avoiding supervision," said He
Jiguo, director of the food nutrition and safety department at China
Agricultural University in Beijing. Instead, he said, these companies classify
their goods as nonfood items. Many food additives also have industrial
applications; citric acid, for example, is used to clean boilers and etch
He says Chinese government officials should boost
enforcement and penalties. Currently, violators of food-safety rules are subject
to fines of no more than a few thousand dollars and a temporary stop
But He doesn't expect any swift changes. Of the 1,750
government-approved food additives, quality standards have been established for
only about 250, according to a report last year by Major China, a food-industry
consulting firm in Shanghai.
"There is no clear food-classification
system, no distinct definition for the range that the food includes, no related
regulation about residues that additives leave on foods," the report said. "All
these bring loopholes for additives manufacturing and usage, give illegal
traders opportunities and affects customers' trust toward food additive
20% of Chinese toys, baby clothes fail safety
Inspectors found garbage stuffed in plush toys, harmful chemicals
in baby milk powder
Last Updated: Monday, May 28, 2007 | 11:10 AM ET
About 20 per cent of toys and baby clothes manufactured in China failed
safety tests and could hurt children, the Beijing News reported Monday.
The newspaper, which attributed the figure to Chinese officials, said an
investigation by the General Administration of Quality Supervision said that
when it tested children's toys and clothing, one in five of the items failed
Inspectors found that some manufacturers stuffed plush toys with low-quality
fibre — and garbage.
Some toys sold within the country were so poorly assembled that loose parts
could easily pull free, the department said.
It also discovered that some baby clothes and baby milk powder contained
chemicals that could pose serious health risks to children.
The Xinhua news agency reported last week that as of June 1, toys will have
to pass a safety test before they can be introduced into the marketplace.
China's food and drug safety record has come under scrutiny in recent months,
with U.S. investigators suggesting that Chinese companies are using potentially
harmful ingredients in their products.
Imported toothpaste recalled
Last week, U.S. health officials began checking shipments of toothpaste from
China after thousands of tubes of imported toothpaste were withdrawn from the
marketplace in other countries.
Tests showed the products, which were sold in the Dominican Republic, Panama
and Australia, contained diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze and
In March, an extensive recall of pet food was issued after cats and dogs in
the United States and Canada fell ill and some died. An investigation by the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that imported wheat flour from China was
tainted with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fielded about 17,000 consumer calls
about contaminated pet food and related pet illnesses since March.
On Friday, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it had intercepted one
shipment of corn gluten imported from China that tested positive for melamine
and cyanuric acid.
Chinese manufacturers of toothpaste routinely substitute antifreeze for glycerine because it is cheaper
Excerpt from "Chinese Corruption Allows Toxic Products Onto Global Markets"
By Barry Mills
Epoch Times Hamilton staff
|May 28, 2007
Also disturbing is the recent deaths in Panama from the chemical diethylene
glycol. The New York Times ran an article exposing how it was falsely exported
from China as the safe product, glycerin. This resulted in the deaths last year
of at least a hundred people when Government Health officials used it in cough
syrup. Now the same chemical has turned up in toothpaste in brands Excel and Mr
Hu Keyu, the manager at Goldcredit International in China, the company
responsible for one of the brands said that most toothpaste makers in this
region use diethylene glycol because it is considered a cheap substitute for
"You know, if you're in the export market, the margins are small, so people
use the substitute," he said. "Even one percent or half a percent price
difference can matter to people here," Hu.told the New York Times.
U.S. inspection spotty
Adding to U.S.
consumers' concerns, inspection on the American end is spotty. The Food and Drug
Administration has said it checks just 1% of all imported grocery items and food
ingredients, excluding meat and poultry products. The agency didn't respond to
interview requests for this article.
U.S. food ingredient suppliers can
only hope that the pet-food scare blows over. Some managers say they are getting
50 calls a day from customers and consumers. They are struggling to reassure
them that the goods from China are safe, promising more tests and tighter
monitoring of vendors. But they also say that American food manufacturers will
have little choice but to back away from demands to go without any Chinese
"They're going to have to compromise," said a sales manager at
a major food additive supplier who did not want to be identified by name. "At
this point, it's simply impossible."
Cao Jun in the Times' Shanghai bureau contributed
to this report.
From China to
China has become the world's leading supplier of food ingredients,
including flavorings, vitamins and preservatives. A look at some of the most
common food additives imported into the United States from China:
Gives foods a tart taste and enhances fruit flavors
Soda, fruit-flavored beverages, candy, flavored syrups
Researchers have focused on the role of melamine and related compounds in causing renal failure. Beginning on April 19, it was reported that researchers had ruled out aminopterin contamination and had found a "spoke-like crystal" in contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate and the tissues and urine of affected animals. (It was previously known that melamine and cyanuric acid can form networks of hydrogen bonds, creating a tile-like planar structure through molecular self-assembly.) The crystal has been said to serve as a biomarker for contamination and is approximately 30% melamine. The remainder has been identified as cyanuric acid, ammelide and ammeline, with crystals recovered from urine reported to be approximately 70% cyanuric acid. While some researchers have theorized that the three latter chemicals might have been formed as the animals metabolized the melamine, or as by-products of bacterial metabolism (cyanuric acid is a known intermediate byproduct of bacterial metabolism of melamine), their presence in the crystals found in contaminated protein itself, combined with media reports of widespread adulteration with both melamine and cyanuric acid in China, has focused research efforts on their combined effects in animals. Neither melamine nor cyanuric acid, a chemical commonly used in pool chlorination, have been thought to be particularly toxic by themselves. The current hypothesis is that, although these contaminants are not very toxic individually, their potency appears to be increased when they are present together.
On April 27 researchers from the University of Guelph, in Ontario announced that they had created crystals chemically similar to the ones found in contaminated animals by combining melamine and cyanuric acid in the laboratory under pH conditions similar to that in animal kidneys.
In light of these findings, on May 1, the American Veterinary Medical Association noted in a press release that the "extremely insoluble" crystals formed in animal kidneys are suspected of blocking kidney function. On May 7, however, Barbara Powers, president of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians and a professor of veterinary diagnostics at Colorado State University cautioned "There's something more going on than just the mechanical blockage. Because you wouldn't see so much necrosis (cell death) and inflammation.”
On May 2, in further inquiry into the source of the cyanuric acid in the contaminated ingredients and the toxic effects of the chemical combination, Richard Goldstein of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, in response to reports that the contaminant might be "melamine scrap" left over from processing coal into melamine, hypothesized: “It’s possible the other stuff they were left with was the bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, leftover melamine and possibly cyanuric acid. I think it’s this melamine with other compounds that is toxic.” The composition of the crystals analyzed in contaminated pet food ingredients is similar to the composition of a waste product produced in melamine production.
But from http://chemistry.about.com/b/a/257741.htm;
Amilorine and amiloride also were found in connection with testing of rice
protein concentrate. Cyanuric acid, amilorine, and amiloride are metabolites of
melamine, so though it's possible cyanuric acid was added as a contaminant, it
more likely resulted from bacterial metabolism of melamine.
The degradative pathway of the s-triazine melamine. The steps to ring
1. The degradative pathway of melamine
(1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triamine) was examined in Pseudomonas sp. strain A. 2. The
bacterium grew with melamine, ammeline, ammelide, cyanuric acid or NH+4 as sole
source of nitrogen, and each substrate was entirely metabolized. Utilization of
ammeline, ammelide, cyanuric acid or NH+4 was concomitant with growth. But with
melamine as substrate, a transient intermediate was detected, which was
identified as ammeline by three methods. 3. Enzymes from strain A were separated
by chromatography on DEAE-cellulose, and four activities were examined. 4.
Melamine was converted stoichiometrically into equimolar amounts of ammeline and
NH+4. 5. Ammeline was converted stoichiometrically into equimolar amounts of
ammelide and NH+4; ammelide was identified by four methods. 6. Ammelide was
converted stoichiometrically into equimolar amounts of cyanuric acid and NH+4;
cyanuric acid was identified by four methods. 7. Cyanuric acid was converted by
an enzyme preparation into an unidentified product with negligible release of
NH+4. 8. The specific activities of the degradative enzymes (greater than or
equal to 0.3 mkat/kg of protein) were high enough to explain the growth rate of
the organism. 9. The bacterium converted 0.4 mM-melamine anaerobically into 2.3
mM-NH+4. 10. Two other pseudomonads and two strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae
were also examined, with similar results. 11. The degradative pathway of
melamine appears to be hydrolytic, and proceeds by three successive deaminations
to cyanuric acid, which is further metabolized.
PMID: 6762212 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]Jutzi
Chinese pet food contamination only the beginning of concerns
The United States has a serious food-safety challenge on its hands. The
contaminated wheat gluten that was made in China and which forced the recall of
60 million packages of pet food in this country is but the visible ramification
of a much larger problem.
The Food and Drug Administration has been stopping Chinese food shipments to
this country at the rate of 200 per month. Counting all food imports, it
detained nearly 850 shipments last month of grains, fish, vegetables, nuts,
spice, oils and other foods. Among the reasons cited for stopping the shipments
were filth, unsafe food coloring, and con tamination due to pesticides and sal
monella, according to The Associated Press.
But only 1.3 per cent (as of 2003) of the food shipments into this country
are physically inspected by an undermanned FDA. It was only after thousands of
pets started getting sick that it was learned that an ingredient used in pet
food was contaminated by melamine, a cheap additive made from coal that passes
as a protein in tests.
As The New York Times reported this week, the use of various cheap
ingredients to replicate more expensive ingredients in tests is endemic in
China's animal-feed production industry, which has little to no regulation. That
raises serious questions about the health safety of the broader range of foods
for human consumption that China increasingly exports to this country. The value
of U.S. imports of food from China has tripled since 1997, to $2.1 billion
annually, amounting to 3.3 percent of the food Americans eat.
But even as the amount of imported food continues to grow by leaps and
bounds, the percentage of it that is subject to inspection is in decline. This
year nearly 99 percent of all food entering the country will not be inspected.
This is a disaster waiting to happen. Caroline Smith DeWall, director of food
safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, told the
Times: "This open-door policy on food ingredients is an open invitation for an
attack on the food supply, either intentional or unintentional."
Congress and the administration need to act fast to change this unacceptable
level of vulnerability. In addition to providing for a major increase in
inspectors, Congress should require that every food package list the country of
origin for the various ingredients, leaving the public to draw its own
conclusions about the safety of food items from particular countries.
Manufacturers that use U.S.-grown produce, meats and other ingredients in
their products would be well advised to make that clear on their own.
Pennsylvania canneries and food processors should emphasize and market the fact
that they use home-grown ingredients.
Today, more than ever, consumers want and need to know the source of the food
they are putting on the table for their families.
Food imports threaten humans as well as pets
Article Last Updated: 05/12/2007 07:45:46 AM
IF YOU THOUGHT the poisoned pet food situation was scary, try this one on for
size. Since there are too few Food and Drug Administration inspectors, billions
of dollars worth of foreign ingredients get a free pass — with virtually no
According to an Associated Press analysis of federal trade and food data, a
rising tide of imports are coming from countries with spotty records and
everything from salad dressing to ice cream enter this country without a look
from overwhelmed inspectors.
In fact, FDA inspectors at ports and border checkpoints often find shipments
that are filthy or contaminated, but they rarely bother to inspect because
ingredients arent a priority. Oils, spices, flours and gums, for example, havent
been blamed for killing humans, so for now they generally get by. So who is
doing the safety checks? It appears no one.
Some of these products are obscure, but play a vital role in our daily diets.
For instance, some of these products keep soft drinks fizzy, crackers crispy and
prevent sauces from gooing up. Gum arabic is extracted from acacia trees and
helps gives light whipped cream its texture. It could be the smallest ingredient
that gets contaminated and triggers a disaster.
The volume is becoming immense, increasing the chances for trouble. In 2001,
the United States imported $4.4 billion worth of ingredients processed from
plants or animals. Last year, the total leaped to $7.6 billion. There are many
reasons for the
increase in imports. U.S. food makers looking for bargains have doubled
their business with low-cost countries such as Mexico, China and India. Changing
consumer tastes plays a factor, too.
Heres another form of national security danger. The pet food poisoning also
should be a wake-up call that our human food supply can go down the same road.
In the case of pet food, it was only one product — an industrial chemical that
makes plastics — that led to the deaths of 16 cats and dogs and sickened
thousands more. It illustrates the vulnerability of food products coming into
However, thanks to the work done by AP, unlike in the pet food situation, we
have prior knowledge that inspections are lax. Now something can be done about
it. Waiting for people to become ill or die before setting priorities is
completely unacceptable and needs to be eliminated immediately.
Since imports into this country are rising, the number of inspectors must
increase — the FDA obviously needs help. Inspection priorities must change; if
products come to our shelves a little later than normal as a result, its worth
the price we could pay if we consume contaminated products.
We have an obligation to inspect whatever comes into this country, especially
products that we digest. Instead of letting the problem continue — and get worse
— we need to get serious about adding more inspectors and being more thorough.
Lets not wait for a catastrophe to act.
First tainted pet food, now
SHANGHAI, China -- China
has announced an investigation into reports that toothpaste containing a
potentially deadly chemical had been exported to Central America, and then sold
in the Dominican Republic.
This latest scandal follows
tainted pet food ingredients that killed and sickened numerous cats and dogs in
the United States.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic have removed
toothpaste from shelves that contained a chemical commonly used in antifreeze
and brake fluid (diethylene glycol).
The Chinese government announced
its investigation on the same day that a state-run newspaper harshly criticized
food safety regulators for their response to the pet food
The newspaper says an even bigger problem is China's domestic
food safety situation. It says standards are even more lax for products consumed
Professor works on food contamination problems
Professor helps countries improve food security standards after recent
The Daily Evergreen
Published: 05/31/2007 00:00:00
The recent outbreaks of contamination in imported food products have alerted
U.S. citizens on the importance of food security, and one WSU professor is
showing the potential dangers of importing certain foods.
Barbara Rasco, a WSU professor of food science and human nutrition, is using
her scientific knowledge to help foreign countries improve their food security
standards and liability laws.
Dog and cat food imported from China was found to contain an industrial
chemical called melamine that killed dozens of families’ pets.
Rasco has been monitoring China’s exporting situation and sees no immediate
solution to the growing problem of food contamination.
“China’s economy is established on the principle of low-cost production,” she
said. “The companies that choose to follow the law are losing clients to those
that cut corners to make the cheapest product, and the government pretends to
have no control over the matter and does not hold their exporters accountable,
forcing the honest companies to also downgrade the quality of their product.”
The pet food crisis is a perfect example of Chinese businesses cutting corners,
she said. Importers often check protein levels of pet food by testing for
nitrogen content. Nitrogen is one of the main elements in protein, but the much
cheaper melamine is also made primarily of nitrogen, she said.
The presence of melamine in the pet food was not detected by the importers,
but the nitrogen levels were fine by FDA standards. Many scientists, including
Rasco, believe this was done with knowledge and intention.
“Melamine is not a food product. It was expressly implanted into the pet food
and used as a ‘filler,’” she said. “This was carried out scientifically by a
clever group of people in China to save as much money as possible.” Rasco
believes the pet food industry’s motive did not extend to bio terrorism. It was
a result of the system set up by the Chinese government. It is a system that
promotes competition, but does not ensure accountability, and it only works when
the entire world relies on its product.
She also said the leaders of China, who give the impression of ignorance to
the recent contamination problems, may not be entirely innocent.
“The Chinese government, which released exclusive control of its agriculture
system to private firms in the 1970s, still owns about 25 percent of its
privatized agricultural businesses. In addition, the Chinese military is a major
contributor to its farming production. It stands to reason that the government
is indeed a major player in its country’s booming farm business, and should be
held accountable,” Rasco said.
As the world’s top food producer, China can resist the threat of a U.S.
boycott by distributing to the other nations from which the United States
imports. The boycott would not do any good, Rasco said.
If decreases in food contamination are a priority, the United States must
petition nations around the world to raise their standards of food security,
Rasco said. While this could raise the price of produce, it could also lower the
risk of food-borne illness, especially in countries that do not screen food
products as rigorously as the United States.
Rasco said the federal money spent on in-plant inspection could be better
used to increase liability overseas to the businesses that export these harmful
Jeffri Bohlscheid, a research associate of Rasco’s said he also sees an
immediate need for the enforcement of standards in China.
“China’s companies create elaborate paper trails that can’t be traced,”
Bohlscheid said. “Since only one percent of U.S. imports are screened, we need
to focus our attention elsewhere. As of now, we’re simply trusting China to make
sure contamination doesn’t occur.” Third-party liability would greatly increase
the traceability and accountability of products, and in a way bypass the Chinese
government toward legitimizing the world’s number one low-cost supplier, Rasco
Then, Finally. FDA bans imports of vegetable proteins from China - and explains its reasons. But mind you, it's a voluntary ban. The FDA can't order actual bans. The wording specifically says that inspectors can hold and importers can refuse to import food from China if they happen to fee like it.
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