The fall-out from the massive pet food recall continues as the scope of the contamination widens into the human food supply, more companies recall their products, and a major pet food manufacturer company sues its suppliers.
In the latest wave of pet food recall activity: Meat from 345 hogs that ate feed made with melamine-tainted rice protein has apparently entered the market, the Associated Press reported. The United States Department of Agriculture also reported that pigs from slaughterhouses in Kansas and Utah may have entered the food supply. In addition, federal authorities quarantined some 6,000 pigs -- on farms in eight states -- that were given feed made with tainted ingredients; Diamond Pet Foods recalled three canned products made by American Nutrition Inc.: Diamond Lamb & Rice Formula for Dogs, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Kitten Formula, and Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Puppy Formula. The company says these products contain melamine-tainted rice gluten imported from China; Chenango Valley Pet Foods recalled four of its dry dog foods: Drs. Foster & Smith Chicken & Brown Rice Formula Adult Lite Dog Food; Drs. Foster & Smith Chicken & Brown Rice Adult Lite Cat Food; Lick Your Chops Lamb Meal, Rice & Egg Cat Food; and Bulk Chicken & Brown Rice Formula Adult Lite Dog Food sold to one consignee (SmartPak). The company took this action after learning the products contain potentially contaminated rice protein; The Blue Buffalo Company removed all its canned and biscuit products from retail distribution after learning that American Nutrition Inc. (ANI) -- the manufacturer of its cans and biscuits -- added rice protein concentrate to the products without its knowledge. “This is product tampering, and it apparently has been going on for some time,” the company said. “The can formulas that we developed, and trusted them to produce, never contained any rice protein concentrate.” ANI received the rice protein from an importer whose ingredients have tested positive for melamine. Blue Buffalo says none of its BLUE or Spa Select canned precuts have tested positive for melamine; Menu Foods, the company that announced the nationwide pet food recall in March, sued its supplier, ChemNutra, for allegedly sending contaminated wheat gluten to its plant in Emporia, Kansas, according to the Emporia Gazette. The lawsuit, filed in Lyon County District Court, seeks a judgment “substantially in excess $75,000” and asks that ChemNutra protect Menu Foods from all costs associated with the recall and any related lawsuits. “Menu Foods prides itself on providing customers with wet pet food products made with high quality ingredients,” the company’s attorneys stated in the court petition. “In 2006, ChemNutra promised Menu Foods that it could supply one such high quality ingredient, wheat gluten, to Menu Foods. ChemNutra breached its promise.” The Food and Drug Administration raided the Las Vegas office of ChemNutra. The FDA is investigating whether the company violated the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, according to wire reports out of Las Vegas. The FDA has told ChemNutra that the company be held accountable because it imported the melamine-tainted wheat gluten that triggered one of the current pet food recalls—even though it had no prior knowledge that its Chinese supplier put the chemical in the product; FDA agents also searched Menu Food's production facility in Emporia, Kansas, news outlets reported. Menu Foods said the U.S. Attorney's offices in Kansas and the western district of Missouri have targeted the company as part of misdemeanor investigations into whether it violated the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, the AP reported. The sale of adulterated or contaminated food is a misdemeanor. A Justice Department spokeswoman had no immediate comment. "Menu Foods has been doing everything it can to cooperate with the FDA," company chief executive officer Paul Henderson said in a statement. "Even before commencement of this investigation we have given the FDA full access to our plant and our records, have answered questions and provided documents to them any time they have asked." The FDA would not comment on the search warrants. China banned the use of melamine from its food products, the AP reported. That’s the chemical blamed for causing illnesses and deaths in scores of across the country. China, however, denied charges that the chemical caused the pets’ deaths. "At present, there is no clear evidence showing that melamine is the direct cause of the poisoning or death of the pets," China's Foreign Ministry said in a 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."
The hogs that ate the contaminated pet food scraps are now under federal quarantine on farms in California, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma and Ohio, government officials said.
The pigs are believed to have eaten salvage pet food contaminated with two chemicals: melamine and cyanuric acid.
FDA officials say cyanuric acid -- detected in the rice protein and wheat gluten used in some pet foods -- is used to boost the protein content of foods. It also a stabilizer in outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs.
"The combination of melamine and cyanuric acid is of concern to human and animal health," said Captain David Elder, director of the FDA's Office of Enforcement Office of Regulatory Affairs. "Melamine, at detected levels, is not a human health concern.”
The tainted pet food scraps were sent to pig farmers as salvage by companies that have recalled pet foods.
Elder said pigs that ate this contaminated feed will not be allowed to enter the human food supply.
He emphasized, however, that "based on information currently available, the FDA and the USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating such pork is extremely low. However, the agencies also believe it is prudent to take this measure."
The pork from these animals will also be destroyed, officials said. And the USDA will compensate hog farmers affected by the tainted pet food. Owners of pets killed by the tainted pet food, on the other hand, get nothing.
The FDA is also investigating the possibility that contaminated pet food scraps found their way to a poultry feed mill in Missouri, according to AP.
In related news, the FDA said China has granted visas to U.S. food inspectors who want to examine the facilities that manufactured the tainted rice protein and wheat gluten.
That tainted wheat gluten is at the heart of the lawsuit Menu Foods filed against its supplier, ChemNutra.
The tainted ingredient is blamed for the deaths and illnesses of scores of dogs and cats across the country and triggered Menu Foods’ recall of more than 60 million containers of pet food.
Earlier this week, Menu Foods President Paul Henderson told a Congressional hearing the wheat gluten may have been spiked with melamine to increase its protein content.
“What this appears to be is a case of deliberate contamination of wheat gluten in order to pass off substandard product,” Henderson told a U.S. House committee. “For a seller who knows how industry testing methods work, this would allow them to cheat the buyers.”
ChemNutra Chief Executive Officer Steve Miller said his company has been “the victim of deliberate and mercenary contamination” by its supplier.
“We assure you that we will never again do business with the supplier of the suspect wheat gluten, XuZhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., Ltd.,” Miller said in a letter posted on his company’s Web site. “...We hope that U.S. and Chinese investigations of XuZhou Anying reveal what actually occurred.”
Regarding this week’s raid of ChemNutra’s office, Miller said: “We have cooperated and complied fully with FDA investigators both prior to and since being served with today’s search warrant, and will continue to do so. We keep very good records, which has made it relatively easy for the investigators to retrieve what they needed.”
“We also now believe that our wheat gluten customer, Menu Foods, used significantly more wheat gluten monthly than we supplied to them, so we hope that Menu Foods will disclose its other sources to the FDA to ensure that any suspect product is quarantined,” Mille added.
Miller said his company quarantined the suspect wheat gluten immediately after learning it might be linked to illnesses in pets.
“We can only hope that Menu Foods has taken steps to ensure that this situation will not be allowed to spread even farther because of its inaction,” he said, adding Menu Foods “had apparently been aware (of this problem) for some time.”
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