From the April 2007 Idaho Observer:

Pet food recall: Sounds like an (other) FDA coverup in the making

On April 6, 2007, The New York Times reported that 22 types of dog biscuits were added to the list of pet food products recalled since March by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since the recalls began, the FDA has received some 12,000 complaints of sick and dead dogs and cats. The FDA believes that pet food products containing wheat gluten allegedly contaminated with melamine, a chemical used in the production of plastics, is the culprit.

The biscuits, made by Sunshine Mills Inc., contain wheat gluten imported from China that contained melamine, said Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA.

Conrad Pitts, a lawyer for Sunshine Mills, an Alabama company that manufactures dry pet food products, said that 80 percent of the contaminated dog biscuits were sold by Wal-Mart under the Olí Roy brand.

Until the recall was expanded to include dry pet food products such as biscuits, jerky and dry kibbles, it had been confined to canned (wet) pet food products sold under a variety of labels.

ChemNutra of Las Vegas, recalled all wheat gluten it had imported from the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company of Wangdien, China. ChemNutra reported that the FDA had found melamine in the gluten it used to make pet food products and that agency claims it is now testing all wheat gluten from China.

The Chinese government claims that no wheat gluten had been exported to the United States or Canada. Xuzhou Anying denied it had ever shipped wheat gluten to either country.

"Michael Rogers, director of the Division of Field Investigations for the FDA, said records showed that the tainted gluten came from China," The New Tork Times reported.

"We fully expect the Chinese governmentís cooperation and assistance in our further investigation," Rogers said.

Rogers and Dr. Sundlof claim the gluten did not enter the human food supply, but the investigation of imported Chinese wheat gluten is ongoing.

Wheat gluten is generally about one percent of the ingredients in pet food and is added to a wide variety of products sold for human consumption. Melamine is not generally considered toxic. As a result, being identified as the contaminant responsible for the renal failures that were killing and maiming pets is, in itself, suspicious.

The College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University is investigating 43 suspected cases of pets that died from eating tainted food; the deaths of 18 are consistent with ingestion of a toxin, said Patrick Halbur, executive director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Iowa State.

Dr. Halbur and Grant Maxie of the University of Guelph in Ontario, which is also investigating the cause of the illnesses and deaths, said it would probably take months to determine what made the pets sick.

"In Chicago, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, called for a hearing to question F.D.A. officials," The New York Times reported.

The incident is an indication that the supply of packaged and processed foods is not safe. It is prudent for consumers to minimize their ingestion of processed foods and pet owners should consider taking the time to prepare pet food at home from wholesome ingredients. Itís not that hard to do, recipes are available, pets are healthier and it costs less to feed them.

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