Earlier this week, the FDA issued an import alert detaining all milk products, milk derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk from China due to the presence of melamine. This chemical became really “famous” just about 2 years ago. Unfortunately no glorious fame, it simply is a poison. It caused history’s largest recall of pet food. Melamine tainted wheat, rice and corn protein additives were the cause for illness in thousand of pets all across the United States. Even deaths were reported. To this day the chemical Melamine still continues to make news around the world. And these news always can be back tracked to originate in China. The latest ones were about melamine contaminated baby foods in China, causing illness and death in countless human infants (wrote about this in one of my earlier comments: .
The FDA orders all milk products, all milk derived ingredients, and all finished food products containing milk imported from China are being detained nationwide without physical examination. While many types of human food are impacted by this measurement, it also affects pet nutrition.
Pet products on the alert list include pet cat and dog foods, other pet foods, laboratory animal feeds, pet and laboratory animal foods, by-products for animals, dairy by-products for animals, and animal waste feed products imported from China. The alert includes milk derived pet food ingredients shipped to the U.S. from China.
According to the alert the problem is specified as melamine being an “Unsafe Food Additive, Poisonous or Deleterious Substance Unfit For Food”. As reason for the alert, the FDA cites:
“In September, 2008, FDA became aware of thousands of infant illnesses in China due to the consumption of infant formula reported to contain melamine. Reports indicated over 53,000 illnesses, including almost 13,000 hospitalizations, and at least four deaths of infants. The illnesses involved the formation of kidney stones and crystals and related complications. The milk used in the infant formula has been implicated as the source of the melamine contamination. According to sources, at a bulk fluid milk collection point, water is added to the bulk fluid milk to increase the apparent volume of product. Melamine is added to the water/milk mixture to increase the nitrogen content in order to inflate the apparent protein content found in the product. Milk is transported from the collection centers to milk processing facilities. The problem of melamine contamination is not limited to infant formula products. Chinese government sources indicate contamination of milk components, especially dried milk powder, which are used in the manufacture of a variety of finished foods. These contaminated milk components appear to have been dispersed throughout the Chinese food supply chain. FDA analyses have detected melamine and cyanuric acid in a number of products that contain milk or milk-derived ingredients, including candy and beverages. In addition, information received from government sources in a number of countries indicates a wide range and variety of products from a variety of manufacturers have been manufactured using melamine contaminated milk or milk derived ingredients, including: fluid and powdered milk, yogurt, frozen desserts, biscuits, cakes and cookies, taffy-like soft candy products, chocolates, and beverages. These products appear to contain at least one milk-derived ingredient and they are of Chinese origin. Reports of contamination have come from more than thirteen countries in Asia, Europe, and Australia, in addition to the United States. Additional products from various manufacturers continue to be found to be contaminated with melamine. The problem of melamine contamination in Chinese food products is a recurring one. In 2007, bulk vegetable protein products imported from China were contaminated with melamine and melamine analogs, apparently from deliberate contamination.”
Granted, this all, at the first glance may sound the FDA’s order is only concerned about human food, it does however in the last sentence address the pet food problem 2 years ago. It also makes important statements which apply to human food and pet food alike. Example: “Melamine is added to the water/milk mixture to increase the nitrogen content in order to inflate the apparent protein content found in the product.”
Finally, it was about time that we have some action taken here. Because the problem is serious and should have everybody on his toes. Anybody needing more reasons? How about these, all detected by Susan Thixton:
Time Magazine wrote in it’s 11/04/08 issue: “the Chinese government continues to downgrade the severity of the melamine problem. Melamine tainted pet food in 2007; baby formulas, candy, and fish feed to mention a few in 2008. Experts state “If those lessons don’t sink in, then expect a Chinese Product Safety Scandal of 2009.”
The Epoch Times, a world-wide newspaper reported on November 6, 2008 of Lin He, a geneticist and member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences speech to the Summit Medical Academy; believing melamine contaminated foods to be “one of the most important factors resulting in the soaring number of birth defects in China.” The Ministry of Consumer Affairs in Trinidad & Tobago posted a full page advertisement in the 11/08/08 newspaper warning consumers about food products from China and Japan. “The ad mentioned ham and sausages were under suspicion of Cyanide contamination. In addition, it noted that certain products suspected of being tainted with Melamine, the industrial chemical at the heart of the Chinese milk scandal.” The ad mentioned specifically named products and manufacturers.
Hong Kong reported on 11/12/08 of “food inspectors having found fish feed imported from China contaminated with high levels of melamine.”
As if that all wouldn’t be enough: The FDA announced on 11/06/08 it seized 11 lots of contaminated heparin from Celsus Laboratories in Cincinnati, Ohio; all imported from China. The FDA has notified Japanese, Canadian, Australian, European Union, and other international authorities of shipments of contaminated heparin from Celsus.
Susan Thixton, always trying to figure ways how we best can protect ourselves, in her newsletter complains: “The threat of melamine continues worldwide. Consumers are left with few options to protect their families from contaminated Chinese imports.” She figured out that “While it’s only a partial help, the UPC or Bar Code number listed on product labels gives consumers limited Country of Origin information. The first three digits of a bar code indicates the location country of the company which produces the product; not necessarily the country where the product was manufactured. As an example, products that are manufactured by a Chinese company in China have a bar code that begins with 690 thru 695. However, a US company whose products are manufactured in China would have a bar code that begins with 000 – 019; the codes for the US and Canada. The first three digits of the bar code number indicate the country location of the company headquarters. Also, foods that would contain ingredients from China would not be noted by the bar code.” Thank you Susan, I was wondering about that in the past quite a few times myself. Maybe it is time for someone to restructure the UPC codes. And I am convinced that we all would be in for a big surprise. Is it even possible these days to buy anything what has clearly nothing to do with China?