Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pet food global: Food coming from Taiwan safe? Food from China still very questionable.

Pet Food Industry Magazine, a publication for pet food professionals, reported recently that according to the Taipai Times, to ease public concern over possible health threats in petfood, the Taiwan Council of Agriculture (COA) said that its recent tests of the aflatoxin levels in about 100 types of dog and cat food showed that all products were safe for consumption.
Meggie Lu on 02/05/09 wrote for the Taiwan paper under “Council says dog and cat food meets safety standards”:
““In January we sampled most brands of dry dog and cat food on the market for aflatoxin levels and found all to be within safety standards,” said Hsu Tien-lai (許天來), director of the council's Department of Animal Industry.The COA investigation followed an incident in the middle of last month, when a batch of Dog Food House brand dry dog food produced on Nov. 7 was found to contain 155.59 parts per billion of aflatoxin, which is 15 times the legal safety standard.Aflatoxin is a toxin produced by fungi. The substance is known to be carcinogenic in humans and has been documented as causing liver failure and deaths in dogs.Hsu said the tests and analyses were conducted on 106 types of pet foods, including 94 types of dog food and 12 types of cat food produced by several popular brands, such as Pedigree, Purina, Hills, Classic, Eukanuba, Choice, Optima, Carrefour Brand, Whiskas, and DFH.“If pet owners are still unsure about their pet's condition, the COA has asked the four veterinary hospitals affiliated with National Taiwan University, National Chung Hsing University, National Chiayi University and National Ping Tung University of Science and Technology to offer charged outpatient services specific to ailments related to animal feeds,” he said.Concerned pet owners can also submit any suspicious pet foods to the council's Livestock Research Institute for a charged analysis, he said.The COA will also hold a hygiene and food safety seminar with pet food manufacturers before the end of this month to prevent similar breakouts in the future, Hsu said.”
Calum MacLeod on the other hand wasn’t quite as positive about China. On 03/02/09 he wrote for USA Today on 03/02/09 under “Some skeptical of China's new food safety law” :
BEIJING — Following recent tainted milk and pet food scandals that damaged the "Made in China" brand worldwide, some Chinese experts and consumers are worried that the country's first food safety law may not be enough to prevent a repeat. The new law, which China's legislature passed Saturday, toughens penalties against makers of tainted food. It also establishes a Cabinet-level food safety commission to improve monitoring, beef up safety standards, and recall substandard products. Wu Yongning, deputy director of China's National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety, said the new law is a lost opportunity to create a single, powerful body — akin to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — to handle food safety. Wu counts 13 Chinese government departments with a hand in food safety. He said at least five will remain heavily involved under the new law. "There has been no fundamental reform of the system that many people in the industry hoped for," Wu said. "There will be better coordination, but problems like Sanlu will still happen," he said. Sanlu was the company that in August recalled 700 tons of powdered milk adulterated with melamine, a chemical that is harmful to humans but was added to falsify protein readings. Across China, tainted milk killed at least six children and sickened nearly 300,000 people. In 2007, thousands of American pets were sickened by Chinese pet food also containing melamine.
In recent years, Beijing has launched a series of crackdowns against substandard food producers. The FDA also opened up its first overseas offices in China last November. The new law, effective June 1, and the new commission, to be based in the Ministry of Health, represent the most forceful effort yet at solving food safety issues. The law "is very encouraging, it's progress, and American consumers can see the Chinese government really takes this issue seriously," said Luo Yunbo, director of the Food Science and Nutrition Engineering Institute at Beijing's China Agricultural University, who has advised lawmakers. "But it takes time as food safety is very complicated and all the problems won't be solved overnight, such as the morals of factory owners, and the education of the public," he said. he milk scandal highlighted the gaps in China's food monitoring system, according to Luo and Wu. While the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for China's cows, and several ministries are involved in getting their milk to consumers, no department took charge of the milk collection stations where the melamine was added. The new commission will address these issues of responsibility, and ensure the whole food chain is under control," promised Luo. "No country, including the USA, can promise 100% that food safety problems will not occur in the future."
In Beijing, shoppers welcomed the legislation, but sounded skeptical about its chances of success. iang Manchang, shopping for groceries in the Jingkelong supermarket in Sanlitun, hoped the new law would force manufacturers to guarantee quality. His wife, Jia Li, laughed off such optimism. "There are so many people and factories in China. At the local level they don't obey the laws of the central government. Why should this law be any different?" she asked.”
While this article basically just talks about human food, we all still very clearly remember that we had our large share of problems with pet food when Chinese contaminated pet food ingredients caused history’s largest pet food recall with in many cases fatal consequences. And I believe there still to this day justifiable concern is in order. Especially since we have to consider that the FDA only inspects 1% to 3% of all food and drug imports into the US. My friend Susan Thixton of
ThruthAboutPet, as she reports under “Arrests in China for Tainted Animal Feed” of seven people having been arrested for allegedly being responsible for the recent cases of pig feed poisoning, comments on the FDA import dilemma: “Just imagine what has gotten by!” Susan’s recommendation: “Take the time to call the manufacturer of your pet’s food and treats. Ask them if any ingredients are sourced from China, including vitamins and minerals. Without this information, your pet’s health is at risk. Avoid any pet foods or pet treats that contain ingredients sourced from China.” While I agree with Susan that a healthy portion of critical analysis and research is in order when it comes to buying pet food containing ingredients sourced in China. However, I also feel that in the global environment we live in these days it is fine with me to use foreign ingredients as long as they are humanely processed, safe and healthy for our companion animals. Just F.Y.I., everything goes both ways. Don’t throw stones if you sit in the glass house: Recently there also have been reports of possible problems with American exports to China causing health problems.
Image: Photo credit AFP/Getty Images: A Chinese health inspection officer checks meat at a slaughterhouse in Beijing on Saturday.

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