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Home > Archived Newsletter Messages > PET FOOD CONTAMINATION NEWS OF THE DAY - MAY 2, 2007

Archived Newsletter Messages


Sent: May 2, 2007

The news seems to become more frightening every day. Two items stand out today:

Canadian and United States scientists say they have new evidence for why dogs and cats died after eating contaminated pet food.

Melamine has been detected in the tainted products, but not at levels that would normally kill. But researchers now say that it may have mixed with another compound -- cyanuric acid -- to produce crystals that may have been deadly.

Tests at the University of Guelph in Canada involving mixing cat urine with melamine and cyanuric acid resulted in crystals forming within hours. The crystals are suspected of contributing to kidney failure in pets. Representatives of the University feel they have identified the likely underlying cause of the pets becoming ill.

The FDA has confirmed that rice protein and wheat gluten imported from China were contaminated with both melamine and cyanuric acid -- a combination of which is "a potential source of concern in relation to human and animal health," according to David Elder of the agency's Office of Regulatory Affairs.

Dr. Dan McChesney, a veterinary expert with the FDA, said melamine was "surely associated" with the pet deaths and that further research is being carried out to see what other factors may have been involved.

The FDA said that as of last Friday, it has received more than 17,000 consumer complaints about the tainted pet food, including the deaths of 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs.

* * * * * * * *

This one comes from the Seattle Times:

Bowing to growing nationwide concern, the Food and Drug Administration named a food safety "czar" Tuesday and pledged to develop "a visionary strategy for food safety and defense" that takes into account increasing U.S. dependence on food imports.

The move came as the agency said its investigation of contaminated pet-food ingredients from China has expanded to include feed given to millions of chickens in the U.S. that likely already have been consumed. Officials say they do not believe the chickens pose any risk for the people who ate them.

The food-safety czar -- officially, assistant commissioner for food protection -- is Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer of the FDA's food division, who oversaw last year's investigation into tainted spinach from California.

The promise of a new food-safety strategy recalls an earlier FDA effort after the Sept. 11 attacks to improve protection of food imports. The initiative ultimately was abandoned because of tight federal budgets and a lack of official will.

Consumer advocates are skeptical that creating a safety czar and a new food strategy will make much difference without substantial new funding and stronger enforcement powers for the FDA. For example, the agency cannot require foreign producers to adhere to U.S. food-safety standards.

Meanwhile, a former FDA commissioner pronounced the food safety system "broken," and Democrats in Congress moved Tuesday to authorize federal regulators to monitor food imports more closely.

Imported pet-food ingredients contaminated with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, are believed to have killed at least 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs, according to consumer reports submitted to the FDA. Veterinary experts say the toll could be as high as 7,000. More than 150 brands of pet food have been recalled.

Some of the tainted protein concentrate in the pet food also found its way into commercial animal feed for hogs and chickens destined for human consumption.

There obviously remains much to be done to solve this crisis. We will continue to watch and report to you what we learn.

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