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Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret In China May 05, 2007 2:41 PM

Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in China
Ariana Lindquist for The New York Times

Pieces of melamine displayed by a worker. The melamine is ground into a powder and added to animal feed as a filler to keep costs low.

Published: April 30, 2007

ZHANGQIU, China, April 28 — As American food safety regulators head to China to investigate how a chemical made from coal found its way into pet food that killed dogs and cats in the United States, workers in this heavily polluted northern city openly admit that the substance is routinely added to animal feed as a fake protein.

Ariana Lindquist for The New York Times

The Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Company makes a chemical called melamine and sometimes sells melamine scrap to other producers who use it to make animal feed.

Food and Drug Administration that ingredients in pet food as well as human food, which are increasingly coming from abroad, are not being adequately screened.

“They have fewer people inspecting product at the ports than ever before,” says Caroline Smith DeWaal, the director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. “Until China gets programs in place to verify the safety of their products, they need to be inspected by U.S. inspectors. This open-door policy on food ingredients is an open invitation for an attack on the food supply, either intentional or unintentional.”

Now, with evidence mounting that the tainted wheat gluten came from China, American regulators have been granted permission to visit the region to conduct inspections of food treatment facilities.

The Food and Drug Administration has already banned imports of wheat gluten from China after it received more than 14,000 reports of pets believed to have been sickened by packaged food. And last week, the agency opened a criminal investigation in the case and searched the offices of at least one pet food supplier.

The Department of Agriculture has also stepped in. On Thursday, the agency ordered more than 6,000 hogs to be quarantined or slaughtered after some of the pet food ingredients laced with melamine were accidentally sent to hog farms in eight states, including California.

Scientists are now trying to determine whether melamine could be harmful to humans.

The pet food case is also putting China’s agricultural exports under greater scrutiny because the country has had a terrible food safety record.

In recent years, for instance, China’s food safety scandals have involved everything from fake baby milk formulas and soy sauce made from human hair to instances where cuttlefish were soaked in calligraphy ink to improve their color and eels were fed contraceptive pills to make them grow long and slim.



This post was modified from its original form on 05 May, 14:42  [ send green star]
 
 May 05, 2007 2:44 PM

For its part, Chinese officials dispute any suggestion that melamine from the country could have killed pets. But regulators here on Friday banned the use of melamine in vegetable proteins made for export or for use in domestic food supplies.

Yet what is clear from visiting this region of northeast China is that for years melamine has been quietly mixed into Chinese animal feed and then sold to unsuspecting farmers as protein-rich pig, poultry and fish feed.

Many animal feed operators here advertise on the Internet, seeking to purchase melamine scrap. The Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Company, one of the companies that American regulators named as having shipped melamine-tainted wheat gluten to the United States, had posted such a notice on the Internet last March.

Here at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group factory, huge boiler vats are turning coal into melamine, which is then used to create plastics and fertilizer.

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 May 05, 2007 2:47 PM

But the leftover melamine scrap, golf ball-size chunks of white rock, is sometimes being sold to local agricultural entrepreneurs, who say they mix a powdered form of the scrap into animal feed to deceive those who raise animals into thinking they are buying feed that is high in protein.

pet food recall in the United States. And few in agriculture here do not see any harm in using melamine in small doses; they simply see it as cheating a little on protein, not harming animals or pets.

As for the sale of melamine scrap, it is increasingly popular as a fake ingredient in feed, traders and workers here say.

At the Hebei Haixing Insect Net Factory in nearby Hebei Province, which makes animal feed, a manager named Guo Qingyin said: “In the past melamine scrap was free, but the price has been going up in the past few years. Consumption of melamine scrap is probably bigger than that of urea in the animal feed industry now.”

And so melamine producers like the ones here in Zhangqiu are busy.

A man named Jing, who works in the sales department at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group factory here, said on Friday that prices have been rising, but he said that he had no idea how the company’s melamine scrap is used.

“We have an auction for melamine scrap every three months,” he said. “I haven’t heard of it being added to animal feed. It’s not for animal feed.”

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 May 06, 2007 9:29 PM

Breaking newsMay 5, 2007 (9:30 am CDT)

Officials order 20 million chickens held from market

The Associated Press has reported that on Friday federal officials placed a hold on 20 million chickens raised for market in several states because their feed was mixed with pet food contaminated with melamine.

Three government agencies - the USDA, FDA and EPA - are overseeing a risk assessment to determine whether the chickens would pose a threat to human health if eaten, the AP reports. The assessment may be completed as early as Monday.

The 20 million chickens represent a small fraction of the 9 billion chickens raised each year in the United States.

Information regarding which states have chicken producers affected by the hold is expected to be announced later.






This post was modified from its original form on 06 May, 21:29  [ send green star]
 
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