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Pet food crisis shows China's food safety woes are an international concern

By Christopher Bodeen
ASSOCIATED PRESS
11:08 a.m. April 12, 2007
SHANGHAI, China – The list of Chinese food exports rejected at American ports reads like a chef's nightmare: pesticide-laden pea pods, drug-laced catfish, filthy plums and crawfish contaminated with salmonella.
Yet, it took a much more obscure item, contaminated wheat gluten, to focus U.S. public attention on a very real and frightening fact: China's chronic food safety woes are now an international concern.

In recent weeks, scores of cats and dogs in America have died of kidney failure blamed on eating pet food containing gluten from China that was tainted with melamine, a chemical used in plastics, fertilizers and flame retardants. While humans aren't believed at risk, the incident has sharpened concerns over China's food exports and the limited ability of U.S. inspectors to catch problem shipments.
“This really shows the risks of food purity problems combining with international trade,” said Michiel Keyzer, director of the Center for World Food Studies at Amsterdam's Vrije Universiteit.

Just as with manufactured goods, exports of meat, produce, and processed foods from China have soared in recent years, prompting outcries from foreign farm sectors that are feeling pinched by low Chinese prices.

Worried about losing access to foreign markets and stung by tainted food products scandals at home, China has in recent years tried to improve inspections, with limited success.

The problems the government faces are legion. Pesticides and chemical fertilizers are used in excess to boost yields while harmful antibiotics are widely administered to control disease in seafood and livestock. Rampant industrial pollution risks introducing heavy metals into the food chain.

Farmers have used cancer-causing industrial dye Sudan Red to boost the value of their eggs and fed an asthma medication to pigs to produce leaner meat. In a case that galvanized the public's and government's attention, shoddy infant formula with little or no nutritional value has been blamed for causing severe malnutrition in hundreds of babies and killing at least 12.

China's Health Ministry reported almost 34,000 food-related illnesses in 2005, with spoiled food accounting for the largest number, followed by poisonous plants or animals and use of agricultural chemicals.

With China increasingly intertwined in global trade, Chinese exporters are paying a price for unsafe practices. Excessive antibiotic or pesticide residues have caused bans in Europe and Japan on Chinese shrimp, honey and other products. Hong Kong blocked imports of turbot last year after inspectors found traces of malachite green, a possibly cancer-causing chemical used to treat fungal infections, in some fish.

One source of the problem is China's fractured farming sector, comprised of small landholdings which make regulation difficult, experts said.
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/health/20070412-1108-china-foodfears.html


FDA blocks Chinese product in pet food probe

By ANDREW BRIDGES Associated Press Posted on Tue, Apr. 03, 2007
Associated Press
WASHINGTON
The United States is blocking imports of wheat gluten from a company in China, acting after an investigation implicated the contaminated ingredient in the recent pet-food deaths of cats and dogs.

The Food and Drug Administration took action against wheat gluten from Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. in Wangdien, China, after the U.S. recall of nearly 100 brands of pet food made with the chemically contaminated ingredient. The pet food, tainted with the chemical melamine, apparently has resulted in kidney failure in an unknown number of animals across the country.

Wheat gluten from China has been suspected in the outbreak since the first of multiple recalls was announced in mid-March. Even more pet food could be recalled in the next few days, though there probably has been no contamination of human food, FDA officials said Monday.

The FDA reported last week that it had found melamine in samples of the vegetable protein source used in the recalled wet and dry pet foods and treats, as well as in cats that died after eating contaminated food.

The FDA still doesn't know where all the contaminated imported wheat gluten ended up, though it appears unlikely any made it into human food.

"At this time, we can say that there is no evidence to suggest that any of the imported, suspect wheat gluten formed positive lots that made it into the human food supply," said Michael Rogers, who oversees field investigations for the FDA's office of regulatory affairs.

The imported product was only minimally labeled but apparently went only to pet food producers. The FDA considers the contamination an aberration since wheat gluten generally is not considered a product at risk for contamination.

FDA officials said its nationwide investigation could turn up more pet food manufacturers that used the tainted ingredient, prompting even more products to be recalled.
http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/news/nation/17016697.htm

Rat Poison to Blame for Pet Food Contamination

March 23, 2007
ABC News has learned that investigators have determined that a rodent-killing chemical is the toxin in the tainted pet food that has killed several animals.

A source close to the investigation tells ABC News that the rodenticide,
which the source says is illegal to use in the United States,
was on wheat that was imported from China and used by Menu Foods in nearly 100 brands of dog and cat food.

Doctors at the hospital, which is considered the Mayo Clinic of veterinary medicine,
say they noticed the kidney failure while studying sick animals from last Friday to Monday,
and traced the cases back to the 60 million cans and pouches of recalled food from Menu Food.

"I was shocked and surprised ? acute kidney failure is not a common problem," veterinarian Cathy Langston told ABC News.
"I've already heard about 200 cases, and so I bet that there are probably going to be thousands."
http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=2975912&page=1