Month: April 2007

Melamine – Very Routine in Animal Feed

Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in China – New York Times

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.For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.

Wow, apparently, this has been going for a while now, and is extremely widespread.

It is time to test everything protein supplement coming out of China for Melamine, not just wheat gluten as the FDA has been doing. More importantly, it is also time to investigate other possible “additives” that Chinese (or for that matter, any other country including the US) manufacturers may be using.

Melamine Adulteration investigation gets cracking

FDA agents raid pet food plant, offices – Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON – Federal agents searched facilities of a dog and cat food manufacturer and one of its suppliers as part of an investigation into the widening recall of pet products, the companies disclosed Friday. Food and Drug Administration officials searched an Emporia, Kan., pet food plant operated by Menu Foods and the Las Vegas offices of ChemNutra Inc., according to the companies. Menu Foods made many of the more than 100 brands of pet food recalled since March 16 because of contamination by the chemical melamine. ChemNutra supplied the manufacturer with wheat gluten, one of the two ingredients tainted by melamine used in recalled pet products. Both companies said they were cooperating with the investigation.

The initial “let’s blame China for everything” drumbeat is subsiding a little as the FDA finally begins its inspections, and we find the tangled web of the food import business unraveling just a little bit. At this point in time, the charges are flying like crazy.

The origin within China of the wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate remains murky. For example, ChemNutra’s source for the twovegetable proteins, Suzhou Textile Import and Export Co., told The AP that food ingredients aren’t part of its business — but that employees often take on side deals. Stern said ChemNutra dealt with the company’s president.

Side deals? How quaint? The solution is simple: Quarantine every food item from China until it has been tested for melamine. You do not know the extent of the problem yet. It only seems to get worse everyday. Make the manufacturers pay for the testing.  Tighten up the paperwork, exercise tighter control over where the ingredients come from, get everything in writing.

Meanwhile, the manufacturers are getting their press releases out. From Blue Buffalo foods…

We at the Blue Buffalo Company have just learned that American Nutrition Inc. (ANI), the manufacturer of all our cans and biscuits, has been adding rice protein concentrate to our can formulas without our knowledge and without our approval. This is product tampering, and it apparently has been going on for some time. The can formulas that we developed, and trusted them to produce, never contained any rice protein concentrate. It appears that only an FDA investigation of ANI’s rice protein concentrate supplies forced them to reveal this product tampering to us.

While this activity by ANI is in itself unlawful, the situation is further clouded by the fact that ANI has been receiving rice protein concentrate from Wilber-Ellis, some of which the FDA has determined to be contaminated with melamine.

If this is true (and we don’t know that for a fact), it’s plain ol’ cheating and food adulteration. What does American Nutrition have to say?

The FDA has urged American Nutrition to issue a voluntary recall of pet foods manufactured using Wilbur-Ellis rice protein. None of these products is sold under an American Nutrition brand, but are sold through other independent companies. No American Nutrition brands or other products they manufacture for other businesses are affected by this recall.

Why would I trust the word of anyone who’s accused of adding ingredients off the label? This story gets curiouser and curiouser, and it is pretty clear that between the “side dealers” in China and some greedy middlemen suppliers here, we have plenty of blame to go around.

Stay tuned for more…

Signs of the Rapture – Killer Algae

This time, it’s the killer algal bloom, to add to the dying bees and the dying fish.

Algae killing birds, sealife in Calif. – Yahoo News

A bloom of ocean algae that produces a toxic acid has sickened and killed hundreds of birds, sea lions and dolphins in California, environmentalists said.

Birds and animals have been washing up on shores from San Diego to San Francisco Bay.

In the past week, 40 birds have been taken to the International Bird Rescue Center in San Pedro with symptoms of domoic acid poisoning, which attacks the brain and can cause seizures.

In previous seasons, the center might see seven birds a week, director Jay Holcomb said.

“I have been doing this work for 35 years and I have never seen anything like this as far as the number of species affected, other than an oil spill,” Holcomb said Thursday.

Domoic acid is produced by microscopic algae. Birds and sea mammals ingest the acid by eating fish and shellfish who dine on the algae.

The algae population increases or “blooms” every year as the ocean waters warm but this year’s bloom seems early, extensive and “very, very thick,” said David Caron, who teaches in the biological sciences department at University of Southern California.

“In five years of study I have not seen a bloom this large at this particular time of year,” Caron said. “It’s having an extraordinary impact on pelicans and many other species.”

“There are conceivably thousands of animals being affected,” Caron said.

domoic acidDomoic acid is a naturally occuring toxin from red algae. Increased nutrient loadings into the ocean, and warming ocean temperatures are both linked with an increasing incidence of this toxic “red tide“. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon every year, so it is hard to tease out human inputs and just plain ol’ natural variation. One more thing to keep an eye on, I guess.

Statutory Disclaimer: I don’t actually believe in the rapture – it’s just a cheap rhetorical trick.

Melamine – Now in Humans

Once again, there’s no evidence that melamine at such low levels would pose any threat to humans. (or pigs, I guess, they have other issues to worry about!). It is the lack of ingredients control, and the casual diversion of food considered unfit for pet consumption to animal feed. If you did this to some other, more dangerous contaminant, and I don’t see any reason why the same thing would not happen, we’d be in a lot more trouble. The U.S did not really learn any lessons from the mad cow scare.

In a way, I am glad this story has unfolded the way it did, slowly, and methodically up the food chain, finally reaching humans. It provides some insight into how the US government “regulates” food, and what needs to be done to shore up this program. (hint, better regulation, more money, more inspectors!). Of course, as a cat owner, (and one who had an unexplained trip to the hospital to treat said cat for puking and general stomach issues), I wish that cats were not the canary in this particular food safety scare, but I guess it really made people pay attention.

Report: Tainted hogs enter food supply – Yahoo! News

Several hundred of the 6,000 hogs that may have eaten contaminated pet food are believed to have entered the food supply for humans, the government said Thursday.

No more than 345 hogs, from farms in three states, that possibly ate tainted feed are involved, according to the Agriculture Department. It appears the large majority of the hogs that may have been exposed are still on the farms where they are being raised, spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said.

Salvaged pet food from companies known or suspected of using tainted ingredients was shipped to hog farms in seven states for use as feed. A poultry feed mill in an eighth state, Missouri, also received possibly contaminated pet food scraps left over from production. The fate of the feed made from that waste was not immediately known.

EPA Accused of Flouting Supreme Court –

You may remember from a few weeks back when the supremes in a very rare unanimous decision ruled that the Duke Energy would have to install new pollution controls if it made modifications to its power plants that increased annual emissions without increasing hourly emissions. Well, never mind that, the EPA released a “rule” that “clarifies” this issue.

EPA Accused of Flouting Supreme Court –

The government proposed a pollution standard for power plants Wednesday that critics said flouts the spirit of a Supreme Court ruling on clean air enforcement.

The proposal would make it easier for utilities to expand plant operations or make other changes to produce more electricity without installing new pollution controls.

The proposal would allow the use of average hourly smokestack emissions when determining whether a plant’s expansion or efficiency improvements require additional pollution controls. The EPA hopes to make the proposal final before year’s end.

Opponents of the hourly standard recently argued before the Supreme Court that this standard lets a plant put more smog-causing chemicals and other pollution into the air, even if hourly releases do not increase.

Environmentalists long have contended the EPA should continue using annual emissions to determine whether new pollution controls are needed under the Clean Air Act.

Let’s get this straight, “environmentalists contend”? There is nothing to contend here, it’s simple math. If you keep hourly rates the same and run your plant for longer, you will emit more pollution, which is not good. Less pollution good, more pollution bad, there is no point of contention here. Hourly standards and annual standards are used for two different things. The hourly standard sets a lower limit on the efficiency of the pollution control operation for the plant. The annual standard measures the plant’s overall impact. Both of them need to be regulated. It is only common sense that if you put out twice the amount of pollution in a year because you run 20 hours per day instead of 10, you need to control it. The Supremes rightly tagged this argument as dishonest, only to see the EPA very happily turn around and reissue it as an official rule.

Most random use of global warming as an excuse

Anaheim council OKs Disney-adjacent housing development – Los Angeles Times

In a new argument Tuesday, Disney officials provided city officials with an inches-thick packet asserting that the residential project would exacerbate global warming because of the traffic it would generate.

It is nice when Disney expresses concern about global warming, but why???

Over the strong objections of Disney and dozens of tourist officials, the Anaheim City Council voted 3-2 early this morning to approve a controversial residential project in the city’s resort district.

The six-hour public hearing, which began Tuesday night and spilled into this morning, was the council’s second attempt to settle the dispute that had lingered for nearly a year.

About 150 resort workers, many from Disney, attended the meeting in support of the development, some wearing stickers that read “Yes in Mickey’s Back Yard” (YIMBY). The dozen employees remaining at the meeting cheered when the project was approved.

Ah, I get it, they don’t want people working at Disney living near Disney!! So, go ahead, use global warming as an excuse! If it were not disgustingly hypocritical, it would be funny.

China Food Quality Questioned

I mentioned briefly that I would not trust anything coming out of China at this point in time, the Post runs with it this morning.

China Food Fears Go From Pets To People –

The scandal, which unfolded three years ago after hundreds of babies fell ill in an eastern Chinese province, became the defining symbol of a broad problem in China’s economy. Quality control and product-safety regulation are so poor in this country that people cannot trust the goods on store shelves.

China has been especially poor at meeting international standards. The United States subjects only a small fraction of its food imports to close inspection, but each month rejects about 200 shipments from China, mostly because of concerns about pesticides and antibiotics and about misleading labeling. In February, border inspectors for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration blocked peas tainted by pesticides, dried white plums containing banned additives, pepper contaminated with salmonella and frozen crawfish that were filthy.

China’s development in many areas has been remarkably rapid, but one has to remember that basic infrastructure such as food safety standards, environmental controls, etc. follow along a little later. China being what it is, the U.S government really needs to be more careful and comprehensive with its food testing and safety programs. There’s no sense in blaming China for this, the Chinese government can’t possibly control all this activity. It takes both buyer beware, and seller beware to ensure safety. The U.S should take the European Union’s approach on this issue.

Melamine movin' on up the food chain

The FDA mentioned recently that the melamine suspected of poisoning many cats had gotten into pig feed in California, well, it gets worse…

Tuesday: Uh-Oh — North Carolina Public Radio WUNC

The FDA announced this afternoon that thousands of hogs in NC and four or five other states are now under quarantine because they were fed tainted rice gluten. Hogs here and in CA have tested positive for melamine. No one knows yet whether it poses any dangers to humans who ate the hogs, but the feds say they’re trying to find out.

At this point in time, I would consider any animal feed from China suspect. Way out of control, because we have no procedure for being proactive about these things…

It won’t amount to much because melamine apparently does not affect humans as much as it seems to affect cats, but it is the utter lack of control of ingredients and raw materials that scares me. What else can sneak through? What if the next one is actually deadly to humans?

India makes commercial satellite launch

The Hindu : Front Page : PSLV makes commercial launch

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Monday successfully made the first commercial launch of a foreign satellite through the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C8). Italian satellite, Agile, weighing 352 kg, was placed in a precise orbit about 550 km above the earth.

The PSLV also carried an ISRO payload, Advanced Avionics Module (AAM), to establish the next generation computers, navigation, guidance, control and telemetry systems that will be used in future launch vehicles. It weighed 185 kg.

ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair called the mission “a 100 per cent success” and “a remarkable achievement.”

He said: “We have made a good entry into the launch business. I hope we will get more and more business opportunities in future. The contract [to launch the Italian satellite] came at a time when there was a complex, competitive environment.”

Indian space research has always been way ahead of just about any other field, a good indication of the research priorities set in the 1970s. The take home message is that if India throws money and attention at a problem, it does seem to have some success. Now if they can only fix this