Pet Poisonings – A chemistry detective story

Melamine in pet food may not be accidental – USATODAY.com

A nitrogen-rich chemical used to make plastic and sometimes as a fertilizer may have been deliberately added to an ingredient in pet food that has sickened and killed cats and dogs across the country, public and private officials say. A leading theory is that it was added to fake higher protein levels.

Melamine has been found in wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate and, in South Africa, corn gluten, all imported from China, and all meant for use in pet food, the Food and Drug Administration confirmed Thursday.

“It adds to the theory when you see other products that are labeled as protein supplements, in this case rice protein, and in South Africa corn gluten and in the previous case wheat gluten,” said Stephen Sundlof, FDA chief veterinarian. “That melamine was found in all three of those, it would certainly lend credibility to the theory that this was intentional.”

Interesting, apparently, melamine was added to increase the nitrogen content of the food so it would show up as protein in the most common protein test, which only looks for nitrogen. When I am not working, I guess I will look up the test details.

I wonder if this is only the tip of the iceberg? What other techniques do food manufacturers use to fake it? Growing up, food adulteraion was a serious problem in India, and still continues to be an issue in the third world.

More on this story to come, I am sure.

One more thing that needs to be said is that the FDA has been very reactive, as opposed to proactive. This is partly because the FDA does not issue recalls, it first “strongly suggests” that the company involved recall whatver product it is that may be having issues. Only if this issue is not addressed can the FDA start seizure proceedings, which could take months. The FDa regulates and monitors on a company level, not at a product level.

For example, when Japan had one sample of U.S beef test positive for mad cow disease, that was the end of beef imports from the U.S. This is an extreme case because you’re dealing with an infectious disease, but the point is that when you are finding huge levels of pesticide in food from a country, the first thing you need to do is stop everything, troubleshoot, then turn things back on again. Yes, this gets expensive, but so does 1000s of sick pets. The difference is, who pays. In the U.S, it’s always the consumer!

1 comment for “Pet Poisonings – A chemistry detective story

  1. klack's mom
    April 20, 2007 at 11:53 am

    meanwhile, we cat owners get paranoid about every hairball and grass related puking our cat exhibits 🙁