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Tainted Wheat Gluten


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Melamine has also gotten into rice protein concentrate and into corn gluten in South Africa. The pet food recall list continues to expand. So far the confirmed contamination is still limited to foods for animals, but there are new reports of other animal feed being tainted beyond domestic pet food.

Apparently, some hogs have also eaten contaminated feed and some may have been slaughtered and sent to market before that was discovered.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburgh...s/s_503671.html

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=3058844&CMP

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-goldst...lu_b_46285.html

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The FDA has expanded greatly its import alert on food ingredients from China

From the article:

The Food and Drug Administration is enforcing a new import alert that greatly expands its curtailment of some food ingredients imported from China, authorizing border inspectors to detain ingredients used in everything from noodles to breakfast bars.

The new restriction is likely to cause delays in the delivery of raw ingredients for the production of many commonly used products.

The move reflects the FDA's growing unease with what the alert announcement called China's "manufacturing control issues" and that country's inability to ascertain what controls are in place to prevent food contamination.

The article also has a link to a graphic showing the scope of food imports the FDA rejects in one week and the reasons for turning them away.

This is the import alert.

From the import alert:

As of April 26, 2007, FDA had collected approximately 750 samples

of wheat gluten and products made with wheat gluten and, of those

tested thus far, 330 were positive for melamine and/or melamine

related compounds. FDA had also collected approximately 85

samples of rice protein concentrate and products made with rice

protein concentrate and, of those tested thus far, 27 were

positive for melamine and/or melamine related compounds. FDA's

investigation has traced all of the positive samples as having

been imported from China.

The FDA also says in the alert that it does not know who the actual manufacturers of the contaminated ingredients are, how many manufacturers there are, or where they are located in China. The FDA has been unable to determine the source of the contamination or the scope of the problem.

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This is funny and scary at the same time. What an eye-opening story. Scott and I consider ourselves to be fairly knowledgable consumers, but we had no idea how many food additives come from China.

Yet another reason to buy local...

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This is funny and scary at the same time. What an eye-opening story. Scott and I consider ourselves to be fairly knowledgable consumers, but we had no idea how many food additives come from China.

Yet another reason to buy local...

It's really alarming when you realize that most of the world's vitamins come from China. The US no longer produces vitamin C or E. I've been trying to find out whether the US manufactures any vitamins at all anymore. There was an op-ed piece in the Post last week that mentioned the last US vitamin C plant closing, but I couldn't figure from the wording if it was the last Vitamin C plant or the last vitamin plant, period.

Reading through the list of all the ingredients from China they are now flagging is quite sobering. (I went back to my last post and included a bit of the content of the alert, but the alert itself really bears reading.)

(Thanks for the cartoon link. I haven't looked at today's paper yet.)

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The FDA and USDA did a press conference call yesterday, regarding the ongoing problem with melamine contamination in wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate imported from China. They asserted that there is no evidence of direct contamination of the human supply from the tainted ingredients. The positive test results they have gotten on the ingredients have not been in those destined for human food.

The melamine has made it indirectly into the food supply, however, through tainted feed fed to pork and chicken slaughtered for human consumption. While only about 500 hogs have been slaughtered and sent to market*, an estimated 3 million broiler chickens that ate the feed have been slaughtered, processed, and distributed into the human food chain. The chickens originated in Indiana but the FDA/USDA does not indicate whom they were sold to or who might have eaten them. They cannot identify the farms or reveal whom the poultry was supplied to because it is part of an ongoing investigation. There are also 100,000 breeder chickens that ate the feed that have been quarantined and will be destroyed.

The officials continue to assert--that because of a dilution factor--the pork and chicken is safe for humans to eat, even for children and infants.

This is the transcript of the FDA/USDA conference call.

I thought this was a particularly good question from Karen Roebuck with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

And also, it seems contradictory to say that you have to put down the pigs because they are not safe enough to be slaughtered now and go into the market, but yet it's safe enough not to recall the ones that have already been slaughtered.

The response was that it's a legal issue regarding the live animals. Since they've eaten adulterated feed, they can't be passed for inspection as unadulterated, but there is no indication that there would be health issues as a result of any that did go to market.

I'm really wanting to believe the FDA/USDA on all of this, but I must say I'm wary, given the way this has been playing out. One matter of special concern is that it seems the pets started getting sick as a result of an interaction of melamine with melamine-related compounds (one that has been identified is cyanuric acid). Perhaps it is true that farm animals and humans can tolerate low does of melamine without toxic effects, but what if the same interaction with the other compounds carries higher toxicity?

*Previous stories have given 45 as the number of people in California known to have consumed the pork. While about 6000 hogs have eaten the feed, most of those were still resident on the farm at the time this was discovered.

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I feel like I'm getting tiresome here, but then I think, "The government is holding 20 million chickens back from processing because they may have eaten melamine tainted feed."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18496438/

No, you aren't getting "tiresome." It's just that none of us on this site quite know what to do. Laniloa is our go-to person on fish, cuz that's what she DOES; but I don't know of any particular DR.com member who deals with this particular issue on a professional basis.

It seems that boatloads of food additives come from a place which doesn't have a system in place to stop this sort of nonsense from leaving its shores. (The political people here can spend DAYS discussing how such a system came about, but that doesn't really help the DR.com community, now does it?)

There has been much discussion between Dame Edna and myself on this very issue (we have a cat) since this whole issue hit the public. I, for one, appreciate what anybody on this site has to offer. I'm listening to you with bated breath.

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Apologia: I am incredibly naive and ignorant when it comes to this kind of issue.

However, wheat is one of the crops that is highly subsidized in the U.S. So, is it simply the lower cost of processing feed abroad that is behind the imports? Has this country shut down a lot of plants, or...?

Disclaimer: I realize there have been plenty of problems with tainted ingredients and foods in this country. I do wonder if locavores might be seeing more people moving into their camp in response to stories such as the ones linked in this thread. However, now that uncured Spanish ham is available, the prospect of loosening up restrictions on more food imports such as raw milk cheeses seems even dimmer. (Hope this isn't too off-topic.)

* * *

A couple of weeks ago I noticed the inexpensive bundles of organic garlic at Whole Foods had increased slightly in price. The label said they were from Argentina now instead of China. Is this a sign that supermarkets are getting skittish in buying agricultural goods from the country? Or that they fear we won't buy them?

* * *

Has anyone noticed signs up in stores, reassuring patrons that the chickens were neither Hoosiers nor consumers of tainted feed? I'm down to the last container of stock in my freezer...

* * *

Soaked chickpeas last night for falafel. Wonder what lambs eat and what other countries have been affected...

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No, you aren't getting "tiresome." It's just that none of us on this site quite know what to do. Laniloa is our go-to person on fish, cuz that's what she DOES; but I don't know of any particular DR.com member who deals with this particular issue on a professional basis.

It seems that boatloads of food additives come from a place which doesn't have a system in place to stop this sort of nonsense from leaving its shores. (The political people here can spend DAYS discussing how such a system came about, but that doesn't really help the DR.com community, now does it?)

There has been much discussion between Dame Edna and myself on this very issue (we have a cat) since this whole issue hit the public. I, for one, appreciate what anybody on this site has to offer. I'm listening to you with bated breath.

I don't know anyone who does this professionally either. I've been following this, all the permutations and new developments, since mid-March, and I don't even know what I think anymore.

One thing I find troubling is that the FDA has trouble regulating the food supply produced within the the US, let alone having the ability to do much about foods coming in from outside (they inspect 1% of food imports). When you realize that the domestic food supply still has quality control problems--even though executives of US companies have an incentive to keep the food supply safe, since they and their families and neighbors consume that food--it's especially sobering to contemplate largely unregulated imports from around the world. I keep thinking of The Omnivore's Dilemma. The globalization of the food supply does certainly increase the risk to our (and our pets') diet.

Unfortunately, because it is cheaper to produce certain ingredients elsewhere and the US does not have the capacity to produce as much wheat gluten, etc., as the population consumes, it's got to come in from outside. Either economic priorities have to change or our diets have to change. Something's going to have to give if we want to reduce risk to the food supply, but it took a long time to get to this place and it's going to take a long time to repair the system. This is one of those get ready for a bumpy ride times, I think.

I went to the oversight hearing the House Energy and Commerce Committee held on April 24th. The proceedings were aired on one of the C-Span channels the next weekend. I took almost a whole notebook of notes but then lost motivation for writing them all up. I guess I should have asked if people were interested :blink: . The Post had an article on the hearing the next day.

The hearing dealt with the effectiveness of the FDA. The theme was "Diminished Capacity: Can the FDA Assure the Safety and Security of the Nation's Food Supply." (The answer, overwhelmingly, was NO.)

The committee dealt with three recent outbreaks of foodborne illness: e coli from spinach last summer; salmonella from Peter Pan peanut butter earlier this year; and the contaminated pet food. They had a panel of people who were affected by the two human food contamination episodes; one panel of experts (a vet and a woman from the GAO); and one panel of corporate executives whose companies produced the affected products (Natural Selections--the e coli in spinach; Con Agra--salmonella in peanut butter; Chem Nutra--the supplier of the tainted Chinese wheat gluten to four pet food companies; and Menu Foods--the Canadian company involved in manufacturing pet food for many different brands and who initiated the first pet food recall in March. Interestingly, the testimony showed that Iams initiated the first recall. After their discussion of concerns with Menu, Menu Foods issued their recall first.)

There were several things I learned from attending the hearing. One is that the FDA has no authority to issue mandatory food recalls, except for baby formula. Everything is done as a matter of voluntary compliance. If you look at FDA documents, they talk about "guidance" a lot. Another thing I learned is that the GAO had issued a report on the US food supply as being high-risk. They issued 30 high-risk reports to brief the incoming Congress on matters of critical importance, and this was one of them. The prepared testimony of Lisa Shames from the GAO is available as a .pdf file here.

One problem is that there is a patchwork of agencies and laws dealing with overlapping territory. One statistic that popped up a couple of times is the FDA has responsibility for 80% of the inspections but only has 20% of the resources; USDA does 20% of the inspections and has 80% of the resources. The USDA does much more intensive inspections than FDA, including inspections at place of origin. The other statistic that kept being repeated was something like, there are 15 agencies enforcing 30 laws. Now that the pet food has gotten into animal and poultry feed, the FDA and USDA are working together. Perhaps that's a better use of resources.

Rep. Inslee (D-WA) called for making reforms to the rest of the food system along the lines of what was done with the meat supply after the Jack-in-the-Box e coli outbreak in 1993. He called that reform successful.

Another issue that emerged across human and pet food is lack of systematic reporting of problems. Dr. DeCarlo of the Red Bank Veterinary Hospital talked about the necessity of having a centralized reporting system for pet illnesses--so vets can easily report information in and get reliable up-to-date information out. There are small vets who are completely overwhelmed trying to keep up with all of this. But it's not only a problem with the pet illnesses. The anecdotal evidence from the three families who testified about e coli and salmonella showed the same kind of problem with reporting and getting information. They had to depend on media reports and happenstance (e.g., knowing someone who previously had the illness, a family member who is a nurse) to diagnose the problem. All of them essentially researched the problems themselves and had difficulty getting their family members' illnesses reported into the system. And that's having CDC and county health departments; there's nothing for pets at all.

One thing that bothered me at the end of the hearing was when the chair, Bart Stupak (D-MI)--who I thought did a great job overall--asked Mr. Henderson from Menu Foods when pet food would be back on the shelves. Having sat through 4 1/4 hours straight of questions and testimony, I could not believe that the roundup question was, essentially, "When will it be business as usual?" ;) The reply from Mr. Henderson was that they were still in the midst of the recall, getting products off store shelves and reclaiming warehouse inventory. He said it would start up again in the next week or two. It's 11 days later, and Menu just issued a large recall on Wednesday. (There was another recall yesterday, but it wasn't Menu.)

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However, now that uncured Spanish ham is available, the prospect of loosening up restrictions on more food imports such as raw milk cheeses seems even dimmer. (Hope this isn't too off-topic.)
I think it's very on-topic, because a lot of this is about risk assessment. If you know that when you eat raw meat, uncooked eggs or raw milk cheese or drink unpasteurized milk that you are taking a health risk, you are making an informed decision. When adulterants are put into food or pharmaceuticals without your knowledge, you have no choice. Unfortunately, it seems to me, that producers in countries who are upfront in what they are selling are more likely to be subject to regulation and the refusal of their products. The FDA/USDA knows there's a health risk and won't let the products in. At the same time, unscrupulous producers are contaminating products that the regulatory agencies have no awareness of or reason to question, and those products get through. I hope that the current situation does not further block importation of products that people want to eat but which are considered to carry a risk. I fear it will.

Two more things from the oversight hearing: Con-Agra was not forthcoming with the FDA when they inspected their plants in previous years. There had been previous contaminant problems in the GA plant. When the FDA wanted details in 2004 about why a certain product had been put on micro hold (microbial?) within the plant, employees would not answer the officials unless the question was submitted in writing, which it never was. A reason given for that was that proprietary information was involved. (Con-Agra changed its policy on this in April.)

During the course of this whole discussion, it became clear that salmonella contamination in peanuts and peanut butter is not unheard of. The raw product exposed to moisture at certain temperatures can cause salmonella to grow. (I don't know the science of this. My point is that it is not an unexpected thing. It's an inherent risk with peanuts and peanut products and has to be guarded against.) We know there's a risk. We want to make sure production facilities are monitored for this risk, and that it's tested for, but we can't completely eliminate the risk. It's very important for companies to be forthcoming with inspectors about what is going on in order to protect the food supply.

Second point. Mr. Sweat from Natural Selections talked about procedures they put in place last fall to guard against e coli in their greens. They'd previously had no problems and had no special protocol in place before the spinach got contaminated. There is no kill step for e coli in greens that will be eaten raw. They are triple washed with a chlorinated wash as a deterrent to the microbial load. They now test greens both when they arrive for processing and at the end of production. In the 7 or so months they've done the testing, the first step has caught 23 instances of e coli and 16 of salmonella; the products were destroyed. There have been no positives at the end point testing. That sounds to me about as risk-free as you're going to get, barring some way to kill e coli without cooking.

Near the end of the hearing, Sweat was asked by Rep. Burgess (R-TX) if consumers should wash their pre-washed lettuce/greens. His response was that when people ask that at their web site or toll-free number, they're told to wash them if they want. Burgess pressed him: Shouldn't we tell people to wash the prewashed lettuce?

No. It won't have any additional effect. If the chlorination wash didn't get it, your tap water won't either.

I'm quite verbose this afternoon, but, there are points beyond which risk cannot be reduced. We want to be careful in that, in trying to eliminate risk, we may be misdirecting resources that could be used to minimize risk in other areas.

* * *

Has anyone noticed signs up in stores, reassuring patrons that the chickens were neither Hoosiers nor consumers of tainted feed? I'm down to the last container of stock in my freezer...

I haven't been to a meat counter since the chicken issue emerged. I used to get my chicken at Market Poultry. It was the place I really trusted for chicken and used to feed it to my cat, too :blink: I'm not sure what I'm going to do about chicken.
* * *

Soaked chickpeas last night for falafel. Wonder what lambs eat and what other countries have been affected...

At least 20 dogs died in South Africa after they ate pet food that contained contaminated Chinese corn gluten. That's one of the reasons the FDA is watching imported corn gluten here, even though there haven't been reported problems with it in the US.
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No, you aren't getting "tiresome." It's just that none of us on this site quite know what to do.
We've figured out something we can do. We're buying milk, dairy and eggs from the farmer's markets, where we can ask the people what they feed their animals. We're eating more vegetarian meals and not buying anything processed unless it contains whole ingredients. Fortunately, our brand of cat food seems to be off the hook, but I'm looking into alternatives just in case.
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We've figured out something we can do. We're buying milk, dairy and eggs from the farmer's markets, where we can ask the people what they feed their animals.
Have you gotten any deliveries from that local dairy farm (I'm blanking on the name but remember your mentioning it)?
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This is a great discussion. I think we will soon see food products labelled " Contains no ingredients from China". What

effect this will have global agricultural economics, I don't know.

Personally (based on absolutely no facts) I am convinced that Wal-Mart has trained the Chinese to think that

Americans want the very lowest price, and quality is entirely unimportant.

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Have you gotten any deliveries from that local dairy farm (I'm blanking on the name but remember your mentioning it)?
South Mountain, and no we haven't had a delivery yet. I need to call them because I think the online sign-up got screwed up somehow.
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The USDA is letting those 20 million chickens go...to the marketplace. Even though the chickens apparently ate the feed with contaminated pet food in it, the sample testing USDA did didn't find melamine in the feed. Given that the amount of melamine that showed up in testing of raw materials varied, I'd really wonder about whether some samples at this level might show nothing and others show something significant.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/healthNews/i...734189520070507

I realize that if they had held the chickens to test and not said anything, word would have leaked out and fueled rumors and conspiracy theories. Once they made their uncertainty about the quality of the chickens public, however, I don't want to be eating them. I especially don't like that I have no idea where they're going. Some accounts I had seen indicated they were from small farms and intended for smaller businesses. I have no idea if that's true.

I found a couple of bags of chicken wings and backs in my freezer yesterday. They were leftover from what I'd bought them from Market Poultry a couple of months ago to make stock. I had gotten to the point where I was suspicious of chicken I was seeing, and that was the last place I trusted to buy chicken. Maybe that's my own neurosis.

I'll be making a big batch of stock soon, or maybe some stock and some wings, but, otherwise, I'm not so keen on chicken right now.

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There was just another FDA/USDA media teleconference. The FDA has discovered that melamine-contaminated products labeled wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate were actually wheat flour.

But, THEY'RE NOT TESTING WHEAT FLOUR because the contaminated products weren't LABELLED as wheat flour.

Kill me now...or just feed me pet food.

(ETA: Farmed fish ate the contaminated feed too--by way of wheat flour sent to Canada and turned into fish food that came back to the US--but the FDA isn't worried.)

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The transcript from yesterday's FDA/USDA media conference is here.

I really don't take much comfort in being told by the "food safety czar" that they're not really sure what they're looking for in contaminated food,

But obviously we are keeping our eyes open, we're working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If we start to see unusual spikes of inexplicable illness, clearly we'd ask those questions.
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Farmed fish given meal tainted with melamine. Is this story ever going to end?
Probably not any time soon. Westaqua, among other things, provides fish products for pet food.

It seems like no one really knows what goes into the pet food or where it comes from.

As part of a post-9/11 measure to protect the food supply, federal law requires food companies to be able to trace products one step forward and one step back.
Maybe they want to take that a few steps further.
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I purchased shrimp from SFW (previously frozen) and there was a label with areas to check off on where it came from (including USA, Viet Nam, China, etc.) and whether it was farm raised or wild caught. Interesting--the skeptic in me thinks it's purely marketing, and that anyone could check off whatever they wanted, to sell what they wanted to sell.

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Scientists are now checking to see if the massive bee death/disappearance epidemic is related to the same chemicals that are in the pet food:

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburgh...s/s_508326.html

I don't have any emoticons that properly convey my feeling at this point.

I have to wonder if some of the problem isn't due to the use of Bayer 3-in-1 (or is it All in One?). This is a soil drench which kills whatever bugs (beneficial or otherwise) are in the soil, but is also taken up by the plant to prevent disease. I can't imagine that bees or any other insect looking for nectar or pollen can remain unaffected.

No data. Just wondering. ;)

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A couple of weeks ago I noticed the inexpensive bundles of organic garlic at Whole Foods had increased slightly in price. The label said they were from Argentina now instead of China. Is this a sign that supermarkets are getting skittish in buying agricultural goods from the country? Or that they fear we won't buy them?
The Post covers the Chinese garlic issue today. China produces 75% of the world's garlic.

how to tell where your garlic comes from

on food inspections and concerns about imports.

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