Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pet Food Poisoning: The Gluten Thickens

I'd like to follow up on Shakesville writer Space Cowboy's post about the horrible pet food contamination that has recently sickened and killed so many cats and dogs in the United States. Not dozens, as the MSM has commonly reported as the "official death toll", or even hundreds. Rather, according to the venerable Pet Connection website, who set up a database so devastated animal lovers could report their losses, the number of deceased is a staggering 3,730 (as of April 10th); many more animals are sickened and may yet die.

This weekend, in a fit of anger about the FDA's handling of this whole matter, I began to dig around a little. For a little ol' nobody from nowhere, I'm rather good at digging around (thanks, Ye Gods of Google).

Herewith, my findings so far:

According to an April 6 Washington Post article, Chinese export and quarantine officials deny ever shipping any wheat gluten to the United States in the first place (China, which in 2005 grew 96 million metric tons of wheat, is the world’s largest producer, followed by India and the US). So, that seemed strange right off the bat.

Then I learned, via a great Op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate, that buried deep within the FDA site, there is an Import Alert issued on April 4th against a Chinese company called Xuzhou Anying. Read the FDA order. It mandates "Detention Without Physical Examination" of wheat gluten and wheat flour gluten due to the presence of "poisonous or deleterious substance". Further down the page, the alert states the charges:

The article is subject to refusal of admission pursuant to section 801(a)(3)in that it appears to bear or contain a poisonous or deleterious substance, which may render it injurious to health [Adulteration, section 402(a)(1)](Oasis Charge Code; POISONOUS)

The FDA alert, prepared by Cathie Marshall and Linda Wisniowski, bears an interesting and somewhat unsettling notation next to the legend FOI (Freedom Of Information): No purging required.

The US shell company that has been handling Chinese imports of food products--which, for reasons that remain unclear, the FDA repeatedly failed to identify--is called ChemNutra.

From the ChemNutra site:

ChemNutra imports quality ingredients from China to the U.S. for the feed, food and pharma industries. We are a professionally managed, American owned company experienced in negotiating, securing and delivering ultra-competitive pricing on high-quality chemicals and ingredients from quality-assured manufacturers in China.

Chemnutra is based in Las Vegas. Its two principals, husband and wife, are Stephen and Sally Miller--he (CEO) is a former investment broker and VP at Smith Barney and E.F. Hutton; she worked in quality-assurance and purchasing for large multinationals in China.

Blogger Molly Mew writes:

The company's office in Las Vegas has only an address (and a locked door). No business name. The company has a business licence in Nevada but hasn't filed for incorporation in that state. It is presently incorporated in California and Deleware (tax laws I guess). The company claims a 12 year relationship with Chinese companies, but its earliest incorporation was in Delaware in 2003 (California 2005). The company has "surrendered" its incorporation to transact business in California. The company shipped product from the Xuzhou Anying company in China from Nov 9th, 2006 until March 8th, 2007 when it claimed to have learned from Menu Foods that its product was suspected as the source of the pet food contamination.


A thorough investigation of the general "health food" industry would reveal a wealth of similar shady operators. Even if the industry is increasingly being controlled by the major pharmaceutical corporations, belieing its "radical" pretensions, these corporations outsource their suppliers to fly by night operators. What do they care ? It's just globalization at work.Molly also wants to call particular attention to the date that ChemNutra claims for its notification by Menu Foods ie March 8th !!!!. This is considerably earlier than the recall issued by Menu Foods of their products. I'm sure that this will figure prominantly in the legalities that are beginning to build around this matter.

The Website Trust Me offers plenty of information too; it cites bloggers and reporters who are also delving into this mystery, and quotes CNN/Anderson Cooper's recent report (emphasis mine):

The FDA now tells us it's investigating whether or not the contamination was intentional -- and profit-motivated.

Here's why:

The FDA says it's possible that melamine can be used to raise protein levels in wheat gluten. Higher protein levels make the wheat gluten more valuable.

Finally, at the end of the Trust Me piece, I found a nice, creepy little flourish that may or may not mean anything: a Google search of Stephen Miller's previous enterprise, a company named NetExchange Inc., revealed that it was thanked in a research paper, along with DARPA, for its "financial support".

the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. As in:
...the central research and development organization for the Department of Defense (DoD). It manages and directs selected basic and applied research and development projects for DoD, and pursues research and technology where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances for traditional military roles and missions.
And now for litbrit's initial round of questions:

  • Who are the Millers?
  • What relationship, if any, do the Millers, Chemnutra, and NetExchange Inc. have with DARPA?
  • Are the FDA protecting the Millers and Chemnutra, and why?
  • To whom does Chemnutra sell their imported food additives?
  • Which US customers of Chemnutra produce food for humans?
  • Why was the FDA Import Alert order (very serious) not publicized?
  • Who is the Chinese company Xuzhou Anying, and why is China denying that their nation even exports wheat gluten to the US in the first place?
Also at Shakesville.

UPDATE: jhritz at Kos posted a comprehensive diary about the pet food contamination last Wednesday; it's full of information, further articles, resources, and contacts for pet owners:

...Here is one from (great name) Goldy at HorsesAss (whose story I linked in my last diary): Tainted Wheat Gluten Sold as "Food Grade".

Has your pet been affected? Report it here: http://www.PetConnection.com

Again, Christie Keith's (Pet Connection) article in the San Francisco Chronicle, YOUR WHOLE PET, The Story Behind the Pet Food Recall.

The ABC News report on the class action suit building on the recall.

TheBigKahuna's good advice: "I'd strongly recommend pet owners who think their pets may have been exposed to the tainted food have their pets tested. If I recall correctly, I think the cost for Socks was about $15."

Important!! If your pet is sick, be sure to TELL your vet about the ingredients suspected in the poisoning (Melamine and Aminopterin). The head vet at Cornell mentioned, during his press conference, that there are TREATMENTS for the poisons, as long as the treating vet knows about it.

Menu Foods says they will reimburse expenses for pet owners who can verify their pets were impacted by the recalled food.

It bears repeating: if you think your pet has eaten any of the affected foods, remember to keep all containers and receipts, if possible, as well as copies of all your vet's records, bills, and lab test results.

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