Tuesday, May 01, 2007

FDA Widens Import Alert (To Put It Mildly), Concedes That Animal Fatalities Number In The Thousands


A number of journalists and bloggers have been following the food-adulteration issue very closely, including Goldy at HorsesAss, who to his credit manages to find some dark humor in all this--really--and sends up the FDA's recent update. (You remember, the one they issued on Friday, with food-supply protectors assuring us that humans aren't at risk because even if melamine had got into pork, it would only be a small percentage of the pork, and pork itself is only part of the American diet anyway.) Goldy also points to a new, quietly-expanded Import Alert buried in the FDA website:

IA #99-29, 4/27/07, IMPORT ALERT #99-29, "DETENTION WITHOUT PHYSICAL
EXAMINATION OF ALL VEGETABLE PROTEIN PRODUCTS FROM CHINA FOR ANIMAL OR HUMAN
FOOD USE DUE TO THE PRESENCE OF MELAMINE AND/OR MELAMINE ANALOGS"

TYPE OF ALERT: Detention Without Physical Examination (Countrywide)

[...]

PRODUCTS: Wheat Gluten
Rice Gluten
Rice Protein
Rice Protein Concentrate
Corn Gluten
Corn Gluten Meal
Corn By-Products
Soy Protein
Soy Gluten
Proteins (includes amino acids and protein hydrosylates)
Mung Bean Protein

PROBLEM: Poisonous or Deleterious Substance
Unfit For Food
Unsafe Food Additive

PAF: PES

COUNTRY: China (CN)

MANUFACTURER/SHIPPER: All

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)]"


Look at that list now--it includes just about every form of grain protein there is. Soy, rice and mung bean proteins that go into cookies and pizza dough and baby food, as well as countless "healthy" smoothies served at juice bars across the country. Would you like a sprinkle of melamine splash of cyanuric acid shot of protein powder in your mango shake for just a dollar more?


At a presser on April 26, FDA official Dr. Dan McChesney said the number of animal fatalities associated with the tainted food was "in the high teens":

REPORTER: ...Jim Kirshner with WDIV-TV in Detroit. Do you have a total number of pets either killed or sustaining some sort of injury from the pet food contamination? What figures do you have confirmed at this point?

DR. MCCHESNEY: This is Dan McChesney from FDA. What I previously said I believe in response to the Washington Post question was that it's in the high teens, maybe 17 or 18 that we have confirmed. But again that's not our focus. Our focus is to remove product that was contaminated, contained either wheat gluten or rice concentrate from commerce so we don't involve other animals or get it into other parts of the supply system.

REPORTER: At some point will you make a count, take a count, of the number of dogs, cats involved?

DR. MCCHESNEY: I don't know. We've had multiple, many thousand calls from consumers, and we are looking at that, but I'm not sure we will ever come up with a final number here. It's just, I just don't think we can ever get there.


But in the above-mentioned Import Alert issued the very next day (April 28) the FDA finally reports a death toll that approaches the truth, which is to say, a number in the thousands as opposed to the high teens. The Feds also mention the enormity of this recall:

This has been one of the largest pet food recalls in history, a recall that continues to expand. Thus far, 18 firms have recalled product, 17 Class I and 1 class II, covering over 5,300 product lines. As of April 26, 2007, FDA had received over 17,000 consumer complaints relating to this outbreak, and those complaints included reports of approximately 1950 deaths of cats and 2200 deaths of dogs.

Gina Spadafori at Pet Connection blog (which took the lead early on, putting together a database of dog and cat deaths and keeping abreast of all the food-tainting developments) has this to say:

Look … you would not believe the crap we have had to take for our Pet Connection database. We have been accused of promoting everything from hysteria to our own careers, and through it all the FDA has said nothing that substantiated what we and the independent Veterinary Information Network knew was the scope of the tragedy.

[...]

Perhaps now every time a media outlet says “16″ or even “17 or 18″ or “high teens” or some other such nonsense, the reporter will get this FDA document in their e-mail inbox from, like, every one of us who cares about making these pets count.

I take absolutely no joy in being “right,” and I would gladly be wrong to have all those pets still alive. But I truly do believe if it weren’t for the pressure from those of us working to get this information out and force the FDA to step up, there’d be a lot more people grieving for their pets tonight.

And tainted products would still be flowing into this country.




Expect even those high numbers to continue to rise. What's more, we'll soon be seeing the recall of an undetermined number of food products meant for humans; when that happens, the uproar will be deafening. I would add that there have been numerous anecdotal reports of livestock and horses suffering kidney failure, too, but these illnesses and deaths have not been officially recognized or counted yet; it is also unclear if the FDA or USDA plan to intervene in the common and ongoing practice of adding salvage pet food and scraps to hog feed, responsible for last week's pork recall and the euthanization of thousands of pigs.

Stay tuned.

Also at Ezra's and Shakesville.

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