Friday, May 04, 2007

Food Adulteration Update: FDA Examines Human Food; Damning Paperwork Points To Linked Chinese Suppiers; Manager Arrested

The FDA said Thursday it would begin visiting hundreds of food manufacturers who use protein concentrates--presumably grain glutens and rice protein--and begin inspections in order to rule out contamination of "other products":

Government inspectors are checking food makers who use protein concentrates to make sure none of the contaminated products found in pet food have reached other products, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

There is no evidence that any of the two contaminated batches of wheat gluten and rice protein from China ended up as an ingredient in human food, "but it's prudent to look," said Dr. David Acheson, assistant FDA commissioner for food protection.

Acheson said the inspections began this week, covering both human and pet food manufacturers to raise awareness of how important it is to know their supply chain and to make sure none of the contaminated products remain in stock.

The number of facilities to be visited could be in the range of hundreds, Acheson said, based on knowledge of what ingredients go to which manufacturer.

"This is going to go on until we feel satisfied we've got it covered. We're not setting the bar at 50 or 100 or 1,000. We're going to keep doing this until we're confident that we've got our arms around it," he said.

Protein concentrates are used in a number of food products such as baked goods.

Meanwhile, paperwork evidence emerges that links tainted wheat gluten exporter Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. to ChemNutra and a third Chinese exporter, Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products, Arts & Crafts Import Export Co.:

HONG KONG -- A stamped invoice for wheat gluten adds to evidence linking two Chinese companies to a widening scandal over contaminated pet food.

The invoice was apparently sent by Chinese trading company, Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products, Arts & Crafts Import Export Co., and names the manufacturer of the product as Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. The wheat gluten was purchased by Las Vegas-based pet food supplier ChemNutra, which has posted a copy of the invoice, along with two other documents, on a Web site run by a public relations firm working for ChemNutra.

In late March, the Food and Drug Administration said it had traced the source of the contaminated pet food to Xuzhou Anying, a Chinese company in Jiangsu province. The FDA later pointed to a second Chinese company, called Binzhou Futian Biology Technology Co., as another source of tainted ingredients.

The contamination has led to a massive recall of pet food and reports to the FDA of the deaths of more than 4,000 cats and dogs. It's still unclear how exactly the contaminant, a chemical called melamine that is normally used in plastics, killed the pets.

The Sept. 29, 2006, invoice issued by Suzhou Textiles billed ChemNutra $18,920 for a shipment of 22 metric tons of wheat gluten. The invoice is printed on Suzhou's company letterhead. The signature of Chen Zhenhao, Suzhou Textile's general manager, was stamped on the manifest. A man who answered the phone on Friday at Suzhou's office declined to comment, and didn't know how to reach Mr. Chen.

Previously, both Suzhou Textile and Xuzhou Anying have denied involvement in the tainted pet food scandal.

Here are links to PDF's of the above-mentioned documents, if you're interested:

A stamped invoice issued by Suzhou Textiles billed ChemNutra $18,920 for a shipment of 22 metric tons of wheat gluten, dated Sept. 29, 2006.

A certificate of origin for the shipment of wheat gluten was stamped by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade in Beijing.

ChemNutra purchase order for wheat gluten, dated Jan. 18, 2007.

Packing list of shipment from Suzhou Textiles.

Finally, a manager at gluten exporter Xuzhou Anying is arrested in China; details are still sketchy:

SHANGHAI, China May 4, 2007 (AP) The exporter of a contaminated pet food ingredient blamed for the deaths of dogs and cats in the United States may have avoided Chinese export inspections by labeling it a nonfood product, a U.S. government report says.

The company, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., was not the original producer of the tainted wheat gluten, but may have purchased it from up to 25 different suppliers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

The identities of those suppliers remain a mystery and all calls to listed numbers for Xuzhou Anying on Friday rang unanswered. Investigators are also looking into the origins of a second contaminated food additive imported from China, rice protein concentrate.

The New York Times reported that Xuzhou Anying's manager, Mao Lijun, had been detained by Chinese authorities, although the paper gave no details about possible charges against him.

Calls to police and government offices in the city of Xuzhou, in eastern China's Jiangsu where the company is based, rang unanswered on Friday, which was a public holiday.

Also at Shakesville and Pushing Rope.

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