April 30, 2007

Chinablogging--Food Contamination, Panda Sex

If the China-based melamine pet food scare hasn't scared you (perhaps you don't own pets), then this news certainly might:
As American food safety regulators head to China to investigate how a chemical made from coal found its way into pet food that killed dogs and cats in the United States, workers in this heavily polluted northern city openly admit that the substance is routinely added to animal feed as a fake protein.

The Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Company makes a chemical called melamine and sometimes sells melamine scrap to other producers who use it to make animal feed.

For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.

“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed,” said Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company, which sells melamine. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there won’t be any regulation.”

Melamine is at the center of a recall of 60 million packages of pet food, after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked this month to the deaths of at least 16 pets and the illness of possibly thousands of pets in the United States.

No one knows exactly how melamine (which is not believed to be particularly toxic) became so fatal in pet food, but its presence in any form of American food is illegal.

The link to China has set off concerns among critics of the Food and Drug Administration that ingredients in pet food as well as human food, which are increasingly coming from abroad, are not being adequately screened.
Just one of the pratfalls of international trade, as different countries' legal standards and business practices can create potential hazards, including food contamination.

The USDA and FDA issued the following statement
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue their investigation of imported rice protein concentrate which has been found to contain melamine and melamine-related compounds. Based on information currently available, FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating pork from swine fed the contaminated product would be very low. The agencies are taking certain actions out of an abundance of caution. As announced on April 26, swine known to have been fed adulterated (contaminated) product will not be approved to enter the food supply. (Because the animal feed in question was adulterated, USDA cannot rule out the possibility that food produced from animals fed this product could also be adulterated. USDA cannot approve potentially adulterated meat.) This update provides additional information regarding the ongoing investigation.
. . .
At this time, we have no evidence of harm to humans associated with the processed pork product, and therefore no recall of meat products processed from these animals is being issued. Testing and the joint investigation continue. If any evidence surfaces to indicate there is harm to humans, the appropriate action will be taken.

The assessment that, if there were to be harm to human health, it would be very low, is based on a number of factors, including the dilution of the contaminating melamine and melamine-related compounds from the original rice protein concentrate as it moves through the food system. First it is a partial ingredient in the pet food; second, it is only part of the total feed given to the hogs; third, it is not known to accumulate in the hogs and the hogs excrete melamine in their urine; fourth, even if present in pork, pork is only a small part of the average American diet. Neither FDA nor USDA has uncovered any evidence of harm to the swine from the contaminated feed. In addition to the dilutional factor and the lack of evidence of illnesses in the swine fed the waste pet food, we are not aware of any human illness that has occurred from exposure to melamine or its by-products. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention systems would have limited ability to detect subtle problems due to melamine and melamine-related compounds, no problems have been detected to date. To further evaluate any potential harm to humans, the FDA is developing and implementing further tests and risk assessments based on the toxicity of the compounds and how much of the compounds consumers could be expected to actually consume.
Happy eating!

If that doesn't cheer you up, try some panda porn!

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