Tue May 1st, 2007 at 08:40:04 PM EST
Suppliers in China have admitted to adding melamine to animal feed. The FDA
is trying to screen out the additive, which is now blamed for many pet deaths
Associated Press Photo
"A lot of animal food companies buy melamine from us to add in the animal feed," said Ji Denghui, manager of Sanming Dinghui Chemical Trading Co. based in the eastern province of Fujian. "This can lower the production cost and increase nitrogen levels."
"As far as I know, there are no rules or regulations that make this illegal. As to whether melamine is toxic or not, I believe it won't do any harm if there is only very small amount," Ji said. "Otherwise, those companies could not do that."
Ji Denghui, quoted in yesterdays morning's Washington Post article titled "Chemical Common in Chinese Animal Feed" by Christopher Bodeen
A few weeks ago while surfing the net to find out which pet food brands were killing America's Garfields and Fidos and learning about wheat gluten, melamine, seitan, and the intricacies of the international trade in food additives, I was mildly surprised to find that we import wheat gluten from China and found myself wondering if someone had sold America's heartland while I wasn't looking. Did a foreign country buy up all of Illinois' farmland as part of the Chicago Skyway deal? Did the current batch of incompetent boobs who pass themselves off as our government manage to misplace Kansas and Nebraska along with our national integrity, respect for humanity and the Bill of Rights while making America safe for Laissez-faire capitalism?
To be on the safe side I've been feeding my personal Garfield (actual name, Ms Cat) only dry food, which has placed me on the receiving end of incessant feline nagging and withering dirty looks for several weeks now. A nagging cat is nearly as irritating as a whining teenage girl, although the cat's grammar is generally better.
An article in the Washington Post last Wednesday (and excerpted here) "China Food Fears Go From Pets To People" by Ariana Eunjung Cha brought me to attention and made me aware that I might soon be sharing bags of dry kitty chow instead of what I'm used to eating which was once called "food" back in the era when federal regulators actually did their job which was called "regulating."
It seems that the wheat gluten which was purchased in China, (where we currently spend more than 2.5 billion on agricultural products annually) was tainted with melamine. The melamine was added intentionally it appears, to increase the protein content, a practice which is considered normal in China, where, I suppose, products derived from coal mining are deemed edible. The melamine laced wheat gluten (it even sounds yummy) was included in thousands of tons of pet foods causing the deaths of many American pets and may have been fed to thousands of hogs as well as an unknown number of chickens (update) in this country.
The agency for the first time also said it has received reports, which it has yet to confirm, that approximately 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs died after eating contaminated food. The only number of pet deaths that the FDA has confirmed thus far is 14.
From FDA Limits Chinese Food Additive Imports
By Elizabeth Weise and Julie Schmit, USA TODAY
Some of this toxic swill may soon be available in the pork and poultry sections at the meat counters at your local supermarket. Can Beef be far behind?
Our intrepid government regulators are hard at work on this as I write, that is they are inspecting about 1.3 percent of the food and agricultural products which cross our borders:
Just 1.3 percent of imported fish, vegetables, fruit and other foods are inspected _ yet those government inspections regularly reveal food unfit for human consumption.
Frozen catfish from China, beans from Belgium, jalapenos from Peru, blackberries from Guatemala, baked goods from Canada, India and the Philippines _ the list of tainted food detained at the border by the Food and Drug Administration stretches on.
from Imported Food Rarely Inspected by Andrew Bridges at the Washington Post
I'm not sure (math was not my strength in school) but that leaves something like 98.7 percent that is not inspected. Mr Bridges continues:
Consider this list of Chinese products detained by the FDA just in the last month: frozen catfish tainted with illegal veterinary drugs, fresh ginger polluted with pesticides, melon seeds contaminated with a cancer-causing toxin and filthy dried dates.
Now there's a menu that really kicks my salivary glands into overdrive and then I realize that this is only the tip of the regulatory iceberg, merely affecting what we eat and of that, only what is being imported.
That leaves a long list of domestic agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, manufactured consumer products, cars and trucks in which we risk our lives on crumbling highways, deregulated airlines unenforced environmental and workplace laws and dozens of other public chicken coops now being guarded by Bush loyalists, fee market true believers and budding young theocratic graduates of places like Pat Robertson's Regent (formerly CBN) University, Motto: Christian Leadership to Change the World.
And change the world is what they have done. They have embroiled us in war, curtailed civil liberties, destroyed our reputation in the eyes of the world, mortgaged our children's economic future, tripled the price of fuel, engaged in attempts to wreck public institutions from education to social security and now have given us reason to distrust our food supply.
The results of tax cuts for the wealthy and the slashing of regulatory budgets to ease the pain and increase the profits of their buddies in industry and commerce are now being felt at the dinner table.
As global trade and the importation of foodstuffs has increased, the level of scrutiny by those appointed to protect the public health has actually decreased.
The task of guarding against contaminants in imports has become far more complicated because an increasing portion of the tens of billions of dollars in Chinese food and agricultural imports involves powders and concentrates for the processed-food industry -- including the wheat gluten and rice protein at the center of the pet food scandal. Animal feed imports alone grew sevenfold from 2001 to 2006, the Commerce Department says.
Pet Deaths Spur Call for Better FDA Screening
By Rick Weiss and Ariana Eunjung Cha Washington Post
"Leadership has been missing for far too long, and that needs to change quickly," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.),
"We need to take FDA from being a toothless agency to one with the authority to act to protect the public health," DeLauro said.
Rosa DeLauro, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over FDA funding, has been a long-time advocate for improving the nation's food safety system pressing for a consolidated food safety agency.
In the quotation that leads this article Ji Denghui, manager of Sanming Dinghui Chemical Trading Co said this "As far as I know, there are no rules or regulations that make this illegal. As to whether melamine is toxic or not, I believe it won't do any harm if there is only very small amount,"
That quotation deserves repeating as it points to the core philosophy of the Cheney/Bush era which is that "if we believe it, it must be true and the rest of the world must be made to believe it as well." They believed (or pretended to, which, to them is the same thing) that Saddam possessed WMDs, lack of evidence be damned, go to war.
They believe or have been told to believe by the plutocrats of Big Oil, that global warming is a myth concocted by pointy headed liberals so damn the evidence, screw the National Academy of Sciences, they believe.
They believe that this country should be some kind of weird ass plutocratic theocracy which operates for the betterment of the ruling class so they have been carefully stacking the regulatory and public policy decks with sycophantic loyalists, pathetic yes men like Alberto Gonzales, venal neo conservative hardliners like Wolfowitz, and doddering incompetents like Rumsfeld.
We will pay the price for the incompetence, the crimes and the lies of the Cheney/Bush fiasco for a generation or more. The war in Iraq is only the noisiest and most visible of their collected and felonious folly, beyond that ongoing and murderous horror lie legions of illegal deals, shady scams, constitutional abrogations, obstructions of justice, and breaches of the public trust so profound as to leave any thinking American stunned that such an administration could continue to rule without sanction.
Well enough of this, it's almost time for dinner and I have to decide between the Pork Chops Melamine, the Kidney Failure Roast Chicken or the Kervorkian Casserole. For dessert I have an ambulance on standby. Bon Appetit!