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Tainted pet food

May 8th, 2007 . by Matt

Some Chinese companies have been caught selling pet food in the US tainted with chemicals designed to trick people into thinking that the pet food is high in protein. As a result, many pets had died of poisoning, and many must have been sick with starvation.

China said Tuesday that it had found two companies here guilty of intentionally exporting contaminated pet food ingredients to the United States.

The country’s quality control investigator released a statement on its Web site late Tuesday saying that officials at the two companies were also detained for their role in shipping tainted goods that might have contributed to one of the largest pet food recalls in U.S. history.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said its investigation found that the two animal feed companies – Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. and Binzou Futian Biology Technology Co. – had intentionally exported food ingredients laced with melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizer.

The two companies illegally added melamine to wheat gluten and rice protein, the government said, in a bid to meet the contractual demand for the amount of protein in the products.

China had earlier denied shipping any wheat gluten to the United States and had recently insisted that melamine could not have harmed pets. But the government essentially said Tuesday that the two companies had cheated pet food companies by adding a fake protein into the feed to make pet food suppliers believe they were purchasing high protein feed when in fact they were getting lower protein feed.

Beijing also said the two companies mislabeled their exports to avoid quality inspections but that a nationwide survey did not uncover other companies using melamine in feed products.

The announcement comes as investigators from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration are visiting China trying to determine the cause of death for as many as 4,000 pets.

But the findings only confirm what U.S. regulators have long suspected: that Chinese companies had intentionally contaminated pet food ingredients to bolster profits.

Animal feed producers here have acknowledged in recent weeks that for years they have used melamine to adulterate animal feed and or gain bigger profit margins.

Indeed, in interviews Tuesday, Chinese chemical producers said that another chemical that U.S. regulators have identified as a contaminant may have also been intentionally added to pet food ingredients. Three Chinese chemical makers said animal feed producers here often buy a chemical called cyanuric acid from their factories to blend into animal feed.

Although U.S. regulators have been aware of the presence of cyanuric acid in tainted pet food for several weeks, they were not sure whether it was simply a derivative of the other industrial contaminant they found called melamine, or whether this second contaminant was separately placed there.

But chemical producers here say it is common knowledge in the chemical and agriculture industry that for years feed producers in China have quietly and secretly used cyanuric acid to cheat buyers of animal feed. In the United States, cyanuric acid is often used as a disinfectant in swimming pools.

Two of the chemical makers said that Chinese feed producers used cyanuric acid because it is even cheaper than melamine and is also high in nitrogen, enabling feed producers to artificially lift the protein reading of the feed.

This is bad news for Chinese producers wanting to sell anything edible, for humans or animals.

24 Responses to “Tainted pet food”

  1. comment number 1 by: helical

    Don’t buy medicine from them either, until they get this sorted out at the very least.

    NY Times Article
    From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine

  2. comment number 2 by: T_K

    Reminds me of the piece Ampontan blogged about. With no whistle-blowers, oversight or civilian input, how is this system supposed to last?
    I know it’s a basic symptom of the blogger disease to see a bigger pattern in an isolated incident, but I can’t help but wonder how much corruption it took to keep these cases from coming to light earlier.

  3. comment number 3 by: Matt

    Don’t buy medicine from them either, until they get this sorted out at the very least.

    NY Times Article
    From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine

    Good lord, that is horrible!

  4. comment number 4 by: pacifist

    Chinese people are now eager to earn money, they are not communists any more.
    The problem is that they lack in moral in western way.
    They produce copies without copyright permission, add pebbles to bags of vegetables in order to increase their weight and to get more money, and use harmful chemicals to increase crops.
    It is worse than Qing dynasty.
    USA should have been keen to import from such a unlawful country.

  5. comment number 5 by: madboots

    Too rapid economic growth will do harm if the improvement in the people’s moral cannot catch up with it.

  6. comment number 6 by: egg

    I wonder if these kinds of ileagal activities can be stopped under the present communist party or not. If the managements of the party don`t even keep the rules which they made themselves, who will?
    Only way to protect ourselves is to buy food from reliable countries. I myself take care which country the product is from at supermarkets. At least I won`t buy a garlic from China even if it is three times cheaper than the Japanese ones.
    I believe not all the food producers in China are doing the same unmoral kind of things but I can`t take the risks.
    These kind of thing is a pity for those who are behaving well.

  7. comment number 7 by: T_K

    In some perverse cases (like the syrup tragedy in Panama), no Chinese laws were actually broken. This is because the legislation is very old and doesn’t take into account China’s massive shift to exports. This, I believe, is what happens when only one party’s elite are allowed to comment on law and policy.

  8. comment number 8 by: egg

    T_K thanks for your information.
    I am not douting you but is it really not illegal? I mean, are those suppliers allowed to sell “the syrup” in China? Were there no Chinese victims? Or do you mean that selling “the syrup” in China is illegal but selling them abroad is leagal?
    Honestly I have little information about Chinese law so, my comment above included my assumptions. But if it is the case (selling in China illegal and selling abroad legal), Chinese communists party is truely disgusting.
    I will appreciate you much if you can give me some more informations. Thank you.

  9. comment number 9 by: egg

    Sorry I misunderstood. They sold the ingredient of the syrup and not the syrup itself. And there were no regulations in making the ingredients. They must have been braking the conditions of their selling contract but that does not mean that they broke the Chinese law. Am I right?
    At present, I will not doubt that not all the Chinese people will follow their laws even if it relates to health probrems but the present circumstances seems to be worse.
    Sorry again for my misunderstanding.

  10. comment number 10 by: General Tiger

    Strange to see people fuss about this at the moment.

    This has been going on for quite a bit: That’s why I try not to consume stuff that come’s from China (I thank my relatives who runs several vegatable/rice farms)

  11. comment number 11 by: goda

    >I thank my relatives who runs several vegatable/rice farm
    Oh ,you are lucky.

    I do not eat the perishable foods from China (garlic and ginger, named as Ohmi-Syouga近江生姜 from China,,isn’t this swindle? and etc.).

    However, my attention can’t reach process materials.

    Morality in China cannot be expected until the communist party falls down, and a sort of democratic political system visits.

  12. comment number 12 by: Ken

    Chinese people along rivers say that they are not so brave to eat fish from Chinese river.
    Richer people are said to eat more expensive but safer food imported from Japan.
    12 kinds of fruits were including poison in China.
    4 kinds of poisons were warned about 5 kinds of vegetables.
    Carcinogen, etc were detected from egg and flounder in China.
    Various harmful materials were detected in food imported from China.
    The pigs died of any desease were processed and sold to Chinese market.
    95% of Chinese beer was including carsinogen.
    I have liked Qingtao beer but never drink any more.
    Chinese poisonous invasion to Japan is posted to JAPANPROBE contempoararily.

  13. comment number 13 by: kjeff

    It’s stressful to have to check the FDA site every couple of days to find out whether the brands that I’m using are included, especially since some of the dry food brands are listed these days.

  14. comment number 14 by: egg


    ginger, named as Ohmi-Syouga近江生姜 from China

    Not knowing it is coming from China, I might have been eating it. Thanks for the information, I will take even more care to check the country where the product comes from in the future.
    But again I feel sorry for the supplier in China who is taking good care of his products. Those who are cheating others must be a great nuissance for them.
    If the government is not working efficiently, not capable enough to make the regulations, it might be better for them to consider making a food supplier business organization or such, to make self regulations and so on. Reputation of China will decrease day by day at the present circumstances.

  15. comment number 15 by: AG

    I’ve been trying to avoid “made in China,” especially with food. However, it can sneak in via various pathways.

    http://business.nikkeibp.co.jp/article/world/20070322/121473/?P=1 (Japanese)

    The brand “NOT made in China” may not be just a joke anymore.

  16. comment number 16 by: ponta

    To be fair, there are a lot of Chinese products which are good and cheaper; though I admit Chinese government should do more to gain reliability

  17. comment number 17 by: pacifist

    Forgive me, this may be another topic….
    Although it’s a part of them, richer people in China began to eat gourmet foods from all around the world. It caused price increase of wine and cheese in the world last year.
    If all of the billion people will open their eyes to such foods, the world will soon suffer from food shortage – especially African and SE countries. Actually, Chinese import is exceeding Chinese export nowadays.
    I hope this won’t a beginning of a nightmare.

  18. comment number 18 by: Matt

    Although it’s a part of them, richer people in China began to eat gourmet foods from all around the world. It caused price increase of wine and cheese in the world last year.
    If all of the billion people will open their eyes to such foods, the world will soon suffer from food shortage – especially African and SE countries. Actually, Chinese import is exceeding Chinese export nowadays.
    I hope this won’t a beginning of a nightmare.

    I doubt that will be a problem. For example, Cuba exports higher priced Cuban rice and imports lower priced Vietnamese rice. Cuba makes hard currency on the price difference, but has to suffer a lesser quality rice. For some countries a rise in the price of commodities will be good.

  19. comment number 19 by: helical

    The NY Times article requires membership to view now, so this version in the International Herald Tribune should be available for everyone for the time being.
    I hope they can clean up their products soon, since it would be nice to be able to enjoy good Chinese food without worrying about dying.

    If all of the billion people will open their eyes to such foods, the world will soon suffer from food shortage

    Do you mean a shortage of the “good” food? Because although there’s some serious trouble in distribution right now, there’s enough food in the world for everyone to live off of a 3500 Calorie diet, according to an article written a decade ago. I don’t know how it is now, but I assume things haven’t changed that drastically since then.
    Of course, demand for specific food items may become harder to fulfill, like the tuna for Japan.

  20. comment number 20 by: pacifist

    In 1971, the world population was 3.7 billion – now it is 6.5 billion this year.
    And China has the largest population (1.3 billion) and it will be 1.5 billion soon in a few years.
    The cropped grains increased by x 2.5 in these 50 years but 40% of farmlands were lost on the other hand. It has been said that it is the limit of grain production on earth.
    Today, 2 billion tons of grains are cropped every year, which will simply serve for 10 billion people but most of these crops are used for feed for domestic animals, not for human beings.
    It may be true that we are facing a food crisis and it will be accelerated if 1.5 billion people of China, almost a quarter of the world population, won’t be interested in plain diet they had for many years and want more.

  21. comment number 21 by: T_K

    No problem.
    In the syrup case, where the ingredient was easy to fake, they tried to get away on a technicality (labeling the barrels “replacement” glycerin), but apparently the factory owner did make some mistake in his scheme.
    The legal issue is often with how contracts can be enforced and what can be done if contacts are broken. http://www.chinalawblog.com mentions contract enforcement several times because for a foreign company, it’s important to know how to get your Chinese associates to stick to the plan. The situation with Chinese legislation on the issue is (too) slowly improving, but there are still a lot of ways a Chinese firm can legally screw you over.

  22. comment number 22 by: egg

    T_K thank you for your generosity.
    And thanks helical for providing the link.
    I think I came near (a little) to understand “the syrup” case. I can`t decide whether it is because of leagal issue or not, but it seems that Chinese authority is eager to punish the one who sold the toxic ingredient in her country but reluctant to punish the ones who sold abroad.
    Does China care only for her people? I understand every country has her interest but this is far too enough. It is quite annoying.

    I lack knowlege, and helical`s link is saying the opposite but right now, I think I share the same anxiety. I don`t have a child but I wonder if the earth will be able to maintain the human population in his generation. (especially when crops are going to be used to make fuel and the land changing into deserts all over the place)
    But I am eating beef and pork fead by crops now. Chinese people and everyone has the right to do so too. Everyone has the right to develop so, that is making the probrem hard to solve, I guess.
    Should I be a vesitarian? hmmmm. Don`t like the sound of the word. I hope I am not forced to do so in the future, but if the earth can`t maintain us all with meat, I guess I have to do so (or at least reduce eating it). Very sad.

  23. comment number 23 by: pacifist

    Here is a NY Times news about poisoned medicine produced in China.
    What a country!
    egg, thanks for your interest about the food crisis.

  24. comment number 24 by: T_K

    egg, pacifist,
    I’m also getting used to the idea that meat will be a luxury food.