China holds 19 for melamine-spiked baby formula

September 14, 2008

From the International Herald Tribune:

China said over the weekend that 19 people had been detained by the police as part of an investigation into how baby formula had become contaminated with an industrial chemical. The formula is implicated in the death of one infant, and at least 432 others have been afflicted with kidney problems.

The government also said Saturday that the Sanlu Group, China’s biggest producer of milk powder formula, had first received complaints about its powder in March and had recalled some products but delayed reporting the problems to the government or the public.

[...]

On Sunday, Reuters reported that the New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra said it had known since August that the Chinese firm in which it holds a 43 percent stake was selling contaminated milk but that it had sought a recall.

[...]

The government said a preliminary investigation had determined that the infant formula had been contaminated by melamine, an industrial chemical that is used in some plastics. The government said it thought the melamine had been intentionally added to the powder to make it seem to have more protein.

Last year, the same chemical was found in animal feed from China that was then sold to pet food makers in the United States, sickening hundreds of cats and dogs. This touched off an international trade dispute and questions about the safety of products from China.

In interviews with melamine producers and sellers last year, several acknowledged that melamine was commonly used to artificially raise the protein count in a variety of foods, fish feeds and even dairy products.

Well … at least we’re up to admitting to “hundreds” of sickened cats and dogs. In the meantime, what else is this crap in?

Filed under: pets, connected,recalls — Gina Spadafori @ 4:15 pm

62 Comments »

  1. “In the meantime, what else is this crap in?”

    That was the question last year that caused me to throw away and quit all processed food. Finding out there was Wheat Gluten in my chicken broth was about all I needed. It’s funny, I started raw feeding the pets because I got tired trying to figure out what/how much of stuff was in dog food (I need to track purines for the dog) it was just easier to make it myself. Seems to be the same with human food. I didn’t eat that much processed, but it was still a pretty big change. Absolutely no regrets though!

    It is just beyond horrible they would spike baby formula. Especially since they know it kills animals.

    Comment by straybaby — September 14, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

  2. Forget terrorism in a blatant form. If you want to cause some real damage the Chinese have certainly found the path to doing it.

    I still can’t understand why we conduct trade with countries who do not care for their citizens nor have the safety standards we do when it comes to pesticides and other chemicals.

    It was only a matter of time. Another reason to go organic and buy local.

    Comment by Diana L Guerrero — September 15, 2008 @ 8:01 am

  3. Too bad the COOL (country of origin label) regulations that will be implemented at the end of this month have more holes in them than the Swiss cheese that they don’t apply to.

    I’m also scratching my head to figure out why we’re bankrupting American companies and putting American workers on the street — to support amoral Chinese businesses that will, quite literally, kill us to make a buck.

    Comment by Janeen — September 15, 2008 @ 8:10 am

  4. The BBC News is at least saying “thousands” in their story: “Melamine was linked to the deaths and illness of thousands of cats and dogs in the United States last year…”

    Comment by Susan — September 15, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  5. And I am still confused and maybe someone can help me out here? We were told during the pet food recalls that melamine by itself was not considered to cause problems. So is that not true anymore or was there more than just melamine in the baby formula or perhaps babies systems are so different that they were affected by just melamine but for our pets it took both melamine and cyanuric acid or was it an extremely large amount of melamine or what? I am confused about this, something isnt making sense to me.

    Comment by Sandi K — September 15, 2008 @ 9:20 am

  6. Latest count 1,253. 10,000 may have drunk the formula.

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 15, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

  7. Just read this in the Times. Holy Hanna. Will they never learn? Anything for a profit, yup that’s the ‘Merican way. You can bet the ‘Merican companies are sweating bullets thinking what this could be in and thanking their lucky stars this was in China first. AHHHGGGKKK I can’t stand this corporate thinking.

    Comment by Lost for Words — September 16, 2008 @ 4:35 am

  8. Here I am back with a new email address…

    I took particular note of Sandi K’s comment about melamine only… Yes, we were. Let me add this to that. If you will recall my posts back in the bad old days of the Menu Foods debacle I was one of the first to make the connection between the wheat gluten and NPN (Non Protien Nitrogen). In that post I indicated that while this was usually urea (a close relative of melamine chemically – melamine is made from urea) urea alone was considered toxic to pigs and other non-ruminants with the most common symptom to be renal (kidney) failure. Cyanuratic acid was never listed as an ingredient in the cattle feed but the symptoms for nitrogen poisoning (as it is known in the livestock industry) are the same none the less.

    Since that time we now have actual lab results showing that the so called “wheat” gluten was 25% melamine by weight with no mention of the other compound of cyanuratic acid what so ever.

    I said then and I say again that the cyanuratic acid was nothing more than a by-product of the melamine reacting with the normal digestive processes in the animals. I have little doubt that tests on the children will show the same thing but in perhaps different quantities owing to differences in the metabolisms of infants and dogs and cats.

    So Sandi, I agree. Melamine is quite enough to cause the harm all by itself no less than urea wold have been.

    This is the world of Neo Con George W. Bush Neo Merchantilism that we live in where the market is the only regulation that is required because the market will correct for it. Unfortunately, this particular form of “correction” requires your customers to be killed off thus adjusting demand.

    I dont know about you but I have had quite enough. And it is an election year.

    BTW, how bout that stock market correction, eh?
    Have you had enough yet too?

    Comment by Bernard J. (Bernie) Starzewski — September 16, 2008 @ 6:49 am

  9. Now there are news stories about melamine showing up in test results on other dairy products in China. I HOPE the FDA is testing edible Chinese imports extra carefully right now.

    Comment by slt — September 16, 2008 @ 7:50 am

  10. “In the meantime, what else is this crap in?”

    well, yogurt…. so far….
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=aJk9YS__guLc&refer=asia

    Comment by Carol V — September 16, 2008 @ 7:53 am

  11. Bernie, you make a good point about the melamine breaking down and that causing the “toxic combo” …I have wondered since having my food tested last year why my food only showed melamine with no cyanuric acid detected…and I had two very sick kitties with acute renal failure…(the food did also show acetaminophen which makes no sense to me) I have read that some “experts” said the amount of cyanuric acid was too much for the natural breakdown….but I have less confidence in those “expert” reports…as time goes on and we all learn more..

    Comment by Carol V — September 16, 2008 @ 7:58 am

  12. I HOPE the FDA is testing edible Chinese imports extra carefully right now.

    Comment by slt — September 16, 2008

    “Hope” and a coupla bucks will get you cup of coffee.

    As we know, the FDA tests the tiniest fraction of food imports. Bon appetit!

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — September 16, 2008 @ 8:01 am

  13. Carol V thanks for that link. Interesting. The spilled milk just keeps spreading. Where are the shareholders? Why are they not being held responsible for their endorsement of these corporations of pain and suffering? It’s all about the money.

    Comment by Lost for Words — September 16, 2008 @ 8:10 am

  14. Should I put creamer in my coffee? 8-O

    Comment by slt — September 16, 2008 @ 8:10 am

  15. What’s in U.S. milk? Just a random thought.

    It is reported that none of the Chinese toxic milk was imported to Europe or the U.S., but could some milk producers already be adding melamine here at low levels, since the FDA states in their chemical handbook that melamine is “safe” for consumption. Who would know?

    Better check the U.S. milk while checking China’s.

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 16, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  16. Probe finds 20 percent of China’s milk companies in scandal:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSPEK27908420080916?pageNumber=3&virtualBrandChannel=0

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 16, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  17. Guys – Does anyone know where the ingredients for KMR (kitten milk replacement), or for that matter the equivalent replacer for puppy milk, comes from? I have a can of powdered KMR in hand right now from which I’ve been feeding several foster kittens and I can’t find any source information on the label. The primary ingredients listed are whey protein concentrate, casein and dried skim milk. The only “source” statement on the label appears to refer to the label itself: “Made and Printed in U.S.A.”
    My concerns are: 1) the kittens readily drank formula made from the first can I purchased 2 months ago but have rejected formula made from the two cans I’ve purchase in the past month and 2) the formula made from the older can was noticeably thicker than the formula made from the two newer cans and had a different odor to it (smelled less like milk and more like chemicals).
    Fortunately, I was able to switch these kittens to canned cat food soon after they began rejecting the formula. And I quickly ceased mixing the formula with the canned food because they routinely rejected the mixture (trying to bury it) but accepted the canned food that did NOT include the formula.
    I’m not one to be paranoid about these things, but I’d certainly be more comfortable if I knew the source of the milk proteins in the KMR, especially in view of this recent Chinese infant formula adulteration.

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 16, 2008 @ 10:30 am

  18. Oops . . . in my list of concerns about the KMR, I meant to say that: 2) the formula made from the older can was noticeably thicker than the formula made from the two newer cans AND SMELLED MORE LIKE MILK, WHEREAS THE FORMULA FROM THE NEWER CANS WAS WATERY AND SMELLED LIKE CHEMICALS.

    Sorry for the confusion!

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 16, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  19. Don’t know if this is still relevant, but here’s a letter they put on their website during the rolling recalls:

    http://petag.com/news_detail.asp?RegID=9

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — September 16, 2008 @ 10:40 am

  20. Thanks for the link to their letter from 2007. Hopefully they’re still following the policy of “no ingredients from China”! Before seeing your reply, I placed a call to the Technical Services number on the PetAg (KMR Manufacturer’s) website and left a message asking for the source of their milk protein ingredients. If they call me back, will mention let you know what they say at this point in time.

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 16, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  21. Just received a phone call from the Technical Services people at PetAg (who make KMR). They were very open about the source of their ingredients, saying that the Casein is a product of New Zealand, while the Skim Milk and Whey come from the U.S. She added that the Vitamins in the formula do come from China. Of course, we all know that so do nearly all of the vitamins in nearly all of our other pet AND human foods.
    She said that variation from can to can in thickness of the reconstituted formula, as well as difference in it’s smell, could be a result of the heat to which the product may have been subjected during shipment or storage. She also said that the company encourages customers to communicate problems with their product and to send in samples of any of questionable quality. PetAg retains samples of each lot for comparison with customers’ samples. If a product sample (that does not exceed its shelflife date) is found to be spoiled, they will replace it free of charge. They acknowledge they’re aware that cats are quite sensitive to differences in taste and smell and perceive these differences more readily than do humans, so if the animals reject the product PetAg wants to know about it.
    I have a high level of comfort with this company’s response as voiced by their representative.

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 16, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  22. “In plant or grain protein-based animal feeds, adding 1 percent melamine can increase measured protein content by 4 percent, at very little cost.”

    “Mr. Liao Xinbo, vice director of the Health Department in Guangdong, said in his article published Sept. 13, ‘I think hundreds of millions of Chinese people, without knowing it, have been eating pork, beef and chicken which are fed with melamine-tainted feeds. [They have also been] drinking adult milk powders with the melamine added for many years. Unknowingly, everyone has been contaminated with melamine.’

    ‘The Sanlu scandal reflects that the problem of food safety in China is very serious. We are not sure if there is anything we can eat safely.’ Liao added.”

    http://en.epochtimes.com/n2/china/sanlu-milk-powder-chinese-babies-4275.html

    Now you’ve heard it, nothing is safe, direct from a Chinese health official! And we are still importing food products from China with no inspection…WHY?

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 16, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

  23. Carol, there is absolutely no question in my mind. Cyanuratic acid is also a close chemical relative of both urea and melamine. The sick kids were said to have had kidney “stones”. Stones / crystals, its all rocks no matter how you cut them. Supposedly the two together combined to form the crystals. There is no mention of cyanuratic acid in these kids, just melamine although Im sure if they looked they would find it. Whether they “combined” to form the solids is anybody’s guess.

    What is not a guess is what it does to pigs. All you have to do is read the warning label on cow feed to know that… and what it does to pigs is the same as the melamine did to my Brandy and all the other dogs and cats out there.

    Gina, hope all you want but if wishes were horses – they’d be sick too.

    As for Amirican milk, I would not be too worried. None of this stuff is on the approved additive list and any company that did add it would be in a major heap of trouble from the civil suits alone.

    The most interesting comment is the one dug up by Nadine (again!).

    “In plant or grain protein-based animal feeds, adding 1 percent melamine can increase measured protein content by 4 percent, at very little cost.”

    Notice he says “tested protien”. Yes, TESTED. Thats because the test used to determine protien tests for available N and not actual protien.

    Someone should tell this little SOB that that available Nitrogen is USELESS to anything but a ruminant. Cattle, sheep goats (and some poultry) have bacteria in their gut that can grab that N and manufacture real protine from it and the raw materials in plain cellulose (grass). You and I? And Brandy? And you kitties, it makes really damned sick if not dead.

    Here is the real kicker. Our debt to China alone is in the multiple of TRILLIONs. Thats enough to make you really sick all by itself, isnt it?

    Dont know where the rest of you are politically, but there aint no way to put lipstick on THAT pig!

    Comment by Bernard J. (Bernie) Starzewski — September 16, 2008 @ 8:12 pm

  24. Well, darlin’, speaking only for myself, here’s where I am politically. I’ve had enough of unfettered free markets and “regulatory” agencies like the BushCo FDA. Not looking for more of McSame.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — September 16, 2008 @ 9:04 pm

  25. I’m just sad for all the Chinese families taking care of their sick babies tonight. Sadder because maybe it could’ve been avoided.

    If the US media had done its job in reporting the true numbers of pets sickened and killed by melamine last year, maybe it would have caused more outrage about Chinese imports – and maybe that in turn would’ve prompted China to more carefully police its “protein” supply chain.

    That isn’t what happened, clearly – and maybe it’s Pollyanna to even hope it might. But as in so many things, pets are the canaries in the proverbial coal mine. Sooner or later, we’ll figure that out.

    Prayers and peace to the parents of those 6000 sick children. Let’s not be too quick to bash China – there’s a lot of families there going through hell tonight through no fault of their own.

    Comment by LauraL — September 16, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

  26. It’s the *leaders* of China I bash (along with the selfish “anything for a dollar” businessmen their that are taking full advantage of the lack of meaningful regulatory controls). My heart goes out to the *people* of China who suffer daily due to the self-promoting actions of those “leaders”.

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — September 17, 2008 @ 5:43 am

  27. Hey – I heard on CNN this morning that this latest melamine contamination has spread beyond China. I thought this would happen, since the original article about the infant formula stated it was being pulled from the shelves of WalMart and Carrefours stores. Carrefours is a French chain that has stores in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America and, indeed, CNN confirmed today that the contaminated formula has been found in countries in all of these regions. We need to be watchful that none of the stuff makes it onto Walmart shelves in the U.s. . . . and into our food supply.

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 17, 2008 @ 2:39 pm

  28. Thought for the day:

    Can you name all the products manufactured in the U.S. that contain powdered milk? Cheap, imported powdered milk, especially. The finished product is made here, but the ingredients are from WHERE?

    Sauce Chinoise. Yum.

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 17, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

  29. I have not kept up with current import export trends in the dairy industry. In the past very little powdered milk came into the country largely because we were always at surplus levels. However the dairy industry was always complaining about imported casien – a cheese byproduct. Normally used as animal feed but subsidized by other countries as part of their price support programs it was exported by them at rock bottom prices it was typically used as a component of erzats cheese like that in frozen pizza and non-dairy creamers. If it were not for the subsidy it would not be cost effective to reprocess it into human food and had the effect of depressing milk prices all thru the 80s.

    Interestingly enough, the free market Reaganites didnt think this was a problem. I had been sent to a dinner by the fromer AMPI (American Milk Producers Inc.) to make a pitch to Congressman Petri to put a convervailing import tax on the stuff to level the playing field. On hearing this, he simply said that this had nothing to do with the current farm bill. “Right!” I said… “Thats the problem.

    The relevance of this to current import policy is that sodium casienate is still coming into the country as a protien filler which goes into lots and lots of products. I wonder if any of this is coming from China and if any of that has been spiked to boost the protien test? Do you think the current FDA admin is even checking?

    On another tangent heard on the news this AM that a new study shows that BPA is indeed an issue with type 7 plastic bottles even in adults. While the FDA has not banned that plastic in baby bottles (or anywhere else) doctors are advising that you use alternative bottle types such as good old fashioned glass.

    But hold the phone! The makers of baby formula like Enfamil use it to line their cans! Hoo boy…

    So no. I have no more idea if this is coming into the country than the FDA does but would it surprise you if it did?

    When government is seen as the enemy, the enemy becomes us.

    Comment by Bernard J. (Bernie) Starzewski — September 18, 2008 @ 8:25 am

  30. Bernie, thanks for that input. Your mention of sodium caseinate is exactly what I meant. I looked it up.

    For anyone who’s interested: Casein is a milk protein found in energy bars and energy drinks…sauces…glue…plastics and as an adjuvant (casein and casein salts) to pesticides. Bleahhhh!

    “The major uses of casein until the 1960s were in technical, non-food applications such as
    adhesives for wood, in paper coating, leather finishing and in synthetic fibres, as well as
    plastics for buttons, buckles etc. During the past 30 years, however, the principal use of
    casein products has been as an ingredient in foods to enhance their physical (so-called
    “functional”) properties, such as whipping and foaming, water binding and thickening,
    emulsification and texture, and to improve their nutrition.”

    … “Casein is often listed as sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate or milk protein. These are often found in energy bars, drinks as well as packaged goods.” (It’s in my leek soup mix.)

    … “Casein has a molecular structure that is quite similar to that of gluten. Thus, most gluten-free diets are combined with casein-free diets and referred to as a gluten-free, casein-free diet. Casein may also be a trigger of migraines and other types of headaches.”

    … “Casein may also be linked to the promotion of cancer and other diseases which was discovered in the 1980s by nutrition and health researcher, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study.” (Ahem.)

    ALSO, in reading the ingredients list from a Bearnaise sauce mix, I identified other (dried) milk products, such as “Whey Protein Concentrate from milk” and “Lactose from milk.” Of course, the ORIGIN of these substances are not listed.

    Labels? COOL? Just forget about importing Chinese food products. Taiwan has now banned the importation of them! If our Big Government is too timid to do it alone due to the enormous debt to China, they should join forces with other countries that do care in order to end the importation of poison – and the slow but sure death of their citizens.

    It’s time for a major government attitude change toward it’s people.

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 18, 2008 @ 11:13 am

  31. “The latest proposal, which DeLauro plans to introduce next week, would create a separate safety agency within the Department of Health and Human Services to handle all food safety issues currently administered by FDA.”

    http://tinyurl.com/455jxg

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 18, 2008 @ 11:35 am

  32. And just where is a huge chunk of the money newly borrowed to shore up greedy, corrupt, and now failing financial institutions coming from . . . China! . . . making it ever more unlikely that this country, in our lifetimes, will NOT be beholden to and therefore slowly poisoned by the predatory Chinese.

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 18, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  33. “Considering the way Chinese businesses have been dumping products all over the world, it is hard to imagine that Taiwan was the only export destination for this tainted milk powder. Given the lack of transparency of information in China and Beijing’s attitude of putting national prestige and face-saving ahead of everything else, there is more than a slight possibility that the tainted milk powder has been exported to other countries.”

    “A large portion of the shipment of melamine-contaminated milk powder recently imported into Taiwan has already been used to make bread, beverages and other products, making it very difficult for authorities to trace it.”

    “China’s attitude is not just short-sighted — it seriously disrupts the global food safety warning system.”

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2008/09/19

    WAKE UP, PEOPLE!

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 18, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

  34. I still can’t get past the fact, published more than a year ago during the pet food crisis, that the we, the U.S.A., unscrupulously/unethically sold this melamine powder to the Chinese in the first place and said it could be used in animal feed. Now we and the rest of the world are getting it back in spades!

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 18, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

  35. China’s Mengniu to Supply Milk to KFC Restaurants
    Reuters, Oct. 23, 2007

    “In addition to KFC, Yum also operates Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Chinese-style East Dawning restaurants in China, the company’s fastest-growing market.”

    “Mengniu Dairy, China’s biggest milk producer, will start supplying milk to the country’s 2,000 KFC restaurants next year, as it aims to expand sales channels beyond supermarkets and retail outlets.”

    http://www.flex-news-food.com/pages/11772/China/Milk/Yum/chinas-mengniu-supply-milk-kfc-restaurants.html

    From Bloomberg today:

    “At least two producers, China Mengniu Dairy Co. and Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co., enjoy exemption from government inspection on some products, enabling them to develop new yogurt flavors and blended-milk products without having to undergo inspections.”

    This right has just been revoked, far too late, however.

    Supposedly, this is all taking place in China. So what about the millions in Beijing for the Olympics, Our U.S. athletes had food kiosks set up for them – KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell?

    Merely rumor at this point, but Starbucks admits to using the toxic milk, as well.

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 18, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

  36. Nadine, we are quite the team, arent we? :-)

    Im a little surprised that casein would be linked to cancer. It is after all a perfectly natural product all by itself. It is the by product of cheese making and has traditionally been fed to pigs. It is used extensively as milk replacer (baby forumula for calves). All of the uses you listed such as glue are true but that is neither here nor there.

    What I was pointing to was that imported casein has long been a thorn in the side of the American dairy industry because of the subsidies placed on its production and export in other countries such as Europe in the past.

    Your ingredient listing of “dried milk products” is typical of the psuedonyms for casein. When you see that you can bet its casein and probably not much else.

    My main point however, is that spiking this stuff would be a snap just like the gluten thing and who would even check? The same protien tests are used to value this stuff as all these others.

    But here is the point I made to Mr. Petri all those years ago (he is still Wi. 6th district Congressman by the way). If the free market were actually working nobody would use casein in food because it isnt cost effective to process it without government subsidy.

    Back then (and I think still) it had been my contention that the Reaganites were using a cheap food policy as an inflation fighting tool. Thats why tens of thousands of farmers went belly up in his first term and more after that. So, it was in their interest to lower food costs by allowing US companies to benefit from foreign economic tinkering even though the
    US had a huge surplus of milk at the time.

    What I think we have seen more recently is a spread of this same policy throughout the economy. You have hage huge deficits and gigantic consumer debt to keep it trucking along as long as you have a price pressure relief valve like China to keep prices low.
    To the extent that melamine spiking is also a cost cutting measure (just like the use of urea in cattle feed as a replacement for actual protien) this is in effect the culmination of conservative economic policy for the last 30 years.

    What we really need I think is a different test for determining protien content. Looking for available N and just assuming that it is N from an amino acid bond has been rendered bogus. It may still be valid for cattle feed testing since cows can in fact be fed this stuff without harm but NOT for any any other mamal with a single stomach.

    Nadine, you just keep digging it up and I’ll keep chipping in with what I know about the industry!

    Comment by Bernard J. (Bernie) Starzewski — September 19, 2008 @ 9:15 am

  37. UN NEWS CENTRE – UN assists China with crisis over contaminated infant formula

    The pet food crisis is even mentioned in the UN press release, except unfortunately they didn’t get it quite right:

    “Last year a range of pet food manufactured in China and exported to the United States was similarly melamine-contaminated which caused the death of a large number of dogs and cats due to kidney failure.”

    I guess you can say it was news that travelled around the world (thanks to Pet Connection).

    Heres the link to the UN piece from today:

    http://tinyurl.com/3hx5ny

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 19, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  38. FDA STATEMENT – 9/20/08 – Updates Health Information Advisory on Melamine Contamination

    “FDA has taken, and will continue to take, proactive measures to help ensure the safety of the American food supply. In conjunction with state and local officials, FDA will continue to check retail stores for food items imported from China that could contain a significant amount of milk or milk proteins. Additionally, FDA is sampling and testing milk and milk-derived ingredients and finished food products that could contain these ingredients from Chinese sources. Milk-derived ingredients include whole milk powder, non-fat milk powder, whey powder, lactose powder, and casein. This sampling and testing is done when these ingredients or products are imported into the United States or found during visits to Asian markets. If the products are adulterated because they contain melamine and/or a melamine analog, FDA will take action to prevent the products from entering the U.S. food supply.”

    http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2008/NEW01889.html

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 20, 2008 @ 8:26 am

  39. This is a cross-post of a comment I just placed on the Itchmo blog. I’m posting it here because it refers to my earlier comments on Pet Connection concerning KMR from PetAg. I’m no longer convinced that the casein content of KMR is necessarily safe because they state they import it from New Zealand, not from China.

    Itchmo’s Post # 539, from blogger “Menusux”, quotes the following statement from the Dairy Reporter, April 5, 2006:

    “Fonterra (NZ), the world’s biggest exporter of dairy products, said today that it has gained approval from the Chinese government for its purchase of a 43 per cent stake in dairy company San Lu. San Lu, which is based in Hebei province, is China’s biggest milk-powder producer and one of the ‘big six’ Chinese dairies that control over half of China’s fresh milk market. While San Lu is already a long-time customer of Fonterra’s, the New Zealand group is keen to gain a greater foothold in China’s rapidly growing dairy sector.”

    The reason I find Post 539 so interesting is that I’ve just been told by the quality control technical services representative of PetAg (U.S. manufacturer of KMR, kitten milk replacer, formula) that NONE of the ingredients they put in KMR come from China except, of course, for the vitamin supplments. The primary ingredients listed on the KMR label are whey protein concentrate, casein and dried skim milk, and the PetAg rep stated that the casein in the KMR comes from NEW ZEALAND. That statement made me feel as if the KMR I’ve been feeding to my foster kittens was likely to be safe. Now I’m wondering if it could, in fact, be contaminated with melamine, since there’s clearly now a chance it could have come from China to New Zealand, due to San Lu’s connection with the New Zealand company . . . since 2006.

    At this point, I’d be a lot more comfortable if I knew the source of the casein provided to PetAg by their New Zealand supplier! I’m no longer satisfied by PetAg’s response that the casein is safe simply because it “comes from New Zealand”.

    I now think PetAg should be testing the casein they import from New Zealand for possible melamine contamination. If anyone feeding KMR to kittens reads this post, I urge them to be observant for any signs of product rejection by their animals, and especially for any signs of urinary/kidney distress. At this point, erring on the side of caution is probably warranted.

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 21, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

  40. 53,000 infants ill in China from tainted milk according to CNN. 13,000 hospitalized, 40,000 had undergone outpatient treatment.

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 21, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

  41. I have a hard time these days trusting any pet food company using wheat/rice/whey byproducts or isolates like Casein in their formulas. It just seems most everything is sourced from China and I think some of these companies are telling “white lies” about where they getting their raw ingredients…like saying they get them from USA companies but failing to mention that their USA supplier imported the ingredient from China. Ya know?

    I remember that Petag is (or was?) a division of Borden, Inc. I don’t know if they are still wholly owned by Borden or any of its affiliates but the EPA has Borden, Inc. listed as the owner of the Petag manufacturing facility at 201 Keyes Avenue in Hampshire Illinois.

    Borden is the parent company of “Borden Chemicals” which owns one of the world’s major producers of Melamine (Melamine Chemicals in Louisiana) and of Casein (American Casein Company (AMCO) in New Jersey). Both regularly import from China.

    So, is Petag really getting USA-sourced raw ingredients or are they just buying them from their USA affiliates who sourced them from China?

    Comment by Joy — September 22, 2008 @ 9:48 am

  42. Had no idea PegAg was so closely allied with the the producers of melamine and of casein, who both import from China. Am increasingly sceptical of PetAg’s attempts to convince me that KMR reconstituted from newer cans of their product, that my foster kittens suddenly began to reject and I found was suddenly thinner and smelled like chemicals rather than milk, is actually safe and doesn’t need to be tested for possible melamine contamination.

    Thanks for the post, Joy.

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 22, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  43. Also, if it matters…the companies “New Zealand Milk Products” and “New Zealand Milk” are divisions of Fonterra.

    Comment by Joy — September 22, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

  44. My oh my . . . “what a tangled web we weave” in globalizing our economy. As always, if you want to find the truth, “follow the money”.

    I’m sorely tempted to call the PetAg Technical Services folks back and ask them just why they believe the casein they import from New Zealand is safe, when it’s likely their New Zealand suppliers are obtaining it from their Chinese business partner, SanLu. And come to think of it, why would PetAg be purchasing their casein from New Zealand rather than from their parent company, Borden’s American casein-producing subsidiary? My guess . . . cost savings, and how likely is it that those savings are enabled by New Zealand’s obtaining the casein from China?

    Clearly, the FDA should be testing samples of PetAg’s KMR product, and of their Puppy milk replacer, Esbilac, as well. But the chances of this happening are probably pretty slim!

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 22, 2008 @ 1:06 pm

  45. Does anyone know what the connection is between Fonterra and Nestle Pet Foods? I found this website concerning a merger and joint venture but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me….something about how Nestle markets IVD to veterinarians and how there is “evidence” that people perceive veterinarians as “authorities in pet food’ and are therefore willing to pay more for veterinary-sold foods…..

    the site is here
    http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZACT/2005/42.html

    And on Fonterra’s website in “About Us” it says “In March 2002 we established an alliance with Nestle to set up joint ventures in the dairy business in the Americas.”

    Comment by Joy — September 22, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  46. My Dog Pepie was exposed to the Melamine back in April of 2007 and her health has declined ever since. She is getting infections that do not go away easily and are very difficult to treat. I am wondering if there is anyone out there like her and if so can you please e-mail me.

    Comment by Allison — September 22, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

  47. Pat, and others-
    I live in NZ and have been following the china scandal. the melamine contaminiation of milk is occurring in CHINA not in NZ. The milk products here are outstanding, IMO. We get grass-fed cows here. The NZ Food Safety Authority have tested all the infant formula here and have found no evidence of melamine. In fact, NZ’s Fonterra and the NZ govt. was instrumental in blowing the whistle on China. I have no personal relationship w/ Fonterra, BTW.

    Comment by Margaret — September 22, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

  48. I just don’t understand how Fonterra could have waited so long when they KNEW the infant formula had been “sabotaged” and was deadly to children.

    Fonterra said they had to give SanLu time to be “responsible” and follow “the guidelines of Chinese authorities”.….what does that even mean?

    Eventually, Fonterra informs the NZ Prime Minister who goes over the heads of these same Chinese authorities to force them to act….why didn’t Fonterra do this SOONER?

    If one child died or became ill one MOMENT after Fonterra knew about the “sabotage”, then that company is – at least partly – responsible for that child’s fate. Don’t you think?

    Comment by Joy — September 22, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  49. To Margaret in New Zealand – Good to have input into this issue from someone on the ground there. And glad to hear that New Zealand “has tested all the infant formula here and found no evidence of melamine.” Unfortunately, we in the U.S. have had such a bad experience with our manufacturers lying, cheating and defrauding consumers in last year’s melamine contamination of our pets’ food supply that we don’t tend to accept what industries tell us anymore as necessarily being the honest truth. Instead, we read labels, investigate corporate alliances (eg. Fonterra alliance with Sanlu), have products privately tested, all in a best effort to protect ourselves and our pets (and children) from any products that, due to these associations, may be suspect and therefore worth an extra ounce of caution and due diligence. Our attitude is not intended to be one of condemnation/accusation, but rather of healthy scepticism. We just don’t want to have our pets (or children) harmed again if we can possibly prevent it through vigilance.
    BTW – Do you know if New Zealand has tested all puppy and kitten formula sold there, and/or if they have tested all casein and other milk/milk-derivative products imported from China and sold either domestically or internationally into the pet food trade? That would be a good thing for all of us to know about.
    Thanks so much for adding a New Zealander’s point of view on this issue. It’s this type of networking that helps us get closer to the real facts global corporations may try to hide.

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 22, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  50. FDA controls the food, hopefully. But what about all the supplements and protein products in “health food stores”? Many of them boast incredible amounts of protein from whey, soy, etc. Do these supplements or their raw materials get tested or regulated at all?

    Comment by Marja wolf — September 23, 2008 @ 7:45 am

  51. Hmmm . . . anyone who followed the blogs and news reports during the 2007 massive pet food contaminations, or even during the most recent tomatoe/salsa Salmonella contamination (another fiasco perpetrated by the FDA), should be aware that the FDA does not have the funds, personnel, or labs to test more than 1% of the food and/or supplements being imported into this country. At this point in time, the FDA (and most of our other financially gutted regulatory agencies)is nothing more than smoke and mirrors . . . yet another bitter legacy of the past 30 years of deliberate deregulation in this country. Under current circumstances, no one in this country can depend on the FDA to protect them, much less their pets, from anything toxic that might accidentally or deliberately be introduced into our food supply. That’s pretty much the reason there are now websites like this one where pet-owning consumers network and band together to share critical information we need to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
    BTW – re supplements and vitamines . . . nearly all of them come from China these days. Beware!!!

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — September 23, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  52. FYI: New Zealand was one of the countries that (back in the 80s at least) was exporting subsidized casein that had US farmers convulsing and chewing the carpet. I say again, casein has no real market value unless someone steps in and takes the loss on processing it which is usually a government somewhere. Although more recently salvaging protien from it has become a mitigating factor on disposal of whey (formerly considered a waste product) for the cheese industry. So the bottom line is that we make it here mostly because its cheaper than running it thru waste treatment plants.

    That being said, it CERTAINLY makes no sense to bag it and dry it and ship it half way around the world. It has always been considered animal feed at best. In the old days raw whey would have been fed to pigs and it is the main ingredient in dairy calf milk replacer. I certainly see no harm in using it in kitten or puppy replacer or as a protien source in pet food.

    But we have plenty of it here and dont need it hauled from remote points for that use. And finally, the we certainly do not need it tampered with while being valued on protien content that is based on a chemical test that is effectively being fooled by an intentionally deceptive spiking process.

    I know about NZ grass fed dairies and there are some organic farms that are adopting the same practices here but in Wisconsin we do not have the year round growing season that they do. I think that is great for them. But they should keep their by-products there unless they are willing to sell them at actual market value without also spiking the price.

    Comment by Bernard J. (Bernie) Starzewski — September 25, 2008 @ 7:32 am

  53. I called Nestle to find out their Coffee-mate is safe to use.

    The Customer Representative was quick to point out that Coffee-mate doesn’t contain milk.

    Then, the conversation went something like this:

    Really? No milk? So why does the label say “sodium caseinate, a milk derivative”?

    Not to worry, I was told, Nestle runs 70 tests on Coffee-mate.

    That’s great. Is one of Nestle’s 70 tests for melamine?

    Not to worry, I was told, all ingredients are from US supplies.

    That’s great. Does that mean that all ingredients are grown and/or originate in the USA?

    Not to worry, I was told, some of the ingredients come from Australia.

    That’s great. Are the Australian ingredients tested for melamine.

    Not to worry, I was told. Nestle requires that all imported ingredients be certified.

    That’s great. But we learned last year that certificates of purity aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

    I thanked the nice Customer Representative, and told her that I will test their Coffee-mate for melamine and advise Nestle of the test results.

    Comment by 5CatMom — September 28, 2008 @ 4:54 am

  54. I’m about halfway through Marion Nestle’s “Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine”. It’s a bit tough to read because it re-awakens so much of the frustration and anger of the rolling recalls. And then I read something like 5CatMom’s account of her conversation with Nestle Company (no relation to the book’s author) and get reminded again of how little things have changed.

    How many parallels do you suppose there will turn out to be between the 2007 recalls and this current baby formula situation? And how many unsuspected “ports of entry” still exist into the US food supply chain for products that continue to be deliberately contaminated for no other reason than to pad someone’s bottom line?

    I wonder what Marion Nestle’s reactions are so far to the Chinese baby formula situation?

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — September 28, 2008 @ 9:18 am

  55. You won’t have to worry much longer. Christie is interviewing Dr. Nestle on Wednesday, and we’ll be posting the transcript.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — September 28, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  56. Excellent!

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — September 28, 2008 @ 10:23 am

  57. Taipai Times 9/29/2008

    … “The melamine scare widens as the chemical has been found not only in instant coffee, milk tea, puddings, chicken-and-corn soup and ready-to-serve packs of healthy grain drinks, but also in cheese powder packs offered by a local pizza franchise.”

    “Adding melamine to products to make instruments detect a higher level of protein is nothing new, Lin said, referring to the incidents last year when melamine was found in Chinese-made animal feeds that caused the deaths of many dogs and cats in the US and elsewhere because of kidney failure.”

    “Hsieh Teh-sheng (謝德生), director of the Taiwan Urological Association and chief of Cathay General Hospital’s Department of Urology, said there have been no studies in Taiwan about how melamine’s effect on humans.”

    “Lin said the food scandal in China is the first time human consumption of melamine has been found.”

    “Of course, we don’t know enough yet about what melamine can do to humanAs. Current experiments have only been on animals,” he said.”

    “Lin urged the group of food safety experts that left for Beijing on Saturday to gather as much information as they can on the current symptoms of the babies sickened from melamine.”

    “This is precious information … We can use it to know whether melamine affects humans and animals differently,” Lin said. “We could also use the information to help us discover early signs [of sickness].”

    Anyone heard about U.S. doctors looking into this? FDA?

    Comment by Nadine L. — September 28, 2008 @ 2:13 pm

  58. As I understand it, Tuesday (Sept 30 2008) is the Big Day: COOL becomes law after a 6 year delay on the part of the Bushies. Not that it will help much with food safety, but at least we may have some more clues available to guide us in the Great American Supermarket Hunt for Safe Foods.
    I think it’s a safe bet though, to deduce that melamine affects the kidneys of us human animals adversely, just as it did our mammalian pets. I suspect it has an adverse affect on all mammalian kidneys. I think there is enough information from the 10s of thousands of affected Asian children and infants that controlled studies are totally unnecessary.

    Comment by Anne T — September 28, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

  59. I found this while searching this topic. It made me think, maybe a bit too deeply. Coincidence or bottom-line? It’s an annual report for Borden, Inc. from a decade ago. The second paragraph is where it gets interesting. I won’t make any accusations. The chem. division was eventually sold to Nestle Foods in 1998. You judge for yourself:

    “The following is an excerpt from a 10-K405 SEC Filing, filed by BORDEN CHEMICAL INC on 3/27/1998

    1997 vs. 1996

    Chemical

    Chemical had a successful year from a sales perspective. Improved sales in 1997
    reflected increased consumer demand for products coupled with increased capacity
    to meet that demand due to plant expansion and an acquisition. Sharply higher
    raw material costs and intense industry competition, which kept a ceiling on
    selling prices, contributed to narrower margins and correspondingly lower
    operating income.

    Chemical sales increased $116.6 million or 10% in 1997. Modest selling price
    increases contributed $6.2 million to this improvement. The remainder was
    primarily due to volume increases in virtually all product lines. Demand was
    particularly strong for plywood and oriented strand board due to continued
    strong housing starts in the U.S. Formaldehyde volume also improved as a result
    of increased capacity from the start-up of a new formaldehyde plant in 1997 and
    two other plant expansions. This increased capacity allowed Chemical to meet
    existing customer demand. Also contributing $7.4 million to the increased sales
    was the acquisition of Melamine Chemicals in November 1997.

    The addition of Melamine Chemicals secured the supply of a crucial raw material
    for the Company’s current business and allowed the Company to expand in the
    growing specialty business of melamine resins. In February 1998, the Chemical
    business also acquired a Sun Coast Industries, Inc. division that manufactures
    melamine-based products, which will further expand the Company’s growth in this
    market.

    Operating income for the Chemical business decreased $17.4 million or 14% for
    1997, despite 10% sales growth. The decline was mainly the result of a $16.0
    million impairment charge related to certain international operations, offset,
    in part by the absence of non-recurring charges and improved business processes
    in Latin America. The remaining decline was due to lower margins, caused by a
    steep rise in raw materials costs. Efforts to pass on the cost increase to
    customers were only partially successful because of intense industry competition
    coupled with customers’ resistance to large price increases because of difficult
    operating conditions facing them in the forest products industry. Although
    margins have dropped, Chemical has maintained market share and its management is
    currently working on a strategy to improve margins. Management does not believe
    raw material costs will continue to rise in 1998. Also contributing to the
    operating income decline were infrastructure costs incurred to implement
    worldwide information systems and for plant consolidation costs. Both
    investments were made to improve operating efficiency and synergies, allowing
    Chemical to further its global focus strategy.”

    Comment by Horatio Strange — October 1, 2008 @ 6:15 am

  60. I have a correction to make concerning the last reply. I just realized that it wasn’t only the Chemical Division, but a number of Borden Food’s International Foods businesses. Here is a link explaining this acquisition.
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_1998_Jan_16/ai_20152007

    Comment by Horatio Strange — October 1, 2008 @ 6:23 am

  61. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is screening food products for melamine, and holding all Chinese milk products at the border until passing their tests. The website here http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/
    shows several articles about melamine and NZ foods and China imports. Only the White Rabbit Candy has been recalled here.

    Comment by Margaret — October 1, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

  62. I should also mention that they’ve tested our NZ milk and found no evidence of tampering here.
    Just to clarify, NZ doesn’t buy milk from China. China buys milk from NZ.

    Comment by Margaret — October 1, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

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