Home testing kit for melamine?

November 18, 2008

If the FDA won’t test food imports for melamine contamination, should we start doing it ourselves?

Joy Drawdy, owner of Gainesville’s Earth Pets Natural Pet Market, thinks so, and so she developed a home melamine test kit:

“Pet owners should have a way to test their food at home. People coming into Earth Pets kept saying something like this was needed. I started trying to find one, but none existed,” Drawdy said. “In the past year, using my knowledge of pet food manufacturing and contaminant testing, I developed one. I have it patented and it’s done. I just need to get it marketed.”

And there’s a “Pet Connection” to this story, too:

Drawdy may have been among the first persons to link melamine-tainted gluten to the pet deaths when the outbreak was occurring last year.

She is credited on the Pet Connection – a Web site and weekly pet-care feature distributed by Universal Press Syndicate – with discovering on the Internet an obscure U.S. Food and Drug Administration alert about imported Chinese gluten.

Drawdy knew gluten was often used in pet food and posted the alert on the Pet Connection Web site.

It turned out that the gluten cited in the alert was from a company that supplied pet food manufacturers.

The test should be fairly simple and inexpensive, Joy told me.

“The FDA tests, and the companies certainly have the ability to test their own products for melamine, but what I’m trying to do is make it affordable. When you send a test to an outside laboratory, it’s several hundred dollars for one sample,” she said. “The big challenge was getting something that can be manufactured cheaply enough but still be reliable to the consumer. My main goal is that it’s something that people can just buy for a few dollars.”

The test will be available sometime in the next six months. So, here’s my question: would you use it?

Filed under: pets, connected,recalls,veterinary medicine — Christie Keith @ 6:50 pm

37 Comments »

  1. My dog’s kidneys were harmed by the melamine tainted pet food and she is on a special home cooked diet for the rest of her life. So I don’t need the kit for her. Does it work on people food. If so, I will purchase it.

    Comment by Robert Forman — November 18, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

  2. Yes ! I can’t wait,I want to test everything we all eat 2 & 4 legged.

    Comment by Leslie K — November 18, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

  3. Will low levels of melamine be detected with this test? Will it detect other contaminants associated with melamine such as cyanuric acid?

    What will the test kit cost?

    Comment by Nadine L. — November 18, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

  4. Yes!!!

    Comment by Susan Fox — November 18, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

  5. If it isn’t too expensive, I would test everything for man or beast.

    Comment by Dutch — November 18, 2008 @ 8:50 pm

  6. I’d want to know something about the science behind it (what’s the mechanism of detection?). I’d also want to know something about the rate of false negatives (creating a false sense of security) and false positives.

    I think it’s a great idea, but these are things I’d want to know about the reliability of any test.

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — November 18, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  7. As someone who used to manage a toxicology lab – I’d need to know a lot more details before I’d trust it. And.. since we’ve pretty much switched all two- and four-leggers here to home-made diets made mostly with local and organic ingredients, we’re not terribly worried.

    Comment by Janeen — November 18, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

  8. for me the best is to not buy food products that are made in china.

    Comment by Kattefoder — November 19, 2008 @ 12:45 am

  9. Yes! I would like to know more about it, but I’m sure I would want to use it on all the food for everyone here!

    Comment by Cathy — November 19, 2008 @ 6:09 am

  10. Ditto Cathy’s comment.

    Comment by VJ — November 19, 2008 @ 6:34 am

  11. Ditto everyone’s comments – I would test all food pet and human with it. But it would have to be pretty inexpensive since there would be so many items to test.

    Comment by 2CatMom — November 19, 2008 @ 7:42 am

  12. Yes, yes, yes! I agree with everything 2CatMom wrote.

    What a relief it would be to me knowing my cats and I were not eating melamine.

    Comment by Colorado Transplant — November 19, 2008 @ 7:57 am

  13. “for me the best is to not buy food products that are made in china.

    Comment by Kattefoder”

    ditto that comment

    Comment by EmilyS — November 19, 2008 @ 8:27 am

  14. I suppose with most owners it’s about weighing the risks. A test for contaminants in a food is going to essentially add to the cost of the food. Question is how many tests does one kit contain at what cost. Do you test every bag — if so, maybe it’s time to buy much larger bags. And canned food, that could quickly become overwhelming if testing every can became the priority (probably a random sample would be best.)

    All of this could be cut down by staying ahead of the current recalls, track brands that have good track records of not poisoning pets, and then for the extra vigilant go for the test.

    If for no other reason that it would be almost like an early warning system for everyone that uses a given pet food.

    Comment by Kyt Dotson — November 19, 2008 @ 9:02 am

  15. I’m no scientist but could there be such a thing as a test for telling us everything that’s in a food? Meaning: I put in a cup of kibble and *bloop* out comes the test results: chicken, sweet potatoes, calcium, etc – like that. Or do you need to have a gadget and kit to test for calcium, another to test for melamine, a third for aflatoxin, etc?

    Comment by slt — November 19, 2008 @ 9:39 am

  16. While I applaud the idea and think we do need a kit for Melamine (we can put it next to our lead kits in the pantry!), seems to me the companies should be required to test and label their products toxin free. ALL imported ingredients and finished products from countries with poor records should be tested before they are used or put on the shelf for sale. The FDA (and other safety agencies) need to start doing their jobs again, also. It’s about protecting the consumer, not the corporations. Why should we have to spend the money to test all of our foods before we eat? We need to be able to buy food (products) without wondering what toxin is in them.

    Comment by straybaby — November 19, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

  17. Yes I would use it. It occurs to me that even more than using it for pet food, I’d be interested in using it on food I buy. The cats have been on a raw diet supplemented by special foods i feel confident are melamine free. I don’t buy or knowingly eat food from China, but many ingredients in all kinds of foods may come from China, and there’s no way to know which ones. For instance, cookies I recently bought contained milk powder. Where did it come from? Don’t know. The product itself was manufactured in Italy. If it is truly possible to put an inexpensive and accurate test for melamine into the hands of consumers, I suspect that could have the potential to have much more impact in addressing this problem than many of the steps that have been taken by government. I wonder what the result would be of consumers sounding the alarm loudly and repeatedly when they find that their crackers or cookies or snack bars contain melamine?

    Comment by mountain kimmie — November 19, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

  18. I would buy a melamine test kit for my own food primarily. Although I try to buy organic or locally produced products for myself, it’s not always possible. For my dogs, I buy what I consider the best, and I would expect my provider, a small independent company based in CT, to do what is necessary to make sure her sources are the best.
    However, the doesn’t address the real issue: the gutting of the FDA by the Bush Admin, and the fact that all foods in this country aren’t safe. I hope for a change, because it seems to me such simple economics: you can’t get the tax dollars needed to run the country IF you poison off your tax base by letting them eat toxic foods. If we die from kidney failure en mass including our children, who is going to pay the Federal Bill? Is this a purposeful design to reduce the size of Federal Government?
    Although this is not a political blog, food safety and politics seem to be wedded together, and not in the best interests of the consumer buying the food and paying the prices IMHO.

    Comment by Anne T — November 19, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

  19. Yes! I would use it.

    I lost my sweet JuJu last year from the pet food recalls. I don’t want to lose another precious baby.

    If our government doesn’t give a darn, then let’s do the testing ourselves…

    Comment by Marcy — November 19, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

  20. for me the best is to not buy food products that are made in china.

    Comment by Kattefoder — November 19, 2008 @ 12:45 am

    An ingredient may have come from China, and the end product food may have been manufactured in the USA…

    so there it is, an ingredient from China hiding in the manufactured food, and it may be labeled as “Made in the USA.”

    Comment by Marcy — November 19, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

  21. My first response is “of course” but then thinking about it…what would I test? Everything? and then I worry about the next “fake” ingredient that will be used since melamine has been found out more than once now…I still think in the end I would use it but think that the food manufacturers should be the ones to test for toxins and to post the test results..and then of course I would want one for cyanuric acid since it was that deadly duo that does the acute destruction..not an easy question to answer…

    Comment by Carol V — November 20, 2008 @ 5:57 am

  22. No, I wouldn’t use it. We only purchase items from companies we trust. We only buy treats and food that do not source ingredients from China. We only buy toys made in the US. It’s all I carry in my store and all I will purchase for our furrier family members.

    I would hate for this to encourage people to buy cheap food that’s loaded with fillers, run it through a melamine test and when/if it turns out negative, deem that food to be worthy of animal consumption.

    Comment by Amy — November 21, 2008 @ 12:33 am

  23. The article says that Drawdy claims to have a patent on her test kit. I can’t find any such patent in the USPTO’s database. In fact, I find it difficult to believe that one could make a home test kit, seeing as how testing laboratories seem to use either gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy or an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to determine the amount of melamine in a sample, neither of which could be accomplished in the average home.

    I don’t think this is real.

    Comment by Eric — November 29, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

  24. Joy read the blog regularly, so she can pipe in here herself. :)

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — November 29, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  25. The patent application process takes a LONG time. I wonder if what’s really meant is that the application process has been initiated, and if perhaps that’s been mis-stated in the articles?

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — November 29, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

  26. From:

    http://www.uspto.gov/main/faq/

    “How long does it take for a patent application to be processed?

    Currently, the average patent application pendency is 24.6 months. Applications received in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are numbered in sequential order and the applicant will be informed within eight weeks of the application number and official filing date if filed in paper. If filed electronically, the application number is available within minutes.”

    Comment by The OTHER Pat — November 29, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

  27. Hi all! Things have been hectic with a new stray dog who came to me in labor! It’s been a while since I’ve had newborn pups!

    Anyway, about my test kit: The local newspaper quoted me as saying I have a patent when actually my status is “patent-pending“. The whole patent approval process is pretty involved and can take some time; in fact my application won’t be published for 18 months from the date I filed with the USPTO.

    The kit has gone through validation and sensitivity testing but we are right now in the process of getting the final validations done by an accredited laboratory. One of my biggest concerns has been to keep the test simple enough so that the final product will be as inexpensive as possible. That’s been a rough issue to overcome.

    Anyway, the test is real and it does work. In the past few weeks, I’ve managed to finally put together a strong marketing and legal team and expect things to start moving along much faster now. Certainly, the kit will be fully validated with repeatable and reliable results before it goes to market.

    Comment by Joy — November 29, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

  28. Thanks, Joy!

    And best wishes with fostering puppies. Lots of work, but lots of joy. :)

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — November 29, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

  29. Thanks Gina! It’s been a crazy few weeks for rescue here. We’ve had a hit-by-car foundling, a dumped litter of hunting pups, a cat with one eye, a depressed IG whose owner died and now this sweet momma dog. I’m pretty sure I’m sleep-walking through most of my days at this point! But the good news is that everyone is safe and warm tonight. :-)

    Comment by Joy — November 29, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  30. I would want to know what this home kit tests down to as far as ppms (parts per million) and whether it is only for melamine or does it include cyanuric acid. I am aware of labs having false positives and false negatives and I wonder how this home test kit would take that into account. Last I checked there were only a few labs able to test down to a very low level and they have very sophisticated equipment so I would wonder how this home test kit can provide accurate results that one can feel secure with.

    Comment by Sandi K — November 30, 2008 @ 12:35 am

  31. I believe that my 4 year old cat died from the melamine that Menu Foods was using in the food that I fed my cat. I would be very interested in a test that could be done for both melamine and cyanuric acid because I don’t trust any corporate food manufacturers. I also think there should be a law that requires food processing companies to test the ingredients that they use in their products. I watched a Congressional hearing on CSPAN where FDA employees provided information on the extent to which products from foreign countries are tested. I was amazed to learn that there is little to no testing done at all. An importer was required to submit a lab test on the first two shipments of a product. After that, the shipments of the importer were not checked. It would be interesting to know if the food manufacturers who had melamine and cyanuric acid in their food are still importing from China and if they are doing any testing on the ingredients that they use.

    Comment by Jane — December 1, 2008 @ 3:36 am

  32. i am trying to do a science fair project testing melamine in pet food, formula and dairy projects. I am interested in using your test kit. I need to have the project completed by january 30,2009. This is a message for joy drawdy. please email me if this is a possibility. davidp@touringcyclist.com

    Comment by brian peoples — December 4, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  33. The best thing you can all do is to send OBAMA an email and ensure that he gets the right people into the FDA– who undertand the longer term quality risks of melamine on people. I would certainly purchase a kit — if it were reliable, not too expensive and enable me to test many foods. The problem with food “made in the U.S.” is that we don’t know where the ingredients come from — and you can’t trust brands!

    Comment by Lee — December 6, 2008 @ 8:03 pm

  34. Obama’s administrations Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of the Interior will have much power over food and animal welfare issues. Please visit the following HSUS page where you can learn about the differences between the proposed legislators, and from where you can send letters urging the President Elect to make animal friendly choices, for the the animals, the environment and our health.

    Go to https://community.hsus.org/campaign/HSLF_2008_obama_cabinet/nap7mtnwe3

    Now back to the melamine issue….Walgreens is recalling Teddy Bears sold with 4oz chocolate bars due to melamine found in the chocolate.

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — DEERFIELD, Ill., Dec. 5, 2008 – Walgreens is recalling 173 teddy bears with chocolate bars sold in stores since late September 2008. Analysis by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that certain samples of the chocolate provided with the teddy bears were contaminated with melamine. Customers who purchased any of the 173 teddy bears should return them immediately to the Walgreens stores where they were purchased for a full refund.

    Walgreens already has instructed stores to stop selling the product, which is specifically described as an approximately 9-inch high Dressy Teddy Bear with 4-oz. Chocolate Bar. The product’s UPC number is 047475864485, and the product tag also includes the item number 291332. Walgreens has not received any reports of illness or injury related to this product.

    Walgreens takes the safety of its customers seriously and is working with the FDA on this recall.

    For additional information, visit Walgreens Web site at http://www.walgreens.com/images/pdfs/recalls/TeddyBear_Product_Safety.pdf

    or contact Walgreens Product Quality department at 847-315-2755, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Central time.

    http://www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/walgreens12_08.html

    Comment by Barb — December 7, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

  35. If the Drawdry melamine test kit is affordable, there’s no question I’d use it. I lost a cat to the melamine contaminated food in 2007. This past spring, just as the Chinese children began to die from melamine contaminated formula, I posted questions on this board regarding the safety of KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer) formula because some batches I’d recently begun to use were more runny/less creamy in consistency, smelled more like chemicals than milk, and were suddenly being rejected by the 5 healthy kittens I was fostering at the time. The manufacturer’s safety rep swore to me that their milk products came from New Zealand and were safe and devoid of Chinese ingredients. Since that time we’ve now discovered that melamine has made its way into the formula sold for human infant consumption, so I have no question that it was also in the KMR. Ever since I fed the 5 kittens the questionable batches of KMR they have begun to drink large amounts of water and urinate copiously, completely soaking their litterboxes every two days with urine that reeks of ammonia. I am gravely concerned that they may now have damaged kidneys.

    So there is no question that I would purchase an affordable, at-home test kit for melamine. I can’t afford to send off samples that cost hundreds of dollars to test. But I would be a fool not to test at home, provided the test was reliable and affordable. It would give me peace of mind and prevent untold damage to the health of innocent animals. Of course it’s simply unethical for the FDA and the food producers/importers NOT to be testing for food safety, but until our government forces them to do their job, it’s incumbent on me to do it for them, for the sake of the animals at risk.

    Can’t wait for the test kit to become available!

    Comment by Pat in Raleigh — December 9, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

  36. I would definitely use something like this if it was priced below $100 and if there was information from an independent company on the accuracy of the device.

    Comment by Halaluani — May 24, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  37. Has the test kit become available yet? It’s April 2011 and China is STILL confiscating loads of powdered melmine . . . this time from a Chinese ice cream manufacturer. If it’s still available for purchase in China, you know they’ll try to use it again in pet food. I’d truly like to be able to purchase affordable home test kits for melamine.

    Comment by Pat McCutchen — May 3, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

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