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Author Topic: Synopsis Largest Pet Food Recall Ever -- What toxins have we fed pets?  (Read 2956 times)
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« on: June 24, 2007, 12:28:12 PM »

This is certainly tough reading for those of us without scientific backgrounds, like me, but is also
thought provoking about the problems with commercial pet foods and where to look for better
food safety standards. I ran across it in a search of the Washington Post on pet food recall.
Let me know what you think -- 3cats

By Michael W. Fox B.Vet.Med., Ph.D., D.Sc. M.R.C.V.S.
Updated May 31, 2007

In March 2007, millions of concerned pet owners became aware of the massive recall by Menu Foods of 60 million cans and packages of contaminated, poisonous cat and dog food, in an effort to prevent the development of acute kidney disease and even death in the nation’s pets. This one company in Canada, Menu Foods Income Fund, produced over one billion containers of pet food in 2006. This compounded and processed food for dogs and cats was distributed to the major brand name pet food companies and mega-stores for sale under very different labels.

So which labels to trust? And how can one trust the industry when Menu Foods, after receiving many complaints about problems with its products, took 3 weeks to notify the FDA after running feed tests on some 50 cats and dogs that resulted in the unnecessary suffering and deaths even more animals. Noted in the press as a ‘horrible coincidence’, the CFO of Menu Foods sold about half of his stake in the company three weeks before the widespread pet food recall.

On March 19, The FDA notified the press that the manufacturer, Menu Foods, had performed tests on 40-50 dogs and cats on Feb 27, ostensibly one week after receiving reports of dogs and cats dying from kidney failure. Seven of the test animals died, cats being more severely affected than dogs.

This recall eventually involved around 100 different brand names and distributors, including major well known ones such as Iams, Eukanuba, Nutro, Hills, Nutriplan, Royal Canin, Pet Pride, Natural Life vegetarian dog food, Your Pet, America’s Choice-Preferred Pet, Sunshine Mills, as well as store brands such as PetSmart, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Stop and Shop Companion, Price Chopper, Laura Lynn, KMart, Longs Drug Stores Corp, State Bros. Markets and Wal-Mart, and a host of private labels of mainly canned (moist) cat and dog foods. Under each brand name are usually many different varieties of cat and dog foods and this meant that hundreds of different types of pet food were recalled. When coupled with the soon to follow recalls of other pet food manufacturers that had bought the purportedly poisonous gluten themselves and did not contract with Menu Foods, notably other well known company brand names like Purina, Alpo, and Del Monte Pet Products, the quantity of food recalled must be in the hundreds of thousands of tons.

The FDA has no mandatory authority to demand a pet food recall. All recalls are ‘voluntary’, upon written request notification by the FDA. There is no mandatory requirement for pet food manufacturers to inform the FDA in a timely fashion, or any penalty for not doing so. Even so, upon FDA’s request, IAMS recently stopped supplementing pet foods with Cadmium, and in early 2006 Royal Canin ‘voluntarily’ recalled some of their prescription-only dog food that contained toxic levels of Vitamin D 3, that is also, in high doses, used as a rat poison.

This current debacle of the commercial processed pet food industry puts us all on notice. Better quality controls, oversight and testing are called for, but one must be realistic. There have been recent massive recalls of human food commodities, including ground beef, poultry, onions, and spinach. Costs aside, no system of mass production can be fail-safe. The recycling of human food industry by-products, and products considered unfit for human consumption, into livestock feed and processed pet food presents a monumental risk-management challenge.

I began to receive letters from dog and cat owners thanking me for ‘saving their animal’s lives’ because they were feeding them the kind of home-made diet that I have been advocating as a veterinarian for some years. Other letters document the suffering and deaths of several companion animals, their care givers’ disbelief, outrage, and financial as well as emotional loss. These letters came during and after what turned out to be the largest pet food recall in the industry’s history. Many people had veterinary bills in the $ 3-6,000.00 range, many of whom, on fixed incomes, had to take out credit card loans and pay exorbitant interest. I received some letters that described animals going suddenly into acute renal failure prior to the purported November onset of this tragedy.

On March 23, 2007 the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that they had found ‘rat poison’ in contaminated wheat gluten imported from China initially thought responsible for the suffering and deaths of an as yet uncounted numbers of cats and dogs across North America. The poison is a chemical compound called aminopterin.

Veterinary toxicologists with the ASPCA and American College of Internal Veterinary Medicine shared my concern that there may be some other food contaminant (s) in addition to the aminopterin that was sickening and killing many pets. Experts were not convinced that the finding of rat poison contamination was the end of the story.

On March 30, the FDA reported finding a widely used compound called melamine, described as a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics, as a wood resin adhesive and protective, in the wheat gluten. The FDA claimed that the melamine was the probable cause of an as yet uncounted number of cat and dog poisonings and deaths. The FDA could not find the rat poison, aminopterin, in the samples it analyzed. However a lab in Canada, at the University of Guelph, confirmed the presence of rat poison. This chemical is also used, however, as a genetic/DNA marker, and is included in U S Patent 6130207, filed Nov 5, 1997 (Cell-specific molecule and method of importing DNA into a nucleus). This could mean, therefore, that the wheat gluten came from genetically engineered/transgenic/GM plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency identified melamine as a contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides, including cryomazine. People began to question if there is also pesticide contamination of the wheat gluten. Was there a possibility of deliberate contamination, or was it the result of gross mismanagement and lack of effective food-safety and quality controls that account for levels of melamine reported to be as high as 6.6% in FDA analyzed samples of the wheat gluten?

The widely used insect growth regulator cryomazine is not only made from melamine. It also breaks down into melamine after ingestion by an animal. Wheat gluten is wheat gluten, fit for human consumption, so the question still remains, what was wrong with this imported gluten that it was only bought for use in pet food?

On April 6, 2007, FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine director, Dr. Stephen Sundlof, told CNN that the melamine found in the contaminated wheat gluten from China could actually have been added as ’cheap filler'. Melamine crystal is a urea-derived, synthetic nitrogen product that is used as a fertilizer that could have been added to the wheat gluten.

How this melamine got into the gluten was still an open question in early April, 2007, and some toxicologists still doubted that this was the main cause of so many dogs and cats becoming sick and even dying from kidney failure.

FDA officials told the media that melamine is ‘fairly non-toxic’. The derivative pesticide cyromazine, sold as Larvadex and Vetrazin by Syngenta, is not all that toxic either, (oral LD50 for rats 3387mg/kg) and is actually fed to chickens to control fly larvae in their droppings.

The widely used crop insecticide cryomazine is actually absorbed by plants after being sprayed, and is converted into melamine. This could be another possible source of gluten contamination. And when cryomazine is consumed by test animals, it is converted in their bodies, like the plants, back to melamine. Since melamine was found in some 873 tons of wheat gluten from China the dilution in the vast volume of pet foods being recalled must be considerable. So perhaps melamine was a smoking gun, a symptom and not the primary cause of so many animals becoming sick, and even dying.

Pesticides are used extensively on rice crops, and many varieties of GM/transgenic rice have been planted in Asia. This may account for the presence of melamine in rice protein identified in two of Natural Balance’s cat and dog foods that lead to a recall on April 16, 2007 after people reported that their cats and dogs were getting sick on the dry food. But perhaps other chemical compounds in the transgenic/GM/genetically engineered rice, corn, and wheat from China, not yet identified, or at least made public by the FDA, may be involved in the tragic pet food poisoning pandemic.

The possibility of synergism of toxic pet food contaminants, where two or more harmful additives or contaminants and/or their metabolized breakdown products resulted in this pet food poisoning pandemic, still remains open. The massive pet food recall in 2004 of dry cat and dog food manufactured in Thailand by Pedigree Pet Foods after reports of kidney failure in hundreds of pets, mostly puppies, in nine Asian countries is a matter of public record, but no toxic agent/s were ever reported to the public by this multinational pet food company.

On April 3 Associated Press named the US importer as ChemNutra of Las Vegas, reporting that the company had recalled 873 tons of wheat gluten that had been shipped to three pet food makers and a single distributor who in turn supplies the pet food industry. Close to 100 different brand labels of cat and dog food were recalled.

Until there is evidence to the contrary, the following concerns remain to be addressed by the FDA:

1. The wheat gluten and other vegetable protein imported from China was not for human consumption, because, I believe, it had been genetically engineered as well as possible adulterated with a pseudo-protein ‘filler’ like melamine. The FDA has a wholly cavalier attitude toward feeding animals such genetically altered ‘frankenfoods’ but places some restrictions when human consumption is involved (yet refuses appropriate food labeling).

2. The ‘rat poison’ aminopterin is used in molecular biology as an anti-metabolite, folate antagonist, and in genetic engineering biotechnology as a genetic marker. This could account for its presence in this imported wheat gluten.

3. The ‘plastic’, ‘wood preservative’ and pseudo-protein additive melamine, coupled the related and widely used insecticide cyromazine, could have combined with the wheat, corn, and rice plant proteins themselves that contained quantities of genetically engineered pesticide (like the But. insecticidal poison present in most US commodity crops that go into animal feed), to create a highly toxic mix.

4.So called ‘overexpression’ can occur when spliced genes that synthesize such chemicals become hyperactive inside the plant and result in potentially toxic plant tissues, lethal not just to meal worms and other crop pests, but to cats, dogs, birds, butterflies and other wildlife; and to their creators.

Possibly glufosinate and glyphosate, herbicides that are liberally applied to crops across the US, and are absorbed by crops that are genetically engineered (transgenic or GM, genetically modified), so that they are not harmed by the weed killers while all else growing in the fields is wiped out, could be part of the problem. These widely used herbicides have caused kidney damage and other health problems in laboratory tested animals. Their presence in commercial pet foods not certified organic could have made dogs and cats more susceptible to melanine and urea-related chemical contamination.

These and other agrichemicals are probably in the pet food that made so many animals sick and even die, and are in most of the crops and crop by-products currently being fed to beef cattle, pigs, poultry, and dairy cows whose produce is not Certified Organic.

Farmed animals, whose various produce non-vegans consume, are also fed corn and other feeds from genetically engineered crops that produce their own insecticide called Bt. High levels of Bt in crops have made farmers ill and poisoned sheep. Since pet foods show no labels to the contrary, and the FDA does not even permit the labeling of human foods when they contain GM ingredients, we have no way of knowing what we are really eating or feeding to our pets. (For details see my books ‘KILLER FOODS: What Scientists Do to Make Food Better is not Always Best.’ The Lyons Press, 2004 and "EATING WITH CONSCIENCE: THE BIOETHICS OF FOOD. New Sage Press, 1997)).

Although the U S has resisted the temptation of genetically engineering the staff of life---wheat, our daily bread, ---China has forged ahead, in collaboration with the UK's Rothamsted Agricultural Research Center to develop GM/transgenic varieties of wheat, as well as rice and other commodity crops.

So it is surely incumbent upon the FDA to determine if this imported wheat gluten and other vegetable protein from China came from genetically engineered crops. Other endogenous toxins not yet identified could well have played a role in the sickness, suffering and death of companion animals across North America.

For example, Monsanto’s GM corn MON863 has been shown to cause kidney and liver toxicity in animal feeding tests. (For details see ‘Risks of GM Crops and Foods’).

**** Most significantly, the UK’s Food Standards Agency reported on April 26 that an illegal shipment of rice protein concentrate from GM rice line Bt63 had come from China via the Netherlands into the UK for incorporation into livestock and possibly pet foods. Unlike the laissez-faire attitude of the US government to GM crops and foods, the UK has tight restrictions.*****

The ‘life science’ industry has convinced US legislators that genetically engineered crops are safe, and ‘substantially equivalent’ to conventional varieties of food and animal feed crops. But the scientific evidence, and documented animal safety tests, point in the opposite direction. The US government even attempted to have genetically engineered seeds and foods, and municipal sewage sludge included in the National Organic Standards as acceptable under the Act.

While scientists and environmental health experts, along with the Sierra Club’s Laurel Hopwood, are pointing to agrichemicals and to the pollen of genetically engineered crops as being possibly responsible for the collapse of the honey bee population---that could mean an agricultural apocalypse, ---veterinarians and toxicologists are unraveling the cause of the epidemic of food poisoning and untimely death of thousands of beloved cats and dogs across the nation. The most probable cause according to my evaluations in mid-April was not melamine alone, but one or more of its derivatives may play a role, but in synergy with as yet unidentified toxins that had been extracted from genetically engineered crops producing their own insecticidal chemicals, or an as yet unidentified biopharmaceutical or other chemical that became concentrated in the vegetable protein.

This latest pet food recall in North America should mobilize the public and their elected representatives to take control of how our food is produced, and where it comes from. Without labeling as to country of origin and method of production, with Organic Certification being the watermark, prepared human foods and manufactured pet foods (that should include no ingredients considered unsafe for human consumption) can no longer be considered safe and wholesome. SEE PART TWO UNDER PART 2 POST

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That which does not kill us makes us stronger

« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2007, 01:05:25 PM »


WOW what a great article. I like the part of continuing concerns, never heard it from a professional before and it makes a lot of sense when phrased it this way. This is a great article to take quotes from for other threads.

db Smiley

I used to think that anyone doing anything weird was weird. I suddenly realized that anyone doing anything weird wasn't weird at all and it was the people saying they were weird that were weird.
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