As reported yesterday, Natural Balance has recalled pet food products found to have melamine in them. Yes, melamine. The same item found in the tainted wheat gluten which caused the massive Menu Food recall over the past month, and countless heartbreaking deaths. However, the twist on the Natural Balance recall is that it is NOT being attributed to wheat gluten (Natural Balance says they do not use it), but instead is being traced to rice protein concentrate, which Natural Balance recently added to their Venison products for dogs and cats,”The recalled products include Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods, Venison and Brown Rice dog treats, and Venison and Green Pea dry cat food. Recent laboratory results show that the products contain melamine. We believe the source of the melamine is a rice protein concentrate. Natural Balance has confirmed this morning that some production batches of these products may contain melamine.” USA Today is reporting, “The rice protein concentrate was imported from China by San Francisco-based Wilbur-Ellis. Herrick says the concentrate, which is being tested, is suspected to have melamine, as it was the only new ingredient.

In that same article from USA Today, Wilbur-Ellis CEO, John Thacher, said five pet food makers purchased the concentrate, one of them being Diamond Pet Foods. He refused to name the other “major” customer, but said that the unnamed company had tested the concentrate and found no melamine in it. I question why that other “major” company won’t come forward. I mean if you tested the food and NO MELAMINE was found, wouldn’t you WANT consumers to know that you pet food is “safe”? (Whatever safe means anymore.)

Here we go again down the “hush-hush” path of big business companies keeping their “code of silence” with one another. Sigh. ChemNutra was informed on March 8th of the tainted wheat gluten they had imported from Xuzhou Anying in China, and according to their 4/3 press release, immediately began cooperating in investigations and quarantined their entire wheat gluten inventory, yet the public was not made aware of ANY of the involved companies or suppliers for several weeks! Is this the runaround we are now going to get from the rice protein importer, Wilbur-Ellis, and whomever their customers are that purchased the rice protein from them? Guess only time will tell. Looks like the “Quality Assurance” blurb on the Wilbur-Ellis “feed” web site page holds their accountability only at their customers, and not the subsequent consumers of products produced by those customers. “For over 80 years, Wilbur-Ellis has built a reputation for fulfilling contractual commitments to our customers. The process starts with ensuring that our suppliers provide the quality assurance that we guarantee in our sales contracts. Our network of international offices features specialists in every product market, thus ensuring that quality standards meet or exceed our customer expectations. Whether our customers require HAACP, APHIS , EU , UL or another form of quality assurance Co Products delivers what we guarantee.” It also appears from a must-read, interesting article over at Canada Free Press, that ChemNutra is giving the big brush-off to those requesting answers from them by having a PR firm take over inquiries, and has become quite mum on the whole thing, “PR flaks are paid to protect clients but the silence from ChemNutra CEO Stephen S. Miller and his wife Sally Qing Miller is deafening.

There’s something that is bothering me a bit with another aspect of this latest twist in pet food contamination. I realize we are all trying to get information out to worried pet parents as quickly as possible, and at times may have unintentionally passed along some information that may turn out to not have been 100% accurate. That being said, I’m sure bloggers and commenters were doing this with the best of intentions and no harm intended. However, I have read some comments and blog postings since the Natural Balance recall, which have been placing some blame on that company, saying that they knew about this issue and were delayed in reporting it. While these bloggers and commenters may be privy to some inside information I haven’t seen, from all of the accounts I have read online and seen on the news, it appears that Natural Balance DID test AND PULL affected products when they started getting complaints from consumers about pets becoming ill after eating some of their products. Natural Balance also appears to have quickly expanded their recall on 4/17/07 once they had fine-tuned where the problem may be: in the rice protein concentrate in their Venison products. Until I’m shown some evidence that proves otherwise, I commend Natural Balance for moving a lot faster than the companies that were involved in the Menu Foods recall did, most specifically Menu Foods who has been shown to have lagged MANY WEEKS on notifying consumers, thereby being guilty of allowing consumers to unknowingly continue feeding tainted food to their pets.

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For those having trouble accessing Natural Balance’s web site, I will copy the contents of their main page (as of 11:15AM PST on 4/18/07) and a FAQ which they posted today. You can click here for my previous posting which included their 4/17/07 press release.

Natural Balance web site (4/18/07):

NOTICE:
Below is our official press release regarding the Venison Only Voluntary Pet Food recall. We have worked very close with the FDA for the last two days to be able to give you the latest information available.

Due to the high volume of calls, we have created a page of
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
to help you better understand the current situation.

Click Here to read update on our voluntary recall.

NO OTHER NATURAL BALANCE PRODUCTS ARE AFFECTED.

Natural Balance FAQ:

Natural Balance Pet Foods,® Inc. Voluntary Nationwide Recall on Specific Venison Dog & Cat Food Products

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I’ve heard the brown rice is the problem, is this true?

NO. The rice and brown rice are not a problem. The problem is rice protein concentrate that is only used in the four products involved in the recall.

I’ve heard the venison is a problem, is this true?

NO. The rice protein concentrate is the problem, and is only used in the the Venison & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food, Venison & Brown Rice Canned Dog Food, the Venison & Brown Rice Formula Dog Treats and the Venison & Green Pea Cat Food. These are the only products involved in the recall.

What products are affected?

Venison and Brown Rice Dry Dog Formula
Venison and Brown Rice Canned Dog Food
Venison & Brown Rice Formula Dog Treats
Venison and Green Pea Dry Cat Formula

What products are NOT AFFECTED?

None of our other products are affected:
Ultra Premium Formula Dry Dog Food
Reduced Calorie Formula Dry Dog Food
Ultra Premium Formula Dry Cat Food
Reduced Calorie Formula Dry Cat Food
Sweet Potato & Fish Dry Dog Food
Potato & Duck Formula Dry Dog Food
Organic Formula Dry Dog Food
Vegetarian Formula Dry Dog Food
Turkey Formula Dog Food Rolls
Beef Formula Dog Food Rolls
Lamb Formula Dog Food Rolls
Beef Formula canned dog food
Chicken Formula canned dog food
Lamb Formula canned dog food
Liver Formula canned dog food
Duck and Potato Formula canned dog food
Sweet Potato & Fish canned dog food

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