Looks like Sen. Durbin is continuing to stand up for pets and their parents by pushing forward with his pursuit of the truth in all this pet food contamination mess. He, along with Sen. Cantwell, sent a letter today (will copy it below…note to Sen. Durbin’s office, “You might want to proofread the letter before sending next time. United States Senator was spelled Untied States Senator.”…then again, I suppose we are ALL feeling a bit ‘untied’ lately. 😉) to Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D. (FDA) requesting action by the FDA on many fronts, most interestingly in regard to this alarming (yet not very surprising) discovery of a second importer of rice protein, which is more than likely melamine-tainted:

We have learned that in addition to Wilbur-Ellis, a second United States company imported a shipment of rice protein from China that is also likely to be contaminated with melamine. We request the FDA identify this second importer as well as those manufacturers to which it may have sold the contaminated product. Again, we request the FDA closely track this shipment and immediately press the affected companies to recall any food containing the imported rice protein.

Part of a Reuters Alert story “US Senators raise new concerns in pet food scare” reports:

An aide to Durbin said the senators found out about the second importer from industry sources.

If confirmed, that could further expand a pet food recall that so far includes more than 100 brands. FDA officials have confirmed 16 deaths of cats and dogs from kidney failure and have received more than 15,000 reports of illnesses.

The senators’ letter came ahead of a congressional hearing on Tuesday to examine the pet food scare as well as the larger issue of human food safety before a U.S. House of Representatives committee.

FDA spokeswoman Cathy McDermott said so far the agency is only aware of one rice protein importer, Wilbur-Ellis Co., but the investigation is ongoing.

Is anyone else as tired of the same old line of crap from the FDA? The, “Um, uh, the investigation is ongoing…we have our fingers up our patootie and can’t handle our jobs…what’s a little poison amongst friends?” line of malarkey they keep regurgitating. ARGH!!! I feel like a broken record bitching and moaning about the fact that the FDA should be able to track ANY DARN THING at ANY MOMENT. There is no reason,with technology such as it is, that someone can’t get on the phone or online and track things down. Heck, the blogging community has done a better job tracking down information than some of the media AND government agencies. Okay, gotta keep the blood pressure down…breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. The good news is that there is another hearing tomorrow, so hopefully some folks responsible for protecting our food supplies (both human and pet) will get their collective fannies nailed to the wall by Senator Durbin and others.

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On the quarantined hog farm (melamine) situation, here’s the latest update (4/22/07) from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Click here for their initial 4/19/07 news release.

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DURBIN, CANTWELL ASK FDA TO STRENGTHEN INSPECTIONS AND DISCLOSE COMPANIES THAT PURCHASED CONTAMINATED RICE PROTEIN FROM CHINA

Monday, April 23, 2007

[WASHINGTON, DC] — U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today sent a letter to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Andrew von Eschenbach asking him to identify the companies that were recipients of the contaminated rice protein shipments from China and to request that the FDA identify and inspect all suspect pet food ingredients imported by the U.S. from China and other countries.

Recent reports indicate that in addition to the contaminated wheat gluten found during the first wave of pet food recalls, contaminated shipments of rice protein and corn gluten have been used for pet food and could have entered the human food supply. On April 2nd, a Chinese company, Binzhou-Futian, sold rice protein to Wilbur-Ellis and a second unknown importer. Wilbur-Ellis has said that the shipment was distributed to five pet food manufacturers. Three of those manufacturers have revealed themselves and recalled food, the other two have not.

Given the strong possibility that these two pet food manufacturers also received contaminated rice protein and that they have failed to implement voluntary recalls, Durbin and Cantwell today asked FDA to release the names of these manufacturers and require them to trace and recall any pet food made with the potentially contaminated rice protein. The Senators have also asked that the name of the second importer be released.

Last week, Senator Durbin and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) met with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Andrew von Eschenbach in Durbin’s Capitol office to discuss the latest recall of pet food, this time caused by contaminated rice protein imported from China. In the meeting, Durbin and DeLauro learned that the Chinese Government has blocked requests from the FDA to send personnel to China to inspect the facilities suspected of producing the contaminated products. The FDA first contacted the Chinese Government on April 4, 2007, but have not been granted permission to send food inspectors into the country. In response, Durbin and DeLauro sent a letter to the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzong, urging the Chinese Government to issue visas to U.S. food inspectors as quickly as possible.

Two weeks ago, Durbin and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing the FDA’s response to the pet food recall. The hearing examined the timeline of the investigation, the source of the contamination, and the agency’s regulatory and inspection responsibilities. In the hearing, the Senators also questioned outside experts about the current state of the pet food industry, as well as regulatory or resource shortfalls that led to the widespread recall of tainted pet food.

Text of the letter appears below:

 


April 23, 2007Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D.
Parklawn Bldg.
Mail Code: HF-1
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20856Dear Commissioner:We are writing today in light of the recent expansion in the pet food recall. Over the past week, shipments of imported rice protein and corn gluten have been discovered to be contaminated with melamine. In addition, we have learned that the human food supply may be at risk from tainted pet food sold to a hog feeding operation in California.Once again, our food supply has been put at risk by contaminated ingredients that originated overseas and were never inspected by the FDA. In addition to identifying those companies who were recipients of the contaminated rice protein and have yet to do the right thing by identifying themselves, we request that the FDA begin comprehensive testing and sampling of both rice protein and corn gluten, similar to the testing and sampling performed on wheat gluten. The FDA must assure Congress and the American people that the shipments of rice protein known to be contaminated with melamine imported by Wilbur Ellis and the second unknown importer are the only shipments of contaminated rice protein to reach the United States and that no contaminated corn gluten has reached the United States. Should any additional contaminated rice protein or corn gluten be found, the FDA should take immediate action to identify those companies receiving the contaminated products and press for removal of any contaminated food from the market. Additionally, we request that the FDA conduct comprehensive testing on all pet food about which it has received complaints regarding symptoms of kidney failure in dogs or cats. The FDA’s strategy thus far of waiting for companies to self-report contamination and make the individual decision to remove contaminated food in their own time frame has served to increase the number of animals sick and dying and magnify this sad situation.Repeatedly, American pet owners have been told that products not on the recall list are safe for their pets, only to discover that the recall has expanded and that their pets may still be vulnerable. In order to prevent further contaminated food from reaching our shelves, we are requesting the following of the Food and Drug Administration:1. Wilbur-Ellis Co., the San Francisco-based company that imported the shipment of contaminated rice protein has said that the shipment was distributed to five pet food manufacturers. Three of those manufacturers have revealed themselves and recalled food, the other two have not. Given the strong possibility that these two pet food manufacturers also received contaminated rice protein and that they have failed to implement voluntary recalls, we believe the FDA should release the names of these manufacturers and require them to trace and recall any pet food made with the potentially contaminated rice protein. If FDA is unable to reveal this information, we ask for a detailed legal explanation.2. We have learned that in addition to Wilbur-Ellis, a second United States company imported a shipment of rice protein from China that is also likely to be contaminated with melamine. We request the FDA identify this second importer as well as those manufacturers to which it may have sold the contaminated product. Again, we request the FDA closely track this shipment and immediately press the affected companies to recall any food containing the imported rice protein.3. The FDA has engaged in significant testing and sampling of wheat gluten. Given we now know contaminated shipments of both rice protein concentrate and corn gluten have also been exported from China, we ask the FDA to begin comprehensive testing and sampling of rice protein concentrate and corn gluten immediately.4. We have seen this recall expand dramatically, both in terms of the number of brands and different products recalled, and in the number of ingredients contaminated. In light of the strong possibility that these protein sources were purposefully contaminated for economic purposes, we are concerned about the safety of other imported pet food ingredients and the possibility of them being contaminated. Accordingly, we ask the FDA to proactively respond by:

· Identifying and inspecting all suspect pet food ingredients imported by the U.S. from China and other countries;

· Studying the feasibility of testing protein-based pet food ingredients imported from China and other countries for melamine;

· Taking steps to work with the Chinese Government and other foreign governments to inspect their facilities and provide technical assistance to improve their food safety standards.

Approximately 63% of Americans own a cat or a dog. The FDA owes the American public their best effort to prevent contaminated food from getting to store shelves and to remove contaminated food that is already on shelves before more pets die. We look forward to the Food and Drug Administration’s prompt and complete response to this letter.

Sincerely,
Richard J. Durbin
Untied States Senator

Maria E. Cantwell
Untied States Senator

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