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onecareus.gifWhile AB 8 (horrible compromise bill) and SB 840 (infinitely superior bill) are California-specific pending legislation, the ramifications of which bill is ultimately passed (if any) will ring throughout our country since insurance companies, the medical industry, and politicians will be watching to see what they can get away with in YOUR state. Please take heed and most definitely take action. The following letters are reprinted with permission from the “Health Care for All” MySpace blog.

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ACTION ALERT!

TAKE ACTION to STOP AB-8. Everybody in California can go to: Legislator Search – Type in your zip code and call your Senator and follow up with e-mails no later than 9/11. And please forward this to all your e-mail lists off MySpace in California. Please see below the official Health Care For All opposition letter on AB8 for talking specific talking points.

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California’s Unhealthy Bill: Fake Healthcare Reform A Victory for Schwarzenegger — And a Boon for Insurance Companies

Posted September 5, 2007 | 10:10 PM (EST)

In alliance with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic leaders of the state Legislature, led by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez are rushing to enact a substandard health reform plan that will not reduce the health insecurity of California families.

They’re apparently even willing to jeopardize Sen. Barbara Boxer and their own party’s slim hold on the United States Senate along the way.

Here’s the deal: Nuñez and some other Democrats are actively working with Schwarzenegger to put together a “compromise” healthcare package.

Schwarzenegger, the main architect of that plan, gets to claim credit for supposedly solving the state’s healthcare crisis using “bipartisan consensus.” As collateral damage to Democrats, Schwarzenegger can tout this deal to boost his candidacy against Boxer in 2010.

Nuñez could then get the governor’s support for extending his term as speaker.

This constellation of events may be dandy for a career politician or two, but it leaves behind a lot of other Californians, who will have to contend with a poor healthcare bill full of holes.

AB 8 does nothing to rein in rising insurance premiums — up 87% nationally this decade — or rising co-pays, deductibles and other health fees. Which means that costs, already unaffordable for far too many, would continue to spin out of control.

The bill fails to limit rising prescription drug costs, especially notable at a time when Schwarzenegger has just eliminated funding for his “voluntary” drug price restraints that were so ballyhooed last year by the governor and the authors of AB 8.

It is not universal, as many of the currently uninsured would remain without access to care. It fails to assure uniform, comprehensive benefits, and therefore perpetuates an increasingly multi-tiered health system based on the ability to pay.

It fails even to require insurance companies to provide insurance. They would not have to offer coverage to those with serious medical conditions — those people would instead be dumped into a publicly funded high-risk pool, earning big insurance companies millions in additional profits while bankrupting the public pool with the sickest, costliest patients.

The bill does not even protect patients’ choice of physicians, hospitals or other providers.

And, most critically, the plan reinforces and expands an insurance-based system — the source of much of the present crisis — thereby subverting real reform for years to come.

At the center of the plan is a mandate on businesses to either provide health coverage or pay taxes into a fund to buy it for their employees. The new tax would fall between the 7.5% of payroll costs favored by Nuñez and the 4% Schwarzenegger proposes.

No matter where the compromise figure ends up, it will be far less than many employers now pay for health benefits. One-fourth of all California businesses that provide health benefits currently pay more than 15% of their payroll for health premiums, according to the California Healthcare Foundation. As a result, businesses that now provide health coverage to employees would have an incentive to drop it.

Moreover, the mandate on employers is unlikely to survive a legal challenge; a similar Maryland bill was thrown out by the federal courts for violating federal benefits law.

Schwarzenegger continues to push his proposal to force most uninsured people to buy insurance or face severe penalties. So far, Democrats have resisted this proposal, but many expect them to accept some form of individual mandate as the final price for Schwarzenegger’s blessing for the term limits initiative.

Last year, Democrats united behind SB 840, a single-payer-style, enhanced “Medicare for all” bill that would have provided guaranteed healthcare for everyone, controlled costs, eliminated co-pays and deductibles, guaranteed choice of provider, and gotten the insurance companies out of the way.

Similar systems are succeeding in every other industrialized democracy — including Schwarzenegger’s homeland, Austria. If the politicians in Sacramento are concerned about patient care, they will not now settle for a bad healthcare bill that will further degrade our healthcare safety net. A bad healthcare bill is worse than no bill.

Deborah Burger, RN is president of the California Nurses Association.

Health Care for All California, a statewide chapter-based organization, has led the movement to pass single payer health care since 1997. HCA sponsors both SB 840 (Kuehl) and the OneCareNow Campaign, a growing grassroots movement to pass single payer health care. SB 840, now called the “gold standard of health care,” would solve the state’s health care crisis by providing for equitable and affordable universal health insurance and a single standard of high quality comprehensive care while preserving the state’s health care infrastructure of providers, hospitals and pharmacies as private and competitive businesses.

We oppose AB 8 for the following reasons:

  • AB 8 will expand the health insurance industry, not solve the health care crisis.

First and foremost, under the banner of moving toward universal health care, instead, AB 8 will leave millions uninsured or underinsured while strengthening and perpetuating an insurance system that currently rations health care by excluding those who cannot afford to pay the high cost of insurance premiums. Insurance companies decide what is covered and what is not. They deny care to the uninsured, the underinsured and the insured with preexisting conditions. Health insurance companies ration health care to secure profits.

The unsolvable issue for the status quo is that although health care is treated as such, it is not a commodity. It is a life-giving and life-saving service that is needed by everyone. Providing affordable and quality health care for Californians is not the mission of for-profit insurance entities. AB 8 will not alter the profit motives of this industry, nor will it change the responsibility insurance companies have to their stockholders. The reforms AB 8 proposes to place on current insurance practices will not solve the state’s health care crisis. Instead, they will result in higher insurance prices for individuals, businesses and governments.

  • AB 8 does not provide for the necessary cost controls to achieve affordable health care.

Both state and national studies indicate that including all residents in a single risk pool that is insured by a government administered non-profit insurance trust fund is the only method that will save billions of health care dollars–enough to provide affordable and comprehensive universal health care. Although AB 8 provides for preventative health care, disease management and administrative cost controls, it does not do enough to control costs. With its piece meal approach, AB 8 cannot achieve the significant cost savings that a single payer system can. In addition to the above measures, a system as provided by SB 840 can control costs by establishing evidenced based standards of care and by utilizing capital investment management, consolidated budgetary authority, system-wide health care planning and the state’s power to negotiate lower prices for durable medical devices and bulk prescription drugs for 36 million Californians.

  • AB 8 does not provide protections needed to guarantee affordability.

This bill leaves too many Californians vulnerable to health care reform that will be too expensive, will not provide enough coverage and for many, no coverage at all. AB 8 does not provide for guaranteed affordability and does not limit co-payments, deductibles or other out-of pocket costs. Although AB 8 does allow for premium subsidies for enrollees with household incomes at or below 300 percent of the poverty line, it does not provide a benchmark for cost sharing between employers and employees.

AB 8 requires that all defined employers spend 7.5 percent of Social Security wages on health care expenditures, which includes purchasing health care coverage for their employees and could include as well, contributions to health savings accounts and other health care programs that do not provide direct health care coverage.Many employers who currently provide health care coverage spend more than 7.5 percent of Social Security wages for the coverage they provide to their employees. AB 8 does not provide minimum coverage standards for the employer market, which could encourage some of these employers to reduce or drop the coverage they provide.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage have increased by 73 percent since 2000, while wages increased only 15 percent concurrently. AB 8 provides for no state oversight of health insurance rates.

A recent joint report by the California Budget Project and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research finds that “many families spend a substantial amount on health care premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and could face financially devastating medical expenses if they are not adequately protected.” The report states that health care reform legislation should take into account the income needed in California to pay for other necessities such as housing, food, child care, and the risk of extraordinary health care costs. The report suggests placing limits on out-of-pocket costs as well as full subsidies up to 200 percent of the poverty line and partial subsidies “well above” 300 percent of the poverty line. AB 8 does not do this.

AB 8 will place many individuals and families in harm’s way.

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Totally disturbing. Totally disgusting. And who knows how long this has been going on. Read on–if you dare.

Will China’s Practices Hurt Food Sales?: Melamine May Be Banned, But Rampant Pollution And Lack Of Inspections Could Deter Buyers-CBS Evening News-CBSNews.com (Accompanying video)

“Melamine is a cheap way to fake high protein levels in wheat gluten. The Chinese government — moving to protect its multibillion-dollar exports of fruits and vegetables — has now banned melamine and shuttered plants that may have used it.”

Chinese businesses say animal feed commonly laced with mildly toxic melamine-(AP)-Canada.com

“The mildly toxic chemical melamine is commonly added to animal feed in China, a manager of a feed company and one of the chemical’s producers said Monday, a process that boosts the feed’s sales value but risks introducing the chemical into meat eaten by humans.”

Melamine in big demand in China-News24.com

“Melamine is so popular as a protein lookalike feed additive that at least one Chinese manufacturer is believed to have torn down buildings to get to leftover scraps, industry officials said on Monday”

A look at the additive Melamine-(AP)-Chron.com

“Melamine can serve as a fertilizer, since it’s high in nitrogen. Typically in the U.S., however, Kapin said melamine is used to make melamine resin, a polymer similar to plastic and used to coat countertops or cabinets because it is hard and largely heat resistant.”

Poultry farms in Indiana given contaminated feed-Reuters.com

“The U.S. government said on Monday 38 poultry farms in Indiana were given contaminated feed in early February containing melamine, with some of the chickens likely to have entered the food supply.”

Here is the FDA news release from today (4/30/07) tracing the tainted animal feed to poultry farms:

FDA News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2007

Media Inquiries:
FDA Media Relations Office, 301-827-6242
Consumer Inquiries:
888-SAFEFOOD

Joint Update: FDA/USDA Trace Adulterated Animal Feed to Poultry

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2007 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have learned that byproducts from pet food manufactured with contaminated wheat gluten imported from China have been used in chicken feed on some farms in the state of Indiana. This information came to light as part of the continuing investigation into imported rice protein concentrate and wheat gluten that have been found to contain melamine and melamine-related compounds.

At this time, the investigation indicates that approximately 30 broiler poultry farms and eight breeder poultry farms in Indiana received contaminated feed in early February and fed it to poultry within days of receiving it. All of the broilers believed to have been fed contaminated product have since been processed. The breeders that were fed the contaminated product are under voluntary hold by the flock owners.

As with exposure from hogs fed contaminated pet food and for similar reasons related to the dilution of the contamination, FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating chicken fed the contaminated product is very low. Because there is no evidence of harm to humans associated with consumption of chicken fed the contaminated product, no recall of poultry products processed from these animals is being issued. Testing and the joint investigation continue. If any evidence surfaces to indicate there is harm to humans, the appropriate action will be taken.

Because the poultry being held have been fed adulterated products, USDA cannot knowingly approve products derived from these poultry for human consumption. USDA is offering to compensate producers who euthanize this poultry. USDA is also offering the expertise and assistance of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) personnel in carrying out depopulation activities, to ensure adherence to Federal and State laws.

FDA and USDA anticipate that as the investigation continues additional farms will likely be identified that received contaminated feed. As indicated in previous updates, FDA and USDA have also traced contaminated feed to swine farms in several states. The same procedures are being followed in relation to both swine and poultry; animals are being quarantined by state order or voluntarily held by the owners and USDA is offering compensation for depopulation and disposal of both swine and poultry that have been fed contaminated products.

USDA and FDA continue to conduct a full, comprehensive examination to protect the nation’s food supply and will provide updates as new information is confirmed.

Government: Hogs That Ate Contaminated Pet Food Will Not Be Recalled-(AP)-FoxNews.com (yes, I actually am using a Fox item…shocking! 😉)

“The government said last week that 345 of 6,000 hogs that may have the food are believed to have been placed on the path to slaughter, but that almost all are still on farms in California, New York and South Carolina.”

Here is the FDA news release (4/28/07) regarding the hogs who were fed melamine-tainted feed:

FDA News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2007

Media Inquiries:
FDA Press Office: 301-827-6242
USDA Press Office: 202-720-4623
Consumer Inquiries:
888-INFO-FDA

Joint Update: FDA/USDA Update on Tainted Animal Feed

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue their investigation of imported rice protein concentrate which has been found to contain melamine and melamine-related compounds. Based on information currently available, FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating pork from swine fed the contaminated product would be very low. The agencies are taking certain actions out of an abundance of caution. As announced on April 26, swine known to have been fed adulterated (contaminated) product will not be approved to enter the food supply. (Because the animal feed in question was adulterated, USDA cannot rule out the possibility that food produced from animals fed this product could also be adulterated. USDA cannot approve potentially adulterated meat.) This update provides additional information regarding the ongoing investigation.

As reported on April 22 by FDA, the Agency determined that rice protein concentrate imported from China was contaminated with melamine and melamine-related compounds. The product was imported by Wilbur-Ellis, an importer and distributor of agricultural products. Although the company began importing product from China in August 2006, the company did not become aware of the contamination until April 2007. As part of the ongoing investigation, FDA has determined the rice protein was used in the production of pet food and a portion of the pet food was used to produce animal feed. The ongoing investigation is tracing products distributed since August 2006 by Wilbur-Ellis throughout the distribution chain.

At this time, we have no evidence of harm to humans associated with the processed pork product, and therefore no recall of meat products processed from these animals is being issued. Testing and the joint investigation continue. If any evidence surfaces to indicate there is harm to humans, the appropriate action will be taken.

The assessment that, if there were to be harm to human health, it would be very low, is based on a number of factors, including the dilution of the contaminating melamine and melamine-related compounds from the original rice protein concentrate as it moves through the food system. First it is a partial ingredient in the pet food; second, it is only part of the total feed given to the hogs; third, it is not known to accumulate in the hogs and the hogs excrete melamine in their urine; fourth, even if present in pork, pork is only a small part of the average American diet. Neither FDA nor USDA has uncovered any evidence of harm to the swine from the contaminated feed. In addition to the dilutional factor and the lack of evidence of illnesses in the swine fed the waste pet food, we are not aware of any human illness that has occurred from exposure to melamine or its by-products. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention systems would have limited ability to detect subtle problems due to melamine and melamine-related compounds, no problems have been detected to date. To further evaluate any potential harm to humans, the FDA is developing and implementing further tests and risk assessments based on the toxicity of the compounds and how much of the compounds consumers could be expected to actually consume.

The ongoing investigation and product reconciliation and testing have led to certain farms. We expect the investigation will continue to find more places where product may have been distributed. As of April 26, sites in the following states are believed to have received and used contaminated product: California, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah. As we confirm additional sites that have received and used contaminated product, we will provide additional updates.

USDA and FDA continue to conduct a full, comprehensive examination to protect the nation’s food supply and will provide updates as new information is confirmed.

***Latest pet food recall “firm press releases” from the FDA***

Blue Buffalo Company, Ltd Issues Nationwide Recall of “Blue” Canned Dog Foods, “Blue Spa Select” Canned Cat Foods and “Blue” Dog Treats Manufactured At American Nutrition, Inc.

Sierra Pet Products, LLC Issues Nationwide Recall of “Harmony Farms” Canned Dog Foods, “Harmony Farms” Canned Cat Foods and “Harmony Farms” Dog Treats Manufactured at American Nutrition, Inc.

So yesterday we saw Blue Buffalo lambasting American Nutrition, Inc. for adding rice protein to products American Nutrition, Inc. (ANI) manufactured for Blue Buffalo WITHOUT the knowledge of Blue Buffalo. Today we are getting the FDA’s “firm” press release from Natural Balance echoing the same sentiments:

“It should be noted that the products being recalled were not formulated or labeled to contain rice protein concentrate. While the FDA is investigating this, current information indicates this error is a result of a manufacturing deviation by American Nutrition. Natural Balance is working with the FDA in this matter.”

It was bad enough to find out that imports from China of rice protein, wheat gluten, and corn gluten were obviously tainted with melamine (if not more), but now discovering (via Blue Buffalo and Natural Balance press releases) that American Nutrition, Inc. was adding rice protein WITHOUT THE KNOWLEDGE of the companies contracting ANI for pet food manufacturing has me really freaking out. How naive have we all been to assume that companies are “somewhat” ethical in their commitment to consumer safety, let alone ethical in their business practices with companies who contract with them, by actually manufacturing what said companies have agreed to as ingredients in their pet food formulas? Weeks ago when I said that this pet food contamination debacle was just the tip of the iceberg, I TRULY had no idea it would uncover such blatant disregard for business ethics, safety of food, morality, and just plain old common sense. And that’s just in the pet food industry. Perhaps it’s time to take another vicodin even though the root canal tooth isn’t bothering me. Anyone else? 😉

Also, Andrew Bridges continues his excellent coverage of the pet food industry scandal with this latest story of the FDA raiding a Menu Foods plant and the Las Vegas offices of ChemNutra. Day late and a dollar short, FDA–in my opinion.

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Natural Balance Press Release (dated 4/27/07):

Recall — Firm Press Release

FDA posts press releases and other notices of recalls and market withdrawals from the firms involved as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties. FDA does not endorse either the product or the company. This listserv covers mainly Class I (life-threatening) recalls. A complete listing of recalls can be found in the FDA Enforcement Report at: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/Enforce.html

Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc. Recalls Products in Response to American Nutrition Inc. Pet Food Recall

Contact:
Natural Balance Consumer Contact:
1-800-829-4493

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Pacoima, CA — April 27, 2007 — Because of the pet food recall initiated today by American Nutrition Inc., Natural Balance Pet Foods has announced it is issuing a nationwide recall of a number of canned products manufactured by American Nutrition. This action is limited to four specific Natural Balance canned formulas: Chicken Canned Dog Formula 13 oz , Beef Canned Dog Formula 13 oz, Lamb Canned Dog Formula 13 oz, and the 3oz and 6 oz Ocean Fish Canned Cat Formulas.

Natural Balance Pet Foods is taking this voluntary action after learning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed rice protein concentrate used by American Nutrition contained melamine, a substance not approved for use in food. These products are being recalled in addition to our previously recalled Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods, Venison and Brown Rice dog treats, and Venison and Green Pea dry cat food.

Natural Balance Pet Foods has not received any indication of quality or safety issues, including pet illness, with the four withdrawn formulas. However, because American Nutrition informed the company that these four specific products may include rice protein concentrate, Natural Balance Pet Foods felt this action was necessary for the protection of its customers and their pets.

It should be noted that the products being recalled were not formulated or labeled to contain rice protein concentrate. While the FDA is investigating this, current information indicates this error is a result of a manufacturing deviation by American Nutrition. Natural Balance is working with the FDA in this matter.

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FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts Page: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/7alerts.html

Back from the root canal and off to vicodin-land in a few minutes, but did just see these in my inbox from the FDA. Sure wish the FDA could get these “firm” press releases out as soon as the company posting them does, and NOT a day later. Have to say that after 6 weeks of companies NOT naming other companies involved in this pet food contamination mess, and holding strictly to their “code of silence”, it’s QUITE interesting to see Blue Buffalo ALL OVER American Nutrition, Inc.’s patootie! I must applaud Blue Buffalo for making the following statement and action:

So while no BLUE or Spa Select canned product has tested positive for the presence of melamine, and there has been no reported illness due to any of our canned products, we simply cannot be sure of what ANI has been including in our formulas. For this reason, we have decided to remove all of our canned and biscuit products from retail distribution. While this may seem to many to be a major over-reaction, as other ANI customers will probably only recall the products that tested positive for melamine, we see this as a matter of integrity.

I will copy the entire FDA press releases from both Blue Buffalo AND American Nutrition, Inc., below. I noticed that a Kirkland (Costco) product is on the American Nutrition, Inc. recall list, and while I don’t use it I know many of you do shop Costco, so check what you have. Keep in mind there was another press release earlier today regarding Diamond Foods. May post more this weekend depending on the tooth…and the vicodin. 😉

Blue Buffalo Press Release (dated 4/26/07):

Recall — Firm Press Release

FDA posts press releases and other notices of recalls and market withdrawals from the firms involved as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties. FDA does not endorse either the product or the company. This listserv covers mainly Class I (life-threatening) recalls. A complete listing of recalls can be found in the FDA Enforcement Report at: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/Enforce.html

Blue Buffalo Recalls Can and Biscuit Products Due To Tampering By American Nutrition Inc.

Contact:

Consumer Inquiries:

1-800-919-2833

Media Inquiries:

David Petrie

1-203-762-9751

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Wilton, Connecticut, April 26, 2007- We at the Blue Buffalo Company have just learned that American Nutrition Inc. (ANI), the manufacturer of all our cans and biscuits, has been adding rice protein concentrate to our can formulas without our knowledge and without our approval. This is product tampering, and it apparently has been going on for some time. The can formulas that we developed, and trusted them to produce, never contained any rice protein concentrate. It appears that only an FDA investigation of ANI’s rice protein concentrate supplies forced them to reveal this product tampering to us.

While this activity by ANI is in itself unlawful, the situation is further clouded by the fact that ANI has been receiving rice protein concentrate from Wilber-Ellis, some of which the FDA has determined to be contaminated with melamine.

So while no BLUE or Spa Select canned product has tested positive for the presence of melamine, and there has been no reported illness due to any of our canned products, we simply cannot be sure of what ANI has been including in our formulas. For this reason, we have decided to remove all of our canned and biscuit products from retail distribution. While this may seem to many to be a major over-reaction, as other ANI customers will probably only recall the products that tested positive for melamine, we see this as a matter of integrity.

We founded Blue Buffalo on the principle of providing dogs and cats with the highest quality and most nutritious food, and we will not sell any product that doesn’t meet this standard. And under these circumstances, we cannot say that any products manufactured by ANI measure up.

The obvious question is “how could Blue Buffalo not know that ANI was putting rice protein concentrate into our canned food?” The answer is we trusted them. In business and in life, we all trust our partners to deal with us honestly. When we buy produce from our local grocery store, we are trusting growers, shippers and a series of handlers to have delivered a product that is safe and nutritious for our family. If any one of these parties betrays our trust, contaminated products can make their way to our dinner table.

And while we test for known toxins and contaminants, we don’t test for protein sources, like rice protein concentrate, especially when we did not formulate our products to contain them.

In the end, this all comes down to an issue of integrity, and ANI has not been honest with us and with the pet parents who buy our products. We will not put any product made by ANI on the shelf, and are temporarily withdrawing an important part of our business in order to be true to our pet parents.

We have already started the process of identifying a can and biscuit manufacturer with whom we can build a partnership based on trust. Once we have accomplished this, BLUE and Spa Select cans and BLUE Health Bars will be reintroduced with the high quality and superior nutrition that our brand stands for and that dogs and cats deserve.

We have informed our retail partners and the FDA about this action and will be cooperating with them to complete this recall quickly. The specific product involved includes all “BLUE” brand can dog foods, all “Spa Select” brand can cat foods and all “BLUE Health Bar” treats.

Consumers who have unused or partially used packages of any of these products should return them to their place of purchase for a complete refund.

All “BLUE” dry natural food for dogs and “Spa Select” dry natural foods for cats are not affected by this recall and are safe for consumption. Should consumers have a specific question, they can call the Company at 1-800-919-2833, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT, to receive more information.

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FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts Page: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/7alerts.html

American Nutrition, Inc. Press Release (dated 4/26/07):

Recall — Firm Press Release

FDA posts press releases and other notices of recalls and market withdrawals from the firms involved as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties. FDA does not endorse either the product or the company. This listserv covers mainly Class I (life-threatening) recalls. A complete listing of recalls can be found in the FDA Enforcement Report at: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/Enforce.html

American Nutrition, Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall

Contact:

Bill Behnken, 801.394.3477, bill@amnutrition.com

Naomi Keller, 801.554.0023, naomi@amnutrition.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — April 26, 2007 — The Denver office of the FDA informed American Nutrition, Inc. today that certain samples of rice protein shipped to its production facility have been contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers that may be harmful to animals if consumed. The rice protein in question was obtained from San Francisco-based Wilbur-Ellis Company.

The FDA is investigating the use of rice protein, an ingredient found in a number of canned pet food products and baked pet food treats to fortify protein levels, after a portion of Wilbur-Ellis’ rice protein supply was found to be contaminated with melamine. American Nutrition immediately discontinued the use of rice protein after learning of the melamine contamination.

The FDA has urged American Nutrition to issue a voluntary recall of pet foods manufactured using Wilbur-Ellis rice protein. None of these products is sold under an American Nutrition brand, but are sold through other independent companies. No American Nutrition brands or other products they manufacture for other businesses are affected by this recall.

The products subject to this recall are as follows:

CANNED CAT FOOD

Blue Buffalo Spa Select Hairball Control Oven Roasted Chicken 3oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Blue Buffalo Spa Select Kitten Recipe Oven Roasted Chicken 3oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Kitten Formula 5.5oz 15 AUG 08 15 APR 09

Harmony Farms Country Chicken Entrée 3oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Natural Balance Ocean Fish Formula 3oz and 6 oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

CANNED DOG FOOD

Blue Buffalo Beef Dinner 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Blue Buffalo Chicken Dinner 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Blue Buffalo Hearty Venison Dinner 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Blue Buffalo Lamb Dinner 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Blue Buffalo Salmon Dinner 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Blue Buffalo Turkey Meatloaf Dinner 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Canine Caviar Gourmet Beaver 13.2oz AUG 21 08 APR 15 09

Canine Caviar Gourmet Turkey 13.2oz AUG 21 08 APR 15 09

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Puppy Formula 13oz 21 AUG 08 15 APR 09

Diamond Lamb & Rice 13oz 21 AUG 09 15 APR 10

Harmony Farms Beef 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Harmony Farms Chicken 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Harmony Farms Lamb 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Harmony Farms Salmon 12.5oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Kirkland Signature Premium Dog 2-Flavor Variety Pack 14oz (24-pack) AUG 21 08 APR 15 09

Mulligan Stew Chicken 13.2oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Mulligan Stew Turkey 13.2oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Natural Balance Beef Formula 13oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Natural Balance Chicken Formula 13oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Natural Balance Lamb Formula 13oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

Natural Balance Venison & Brown Rice 13oz AUG 21 09 APR 15 10

BAKED DOG TREATS

Natural Balance Venison & Brown Rice Formula Baked Dog Treats 14oz AUG 21 07 APR 15 08

Blue Buffalo Health Bars Baked With Apples & Yogurt Dog Treats 20oz AUG 21 07 APR 15 08
Pet owners who purchased these pet foods should immediately discontinue using the products and return unused portions to the place of purchase for a full refund.

These products represent a small percentage of those manufactured by American Nutrition. To reiterate, no American Nutrition brands or other products manufactured for other businesses are affected by this recall.

We at American Nutrition care immensely about the quality of the products we manufacture and the health of the pets that consume them. We want to express our deep concern over this situation. Feeding pets has been our business and passion for more than 35 years. We take that responsibility seriously and are very proud of what we do and how we do it. We will continue to work closely with the FDA in their ongoing investigation.

For more information, we encourage you to visit the FDA website: www.fda.gov. Consumers with additional questions can contact us by calling 1.800.257.4530 or by e:mailing us at feedback@amnutrition.com or by visiting www.americannutritioninc.com.

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FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts Page: http://www.fda.gov/opacom/7alerts.html

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

So much for taking today off from posting and enjoying Earth Day instead. Was checking email and found news from the FDA titled “Update on Tainted Pet Food“, which included a link to the press release from the California Department of Agriculture, so I just had to come post about it. To read the articles in their entirety click on the links I’ve provide, and I would also highly, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend you read a VERY informative article by Karen Roebuck at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. She discusses the melamine situation with the hogs in California, and sheds light on laboratories finding three additional contaminants in pets who were sickened or died after eating tainted pet food:

Researchers also have identified three other contaminants in the urine and kidneys of animals sickened or killed after eating the recalled foods, including cyanuric acid, a chemical commonly used in pool chlorination, three researchers told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Cyanuric acid is what most likely sickened pets, one researcher said..Researchers in at least three labs found cyanuric acid, amilorine and amiloride — all by-products of melamine — in the crystals of animals’ urine, tissues and kidneys…

Another interesting, yet not surprising, nugget in her article was:

The Chinese government told the Trib and the FDA yesterday that the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd., which the FDA said supplied the tainted wheat gluten, did not export any wheat gluten intended to be used in food.

Anyone else getting some increasingly worrisome vibes about our continuously deteriorating relationship with China. Bad vibes I tell ya, bad vibes.

Okay, I really AM going to “try” and get away from the computer today, this beautiful Earth Day 2007, but knowing me I’ll keep checking for updates. 😉 In the meantime here is today’s (4/22/07) update from the FDA, and last Thursday’s (4/19/07) release from the California Department of Agriculture regarding the melamine and hogs. Usually, as a 14 year vegetarian, reading something like the news about the hogs would have me gently chiding non-vegetarians for eating meat, but considering many items vegetarians eat may be affected by the tainted glutens and proteins, there is really no one who can be happy about the state of our food supply. Until later, my friends.

I just watched the 11 o’clock news on CBS2 in Los Angeles, and unfortunately found answers to the hog farm questions I posed in my earlier post tonight. I tell ya, if this excerpt won’t get you to read the entire story, and sit up and take notice that this situation is NOT just an issue for those with pets, I don’t know what will.

“State officials believe the melamine came from rice protein concentrate imported from China by Diamond Pet Food’s Lathrop facility, which produces products under the Natural Balance brand and sold salvage pet food to the farm for pig feed.”

If this melamine contamination of wheat gluten, rice protein, and corn gluten, has not directly entered the human food system already, this story is an indication of how it can make its way there indirectly. Tip of the iceberg, people, tip of the iceberg. I also find it quite bothersome to discover that this is what is happening with the recalled food: being sold as “salvaged” food. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

(4/20-Updated story here.) 

This whole situation just gets more bizarre each day, with the most odd today being the news that pet food unsuitable for pet consumption (due to melamine in the rice protein) was instead fed to hogs! And just where might those hogs end up? Also makes you wonder where the recalled pet food returned to vendors over the last 5 weeks will end up, too. Hmmm… (***UPDATE about the hogs!***)

Joe, from Friday Morning After, posted a heads up on another Andrew Bridges article which explains this continuously evolving (and not for the better) situation better than I just did. (Sorry folks, still dealing with my tooth issues, so a bit off–can we say root canal next week? Ick.)

So to sum up for those keeping score, we are now talking melamine in:

  1. Wheat gluten (initial pet food recall)
  2. Rice protein concentrate (Natural Balance and Blue Buffalo Co. recall. Here’s a notice from Wilbur-Ellis, a company which imported tainted rice protein from China.)
  3. Corn gluten in Royal Canin foods found in South Africa. (I find it interesting that the main Royal Canin web site does NOT have a notice about the recall (as of now 4/19 PM), but the Royal Canin USA web site DOES have one saying their products are NOT affected.) [***UPDATE just one hour after this post!: Royal Canin US is now recalling products. I will sadly add this release/items to the Pet food recall info/posts page.***]

If this entire situation wasn’t so frustrating and heartbreaking due to the needless deaths of so many beloved pets, I think I’d start a pool to see which ingredient will turn up next as having been tainted with melamine. Sigh.

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Here’s what Blue Buffalo Co. has as a pop-up on their web site:

 

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Voluntary Recall of Spa Select Kitten Dry Food

Dear Pet Parents:

The Blue Buffalo Company has undertaken a voluntary recall on one production run of our Spa Select Kitten dry food. The production code on the recalled product is:

“Best Used By Mar. 07 08 B.”

We have taken this action because the rice protein concentrate used for this one production run was obtained from Wilbur-Ellis, the same company who supplied this ingredient to Natural Balance. Test results received late last evening (4/18) indicated that this rice protein concentrate tested positive for melamine. This is the first and only time our manufacturing partner sourced an ingredient from Wilbur-Ellis, and we had no knowledge that they had imported the ingredients from China.

We have advised the FDA of this finding and will be working closely with them on this issue.

Of the 5,044 bags produced in this one run, we were able to prevent the majority from ever entering retail distribution. We are working closely with our retail partners to remove this product immediately and will be re-stocking the shelves with Spa Select Kitten dry food that was produced without any rice protein sourced from Wilbur-Ellis as soon as possible.

If you currently have a bag of Spa Select Kitten dry food, please check the code date and if it matches the one shown above discontinue use immediately and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. If your cat has eaten any of the recalled food, please call your veterinarian immediately to discuss if there are any risks to your pet.

Should you have a specific question call our Customer Service Department at 1-800-919-2833 or email us at info@bluebuff.com. We understand your desire for immediate answers and we will be working to get back to you as quickly as we can.

No other Spa Select cat food or dog food, canned or dry, is included in this recall.

As a family owned company whose reason for being is to provide cats and dogs with the highest quality natural foods, we are extremely upset by this recall and can’t begin to apologize enough to our customers. From our perspective, it is unacceptable to produce even one bag of food with the potential to cause a pet to become ill, and we will further tighten our ingredient sourcing and quality assurance procedures as a result of this incident.

Sincerely,

Bill Bishop
President
The Blue Buffalo Company

Nice to see Senator Durbin and Congresswoman DeLauro are NOT giving up on keeping the pet food contamination investigation going, and pushing for revamped regulation, AND answers from China. Kudos to them both! 🙂 I am sorry to see that our already tenuous relationship with China seems to be getting even worse, though. Will be interesting to see what (if any) response we receive from the Ambassador. Also nice to see the name of the company Wilbur-Ellis imported the tainted rice protein from (Binzhou Futian Biology Technology, Ltd) before it made it’s way into pet food.

Here’s the press release from Senator Durbin’s web site:

DURBIN, DELAURO MEET WITH VON ESCHENBACH; URGE CHINESE GOVERNMENT TO COOPERATE ON PET FOOD CONTAMINATION INVESTIGATION

 

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

 

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) today 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.

“It is unacceptable that the Chinese government is blocking our food safety inspectors from entering their country and examining facilities that are suspected of providing contaminated pet food to American consumers,” said Durbin. “We have asked for two things in our letter today — that the Chinese government allow our inspectors in and that the Chinese ambassador to the United States meet with Congresswoman DeLauro and me to discuss the larger issue of contaminated food being sent to the U.S. These are reasonable requests and we hope that we can find a level of cooperation with the Chinese.”

“At time when China is exporting more foods into the U.S., the Chinese are refusing to allow our inspectors in to the country to investigate the source of the pet food contamination. The FDA needs to be allowed to investigate this so we can better protect our pets and identify the source of the source of the problem. While we have a significant trade relationship with the Chinese, the investigation of the contaminated product comes first,” said DeLauro.

Last week, Durbin, a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, along with Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), the Chairman of the Subcommittee, held a hearing to question witnesses on 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 who 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.

Additionally, DeLauro, the Chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, will further explore FDA’s inspection of imported foods in a follow-up hearing before the subcommittee.

Durbin and DeLauro have been actively engaged on food safety issues for over a decade. This Congress they introduced legislation that calls for the development of a single food safety agency and the implementation of a food safety program to standardize American food safety activities (The Safe Food Act – S. 654 and H.R. 1148 in the Senate and House respectively). The Illinois senator said legislation he has introduced to consolidate all federal food safety responsibilities into a single, independent agency has taken on new urgency because of a possibly heightened need to respond quickly and effectively to any acts of bioterrorism or agroterrorism. Currently, there are at least 12 different federal agencies and 35 different laws governing food safety. With overlapping jurisdictions, federal agencies often lack accountability on food safety-related issues.

The non-partisan U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) has been unequivocal in its recommendation for consolidation of federal food safety programs. In February of this year, the GAO deemed federal oversight of food safety as “high risk” to the economy and public health and safety. Over the past two decades, GAO has also issued numerous reports on topics such as food recalls, food safety inspections and the transport of animal feeds. Each of these reports highlights the current fragmentation and inconsistent organization of the various agencies involved in food safety oversight.

Text of the letter appears below:


April 18, 2007
Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20008 Dear Mr. Ambassador:

The ongoing investigation into the recent series of pet deaths and illnesses in the United States has revealed that contaminated batches of wheat gluten and rice protein responsible for these events were imported from China. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), China was the source of both the contaminated wheat gluten responsible for the recall of more than 60 million containers of cat and dog food, and the most recent recall of rice protein products.

Both products were contaminated with melamine, a chemical used for industrial purposes in the United States and in fertilizers in China. According to experts, no level of melamine should be found in pet or human food.

In the case of the contaminated wheat gluten, FDA has identified Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd. as the source of the product. Although spokespeople for Xuzhou Anying have denied involvement in the incident, U.S.-based importer ChemNutra, Inc., has demonstrated that it imported the contaminated wheat gluten from Xuzhou Anying and various media reports show that the Chinese company was involved in purchasing significant quantities of melamine. In the case of the rice protein contamination, U.S. importer Wilbur-Ellis has said that it imported its products from Binzhou Futian Biology Technology, Ltd.

In response to these contaminations, on March 30, 2007, FDA took steps to block imports of Chinese wheat gluten thought to pose a risk to the safety of the human and pet food supply. The Agency has also made multiple requests to the Chinese Government to allow U.S. inspectors to look at the facilities that are suspected to have produced the contaminated product. On April 4, 2007, the FDA sent its first letter to the Chinese Government asking for visas to allow its inspectors visit China. The request was not granted, and on April 17, 2007, the FDA sent an additional letter emphasizing that it wished to be allowed to send its inspectors to China.

This incident has brought suffering to pet owners who have seen their animals fall prey to illness or death, and caused significant economic losses to U.S. companies that believed they were importing wholesome products.

Therefore, we strongly urge the Chinese Government to quickly issue visas to U.S. inspectors and cooperate in this investigation. Last year, the United States imported more than $2.1 billion of agricultural goods from China, up from nearly $1.8 billion the year before. Clearly, this is an important trading relationship.

We appreciate the courtesy of a timely response. We would also like to meet with you in the near future to discuss this issue.

Sincerely,
Richard J. Durbin
U.S. Senator
Rosa L. DeLauro
Chairwoman House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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


Was just checking out Natural Balance’s web site and see that they have expanded their recall since yesterday. It now includes: Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods, Venison and Brown Rice dog treats, and Venison and Green Pea dry cat food. (It’s nice to see a company taking a proactive step, instead of some VERY belated reactive steps other companies have taken.)

What is most disconcerting about this expanded recall is that, yet again, we are hearing that dreaded “M” word, melamine. While the Menu Foods recall had melamine in the wheat gluten, Natural Balance states they do not use wheat gluten, but that it appears the melamine was in a rice protein concentrate which they have recently added to their Venison products. So now the question is where did they get the rice protein concentrate? Considering how long it took for us to find out where Menu Foods got their wheat gluten (Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology, by way of ChemNutra) and how many other companies ended up recalling their products from that tainted wheat gluten, where might this new rice protein concentrate situation lead us?

Here is today’s complete Natural Balance press release from their web site:

Contact:
Consumer Inquiries:
(800) 829-4493
Media Inquiries:
Daniel Bernstein
310-275-0777

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Pacoima, CA — April 17, 2007–
Natural Balance, Pacoima, CA, is issuing a voluntary nationwide recall for all of its Venison dog products and the dry Venison cat food only, regardless of date codes. 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.

The recall was prompted by consumer complaints received by Natural Balance involving a small number of cats and dogs that developed kidney failure after eating the affected product.

Dogs or cats who have consumed the suspect food and show signs of kidney failure (such as loss of appetite, lethargy and vomiting) should be seen by a veterinarian. We recommend our customers immediately stop feeding our recalled venison products regardless of date code and return unused product to their retailer for a full refund.

The products are packaged in bags, cans and zip lock treat bags and sold in pet specialty stores and PetCo nationally.
No other Natural Balance products are involved in this voluntary recall as none of our other formulas include the rice protein concentrate.

Although the problems seem to be focused on a particular production period of the venison products, over the last four days we have notified our distributors and retailers by phone and e-mail to immediately stop selling and return all recalled Venison dog foods and treats and the Venison dry cat food. Venison canned cat food is not involved.

The source of the melamine appears to be a rice protein concentrate, which was recently added to the dry venison formulas. Natural Balance does not use wheat gluten, which was associated with the previous melamine contamination.

None of Natural Balance’s other dry formulas, none of our other canned or roll products and none of our other treats are involved with this voluntary recall.

We continue to work closely with the FDA in their ongoing investigation.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-800-829-449 or email info@naturalblanceinc.com.

(***Update 4/17/07: Natural Balance expands recall. Here’s the press release.***)

______________________________________________________

First, I’d like to extend my heartfelt condolences to everyone affected by the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech today. Such senseless acts of violence inflicted on innocent beings–just too hard to fathom.

_____________________________________________________

Looks like Natural Balance is getting reports of health issues affecting pets who had eaten a couple different varieties of Natural Balance pet food. No connection to the contaminated pet food recall of the past month–at least for now. Here is the notice I received from the FDA today:

Statement
April 16, 2007

Media Inquiries:
301-827-6242
Consumer Inquiries:
888-INFO-FDA

Information on Natural Balance The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was informed today, April 16, 2007, that Natural Balance Pet Foods has received consumer complaints regarding the Venison & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food, and Venison & Green Pea Dry Cat Foods. The company does not know the cause of the problems, but has received reports of animals vomiting and experiencing kidney problems. Although the company is stating that the problems seem to be focused on one particular lot, as a precautionary measure, the company is pulling all dates of Venison & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food and Venison & Green Pea Dry Cat Food from the shelves.

The company is advising consumers to discontinue feeding all Venison and Brown Rice Dry Dog Food, and Venison and Green Pea Dry Cat Food.

The FDA is working closely with Natural Balance and is actively investigating this problem. There is no indication at this time whether this is related to the ongoing pet food recalls. For more information, please see: http://www.naturalbalanceinc.com/

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POSTS for 3/17-8/22:

  • 3/18/07: Science Diet has added some of their foods to the voluntary recall list. Pets HAVE died and others are suffering severe health problems, so PLEASE check this new list AND the ones I listed above. Thank you! Science Diet Recall (On 3/30/07 Science Diet recalled feline m/d)
  • 3/18/07 10:15PM PST: The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is even posting information which shows just how far-reaching this has become. They even have a web page with information on how to register adverse reactions/consumer complaints. I appreciate that so many of you are reading as much as you can about this and staying on top of the situation. What wonderful owners your pets have! 🙂 And PLEASE continue to spread the information to AS MANY folks as you can, and have THEM stay on top of it as well. I’ll definitely continue to add information as I find out about it.
  • 3/19/07 11:10 AM PST: Looks like Menu Foods has another press release, which interestingly enough says it’s not for US newswire services, whatever THAT really means. It’s in PDF format and can be accessed from their main recall page.
  • 3/20/07 11:20 AM PST: It is disconcerting to hear that in February, Menu Foods apparently was notified of the problems with pets eating certain Menu Foods produced food, did their own testing in which approximately 17% of the tested pets died, yet it wasn’t until March 16th that the recall was announced?!?! I am obviously no expert on how these things work, but it sure seems to me that the motto of “better safe than sorry” should have been in place LONG BEFORE March 16th! Menu Foods recall notice states:

“We take these complaints very seriously and, while we are still looking for a specific cause, we are acting to err on the side of caution” said Paul K. Henderson, President and CEO, Menu Foods. “We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that our products maintain the very highest quality standards.”

Seems to me that “acting to err on the side of caution” would have meant alerting consumers about the problems MUCH sooner than they did. According to news reports, Menu Foods was alerted by pet owners about deaths and renal failure on February 20th, Menu Foods began their own tests February 27th where between 15%-20% of the pets they tested died, yet the recall was not announced until March 16th, THREE WEEKS AFTER they were first alerted of the deaths and health issues?!?!

I certainly hope to hear SOME type of logical explanation SOON from Menu Foods, but until then all I can assume is that $$$$ (especially since in their initial press release on 3/16/07 they repeatedly mention how much the recall could cost their company) and probable financial loss is what had Menu Foods dragging their feet, while their consumers were unknowingly feeding their beloved pets food which could possibly kill them, if not leave them with painful health issues and enormous veterinary bills which many owners cannot truly afford. I worked in the veterinary field for nearly 7 years and know the high cost of health care for pets, along with having had expensive medical situations with my own pets. But that is what pet owners do, they care for their pets as if they were members of their family, which they are (just four-legged instead of two-legged), and will put themselves into debt just to make sure their pets get the best care possible. Unfortunately there will be pets whose health care costs related to the issues from the tainted food will be too high for some owners to absorb, and they will then have to make the heartbreaking choice to have their beloved pet euthanized.

Come on Menu Foods, let’s get cracking on finding some solutions here. I think everyone understands that “accidents” and “mistakes” do happen in life, which might possibly explain how the food became tainted in the first place, but the part I’m having the hardest time understanding right now is why the recall took so long to be announced to consumers. What do you have to say Menu Foods? You have countless pet owners looking to you for answers.

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