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Just got an email from the FDA (their website link is in my blog roll) and wanted to pass the news along ASAP. After the breaking news yesterday of Wal-Mart pulling chicken jerky dog treats produced in China, we are now getting this salmonella warning for Red Flannel dog food produced by Mars Petcare, Inc., and it’s feeling all to eerily similar to the beginning of the pet food chaos we all experienced mid-March and continuing on over these past months. Sigh.

***UPDATE 8/22/07 4:30pm*** Mars Petcare, Inc. has issued ANOTHER salmonella-related recall notice regarding a different pet food they produce, Krasdale gravy dry food. Click HERE to read the Krasdale press release.***

***UPDATE 9/13/08*** NEW salmonella-related recall from Mars Petcare USA: Deja vu: Mars Petcare US announces 9-12-08 pet food recall of SEVERAL brands due to potential salmonella contamination (list included)

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

While it may seem to be slow on the draw, there IS action being taken by some in higher places to get answers to this horrible pet food recall mess.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter directly to Paul Henderson, President and CEO of Menu Foods, with his concerns and some very pointed, and detailed questions. We’ll see what comes of that. Probably just more of the blah-blah-blah Mr. Henderson doles out at those press conferences of his. Here are links to the opening statements from the press conferences of March 23rd and the March 30th, offered to us by the good (cough-cough) folks over at Menu Foods on their pet food recall web site.

On March 26th, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) co-authored a letter to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. von Eschenbach, with a 15 day deadline for answers to questions they posed. I appreciate the questions submitted and will be quite interested in seeing what answers Dr. von Eschenbach will have for us all. The more I am learning about the FDA, the more I can’t help but think of FEMA and the like. Our government at work for us, eh? Not.

There other animal welfare groups such as HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and online source Pet Connection, who are also demanding answers and doing their best to keep this in the news as a top story until changes are made and answers are given.

Of course our biggest ally in demanding answers and change is YOU! You can keep this story in the headlines by contacting your local media, national news sources, your legislators, the FDA, and your State Veterinarian offices. It goes without saying that there are countless news stories out there worthy of attention such as the never ending horrible quagmire in the Middle East, global warming, our education system…I could go on forever. But our pets have no one to speak for them and look out for their best interests, so please continue to remain vigilant with this pet food recall and demand the changes and answers that we, and our pets, deserve.

UPDATE 4/6/07: Click here for a post regarding Senator Durbin’s press release about the U.S. Senate’s oversight hearing on the pet food mess.

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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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