Two years ago, the majority of pet owners were introduced to melamine by a deadly pet food recall. Since then, the chemical has made headlines around the world. The concern of melamine is becoming like the Energizer Bunny; it keeps going, and going, and going. For the health of pets and people, it simply has to stop.
It could safely be assumed that a huge majority of pet owners worldwide understand what melamine is and what it can do to their pet. Probably every pet owner in North America can tell you when melamine first appeared on their radar, which was the pet food recall that began in February 2007. However, it is believed to have been responsible for the illnesses of thousands of pets years before.
In March 2008, USA Today published an article that provided proof melamine was responsible for the illnesses of 6000 pets in Asia in 2004. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-10-petfood_N.htm “Kidney failure in the animals was linked to Pedigree dog foods and Whiskas cat foods manufactured in Thailand by Mars Inc. Thousands of pets died, according to Asian media reports at the time.”
Cathy Brown, a specialist in renal pathology at Georgia’s Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, began to put two and two together and managed to gain access to tissue samples from pets that had died in Korea. “The sample contained the same type of insoluble crystals found in U.S. pets in the 2007 outbreak.” The article states that Mars Petcare also compared tissue samples from pets in the 2004 incident to pets from the 2007 recall; furthermore, they reported “Mars immediately shared this information with the veterinary community and regulators in Asia and the United States.”
After the 2007 pet food recall hit full force, most news reports stated that the tainted vegetable proteins discovered in pet food was an ‘industrial grade’, implying that the human food supply was ‘safe’. However in April 2007, CBS news reported the “wheat gluten used in pet food was human grade — meaning nothing but luck kept it from being used in the food people eat, too.” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/12/eveningnews/main2678863.shtml
Dr. Steven Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) told CBS news “We didn’t know at the time whether or not wheat gluten had made it into the human food supply. We asked CDC (Center for Disease Control) to put a special emphasis on looking at increased incidents of renal failure in people.” It has to be noted; a director at the FDA asked the Center for Disease Control to alert the FDA if a spike in human kidney disease is noted…INSTEAD of tracking down every import of wheat gluten and other vegetable proteins brought into the United States to PREVENT an increase in human kidney disease. A prime example of FDA management (or lack of management, however you choose to look at it).
The April 2007 CBS report and the FDA’s report to Congress stated that there was no evidence of increased kidney disease in humans. However, we now know that is not the case. A report from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases dated October 8, 2008 reports that kidney disease is up 30% in the U.S. over the last decade. http://www.nih.gov/news/health/oct2008/niddk-08.htm
The New York Times reported in October 2008 that kidney disease is on the rise in U.S. children as well. “While there are no reliable data on the number of cases, pediatric urologists and nephrologists across the country say they are seeing a step rise in young patients. Some hospitals have opened pediatric kidney stone clinics.” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/28/health/28kidn.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Pets, adults, and children around the world continue to be at risk from melamine. Most of us make the assumption China is solely to blame, however an article submitted to the New York Times by author and University Professor James E. McWilliams advises us melamine is also a ‘Home-Grown Problem’. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/opinion/17mcwilliams.html?_r=3&ref=opinion
Without a shadow of a doubt, Chinese tainted products have put the world at risk for illness and death. However Professor McWilliams introduces U.S. consumers to a new melamine concern. He states “Chemical plants throughout the United States produce millions of pounds of melamine a year.” It is a common ingredient in numerous US made products including cleaning products, waterproof plywood, plastic compounds, cement, ink and fire-retardant paint. With the presence of melamine all around us, is the ‘doubled exposure’ putting us at a higher risk than anyone with authority is willing to admit?
Professor McWilliams continues with the harsh reality we have to hope someone in Washington will hear…
“Frightening as this all sounds, the concerned consumer is not completely helpless. We can seek out organic foods, which are grown with fertilizer without melamine – unless that fertilizer was composted with manure from animals fed melamine-laden feed (always possible, as the Tyson example suggests).
We could further protect ourselves by choosing meat from grass-fed or truly free-range animals, assuming the grass was not fertilized with a conventional product (something that’s also very hard to know).
But as all the caveats above indicate, these precautions will only go so far. Melamine, after all, points to the much larger relationship between industrial waste and American food production. Regulations might be lax when it comes to animal feed and fertilizer in China, but take a closer look at similar regulations in the United States and it becomes clear that they’re vague enough to allow industries to “recycle” much of their waste into fertilizer and other products that form the basis of our domestic food supply.
As a result, toxic chemicals routinely enter our agricultural system through the back channels of this under-explored but insidious relationship.”
The FDA currently feels 2.5 parts per million is an acceptable level of melamine in food. Many wonder if any part per million of melamine is safe and needless to say most wonder if it is regularly tested for. A smart and concerned pet owner in Gainesville, Florida is developing a product that will more than likely be a necessity in every home; a home testing kit for melamine. http://www.gainesville.com/article/20081117/news/811171007 Unfortunately for all of us, we’ll have to wait six months for the test kit to be marketed.
The costs of lives – pet and people – and the costs of medical expense due to the wrath of melamine are staggering to consider. It doesn’t matter how it will happen, what does matter is that it needs to happen now; melamine contamination of our foods – pet and people – has to stop.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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