Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The root of all evil (get comfy folks....this is a LONG one)

Okay kiddies......time for me to get up on my soapbox and preach a little sermon here!

Our sermon today is called "Greed: When the Almighty Dollar matters more than the health of a nation".

Perhaps you've all heard of the pet food recalls that began back in March? Some of you, like myself, have done a lot of reading on it and are pretty well up to date on what is going on. I would bet most others aren't aware of even half of what is going on, thanks to sadly lacking media coverage for most of it. Well, you're about to get the "Reader's Digest condensed version" of the story. To quote one of the characters in Jurassic Park..."Hold on to your butts!" (more......)

When the story first surfaced, it was thought that some rat poison had gotten into a supply of wheat gluten (a protein source) from China that was used in pet foods in the US. It was stated that about 16 animals, mostly cats, had died. It was later determined that the chemical Melamine was the culprit, but no one seemed to know why it was in there. This chemical is banned in the US, but is still commonly used in China. They also found Cyanuric acid in the food, another chemical commonly used in China. The Melamine levels in the gluten didn't seem to be enough to cause kidney failure and death as was showing up in the pets, then they figured out it was the combination of the Melamine and the Cyanuric acid that did it. These two combined to form crystals that caused kidney failure.

Want to know what these chemicals actually are? Melamine is a nitrogen-rich chemical used to make plastics, in pulp and paper manufacturing and a fertilizer. Cyanuric acid is normally used as a stabilizer in outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs. It is also used in pesticides. Yep! You read that right! Google either one of these ingredients. You will be shocked and appalled by what you read.

The FDA, the pet food companies, and the manufacturing plants all swore that they had no knowledge of any of this, and that the recall had gotten all the tainted products off the shelves. They also said it was confined to the lot numbers they published on their sites. The FDA continued to state, with what little media coverage there was, that the tainted food had caused the death of about "16-17 animals". Shortly after that, more foods were added to the recall list. All of them to this point had been wet (canned or pouch) foods. Soon some dry foods were added. Then more brands were added. Some of these were the high-end, super-premium brands that we all thought we could trust. Turns out that Menu Foods, who produces and packages pet foods, processed foods for not only the cheapie Walmart stuff, but also for the premium brands as well. Supposedly the ingredients were different, but....who knows.
The tainted wheat gluten (gluten adds protein to food) was traced to a company in China who exported the product to the US. Very recently, two more companies in China have been found to have Melamine in their gluten products. It seems that this is common practice in that country. You see, both Melamine and Cynuric acid are high in nitrogen. When you add a high amount of nitrogen to wheat gluten, it would give the illusion of a higher protein content. What does this mean? It means the all the foods that contain this product (both pet and human) have far less protein in them than the labels state because those chemicals skew the results. Even if your pet didn't die from this toxic cocktail, they are probably not getting near the protein that they should be getting.

Now we know it's even worse than we thought. The "wheat gluten" that was contaminated wasn't wheat gluten at all!!! Oh yeah. It was actually wheat FLOUR, which has very little protein. Spiking the flour with the toxic cocktail gave the appearance of high protein levels when in fact there were virtually NONE!!!! Interestingly, the companies (plural) in China that produced this stuff don't seem to know anything about that. Uh huh. Want to buy some swamp land?

It gets even better (sarcasm here). The tainted pet food that was pulled ended up being fed to hogs and chickens......what WE eat. I also found out today that the contaminated grain products were used to produce fish feed, which was sent to fish farms in the pacific northwest and Canada. It's basically everywhere. With the FDA expanding its import alert due to the pet food recall and the deaths of more than 4,500 cats and dogs, the alert now includes wheat gluten, rice gluten, rice protein, rice protein concentrate, corn gluten, corn gluten mean, corn by-products, soy protein, proteins and mung bean protein.

And the potential for tainted foods has increased drastically to include baked goods, cereals, pasta and many other products.

The FDA first admitted that more than three million contaminated chickens made their way to dinner tables throughout the country and that there were 6,000 hogs affected by contaminated feed but that there was a minimal health risk to humans. Now we get to add fish to the list, too!
Yes, folks, we're eating it, too. Have been for a while. It is common practice in China to add these chemicals to feed products for both humans and animals.

The FDA expanded its import alert due to the pet food recall and the deaths of more than 4,500 cats and dogs. That's right. NOT the half dozen or so pets that they initially kept trying to sell us. THOUSANDS!!!

Check out these recent press releases:

"We do not believe that there is any significant threat of human illness from consuming poultry." USDA/FDA, 5/1/2007

"We believe the likelihood of illness to humans, including infants, is extremely small." USDA/FDA, 5/3/2007

"There's no tolerance for any of these compounds, either melamine or cyanuric acid. [...] We just don't know when we get these mixtures together. So there is no, really no acceptable level." USDA/FDA, 4/26/2007

Gee.....I find those first two statements comforting, don't you? But does anyone else see a conflict here between those statements, made May 1 and May 3, and the statement the same people made on April 27?????

So.....Here's what we know: Tainted pet food has killed or sickened tens of thousands of cats and dogs, some dropping dead within a meal or two of first ingesting melamine and related compounds such as cyanuric acid. Autopsies have discovered "plasticized" cat kidneys, clogged with crystals comprised of equal parts melamine and cyanuric acid. Laboratory tests have have reproduced the formation of these crystals in a test tube by mixing melamine and cyanuric acid in the presence of urine. Tainted pet food containing melamine and cyanuric acid was "salvaged," and sold as livestock feed, contaminating untold millions of hogs and chickens. About three million chickens and several hundred hogs are known to have been slaughtered, butchered and presumably eaten. At least another 20 million chickens are known to have consumed contaminated feed.

I could keep writing about this for days. There is SO much more information out there, but I think I've thrown enough at you for one day.


There. I feel better now. If you are interested in reading more about this, here are a couple links that are a wealth of information:

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