FDA agents raid pet food plant, offices

Federal agents searched facilities of a dog and cat
food manufacturer and one of its suppliers as part of an investigation into the
widening recall of pet products, the companies disclosed
Friday.

Food and Drug Administration
officials searched an Emporia, Kan., pet food plant operated by Menu Foods and
the Las Vegas offices of ChemNutra Inc., according to the
companies.

Menu Foods made many of the more than 100 brands of
pet food recalled since March 16 because of contamination by the chemical
melamine. ChemNutra supplied the manufacturer with wheat gluten, one of the two
ingredients tainted by melamine used in recalled pet products. Both companies
said they were cooperating with the
investigation.

Menu Foods also said the
U.S. Attorney’s offices in Kansas and the western district of Missouri have
targeted the company as part of misdemeanor investigations into whether it
violated the federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. The sale of adulterated food
is a misdemeanor.

The FDA also is looking
at all other ingredients imported by ChemNutra, and trying to reconcile what it
imported with what it supplied to customers, said agency spokeswoman Julie
Zawisza.

Import records obtained by The
Associated Press show that since May 2006 alone ChemNutra also imported 440,000
pounds of the second suspect pet food ingredient, rice protein concentrate, from
the same Chinese trading agent that handled exports of the tainted wheat
gluten.

It’s unknown if ChemNutra’s rice
protein concentrate was contaminated. Limited testing suggests it wasn’t.
However, another company’s imports of that same ingredient, albeit from a
different source, have been found to be
tainted.

Ten of the 11 containers of rice
protein concentrate imported by ChemNutra over the last year went to undisclosed
pet food companies, spokesman Steve Stern said. The 11th is under quarantine and
being tested. But just one of the other 10 is known to have been tested; results
from those tests, done last week, showed it was not contaminated, Stern
said.

The origin within China of the
wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate remains murky. For example,
ChemNutra’s source for the two vegetable proteins, Suzhou Textile Import and
Export Co., told The AP that food ingredients aren’t part of its business
— but that employees often take on side deals. Stern said ChemNutra dealt
with the company’s president.

The FDA has
blocked wheat gluten imports from a second Chinese company, Xuzhou Anying
Biologic Technology Development Co. That company has told AP it bought the
ingredient from other undisclosed firms and then sold it to Suzhou
Textile.

Meanwhile, rice protein
concentrate imported by the second company, Wilbur-Ellis Co., has tested
positive for melamine. It came from a different Chinese source, Futian Biology
Technology Co. Ltd.

Last week, the FDA
blocked rice protein concentrates from that source. And on Friday, American
Nutrition Inc. became the final of five pet food companies that Wilbur-Ellis
supplied with the tainted ingredient to recall a variety of
products.

An unknown number of dogs and
cats have been sickened or died after eating chemical-laced pet
food.

Menu Foods said it faces more than
50 lawsuits. It in turn has sued ChemNutra.


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Posted: 04/27/2007 at 09:29 PM
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Posted: 04/27/2007 at 09:29 PM
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