Sunday, March 25, 2007

Aminopterin update: more details from blogs

Obviously I'm interested in the aminopterin story, but mainstream media coverage has been slight. I decided to try search blogs, which is how I came to link to a conservative humor site. I think that's the first time I've linked to a conservative anything, except perhaps for conservapedia:
Conservative Cat: Menu Foods Recall and the 40 Parts Per Million

...We now have more information about the contamination in the Menu Foods products. The New York State Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell University and the New York State Food Laboratory tested three samples of the contaminated products. One sample was clean, but the others contained aminopterin at a level of 40 parts per million. According to Cornell lab director Bruce Akey, this is a sufficient concentration to cause kidney failure in dogs and cats.

The operating hypothesis at this point is that the aminopterin was sprayed on the wheat during shipping or storage in order to prevent rats from eating the crop. Because the normal method of creating gluten from wheat is by washing it, this had to have happened after the wheat had been converted.

Wheat gluten is high in protein and has a chewy texture. The so-called cuts and gravy pet foods use the gluten to to make the food bits feel meatier when they're being chewed. This is not necessary in your standard canned or dry pet foods. The safest protocol for buying pet food right now is to look at the ingredients, and if it does not say wheat gluten, you're safe no matter who makes the product. You'll end up passing over some good stuff that's not contaminated, but it's much easier than memorizing the long list of brand names. This is just until the crisis passes, by the way. There's nothing wrong with wheat gluten when it hasn't been poisoned.

Before the government does something drastic and saddles them with a lot of expensive testing procedure, Menu Foods and other manufacturers should consider getting their wheat locally and plastering 100% American Made on the can and pouch labels. It will mean a price increase, but it's nothing compared to the cost of a new Federal agency for pet food regulation...

The proposal is the appropriate Libertarian solution -- let the market decide. I'm not sure, but this might have worked for tuna and dolphin kills. It requires a credible threat of a consumer boycott to motivate manufacturers to take these measures. This will increase product costs, a manufacturer can't take this step unless the entire market moves at once. That requires either regulatory action or a very committed consumer based. Consumers can muster that focus for a few products, but not for all of them all the time. It's an unwinnable battle in the real world. Regulation is cost inefficient, but the alternative very, very, rarely works. It just doesn't scale across the range of an economy.

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