Thursday, April 05, 2007

Poisoning 2007: ChemNutra, Anying, and it keeps getting worse

This was the first article I've seen describing the Chinese company alleged to have sold poisonous gluten to Menu Foods and others (emphases mine). It also contains the first reference to the role of ChemNutra, a US importer.
Tainted pet food may be sold in China - Pet Health -

... The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week blocked wheat gluten imports from the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou, saying they contained melamine, a chemical found in plastics and pesticides.

Anying produces and exports more than 10,000 tons of wheat gluten a year, according to its Web site, but only 873 tons were linked to tainted U.S. pet food, raising the possibility that more of the contaminated product could still be on the market in China, or abroad.

Li Cui, director of Anying's foreign exports, told The Associated Press on Thursday the United States is the company's only overseas market for wheat gluten, although it wasn't clear if the company had more than one customer in the U.S.

... An official at the Chinese Ministry of Health, who refused to give his name, said the case was not an issue for the ministry and directed questions to the Ministry of Agriculture. An official there, who also refused to give his name, told The Associated Press to stop calling...

Both ministries also did not respond to faxed questions on whether they had concerns about tainted gluten in China.

The tainted wheat gluten underscores China's dismal food-safety record. Mass food poisoning cases are common in the country, many blamed on cooks who disregard hygiene rules or mistakenly use industrial chemicals instead of salt and other ingredients.

Last year, seven companies were punished for using banned Sudan dye to color egg yolks red. In 2004, at least 12 infants died from malnutrition after drinking formula with little or no nutritional value in eastern China's Anhui province.

Other recent cases include 30 high school and primary students who became sick this week after eating beef soup at a small restaurant in Zhejiang province in eastern China.

Last month, 57 people were hospitalized in Zhejiang after eating food laced with rat poison, while nearly 400 people were hospitalized with possible food poisoning after a wedding banquet in Yunnan province in southern China.

ChemNutra Inc., the Las Vegas-based company that imported the wheat gluten and shipped it to companies that make pet foods, said Tuesday that Xuzhou Anying had never reported the presence of melamine in the content analysis it provided.

Earlier this week, another official at the Chinese company said the gluten was not manufactured by Xuzhou Anying, but was bought from companies in neighboring provinces.

Melamine is used to make plastic kitchenware, glues, countertops, fabrics, fertilizers and flame retardants. It also is both a contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides, including cyromazine, according to the Environmental Protection Agency...
ChemNutra? I couldn't make that one up. Talk about factory food.

We're importing manufactured food of uncertain providence from a country that can't even begin to regulate food safety for their own citizens? An industrial product that even the alleged manufacturer can't say where they got it from? This is lunacy. (I imagine Japanese steak fans felt the same way about US beef imports after our mad cow outbreaks ...).

Update: The Toronto Star adds this footnote:
Menu Foods said Thursday that ChemNutra Inc. was the former supplier of its wheat gluten. Based in Las Vegas, it no longer supplies Menu Foods. ChemNutra imported the wheat gluten from a company the FDA has identified as Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. in Wangdien, China. Records from Menu Foods show that products from ChemNutra were first used on Nov. 8 and last used on March 6.

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