News 160 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Pet food scare may have been intentional

US investigators are saying the chemical that has sickened and killed pets in the United States may have been intentionally added to pet food ingredients by Chinese producers.

Food and Drug Administration investigators say the Chinese companies may have spiked products with the chemical melamine so that they would appear, in tests, to have more value as protein products.

Melamine in three ingredients
So far, melamine's been found in both wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate imported from China. Media reports from South Africa, where 30 dogs died, suggest a third pet food ingredient, corn gluten, used in that country also was contaminated with melamine. That tainted ingredient has not been found in the United States, the FDA said.

Visiting the China plant
FDA investigators were awaiting visas that would allow them to visit the Chinese plants where the vegetable protein ingredients were produced. "Because melamine was found in three ingredients, it would certainly lend credibility to the theory that it may be intentional. That will be one of the theories we will pursue when we get into the plants in China," Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's chief veterinarian, told reporters.

Chinese authorities have told the FDA that the wheat gluten was an industrial product not meant for pet food, Sundlof said. Still, melamine can skew test results to make a product appear more protein-rich than it really is, he added. That raises the possibility the contamination was deliberate.

"What we expect to do with our inspections in China will answer some of those questions," said Michael Rogers, director of the division of field investigations within the FDA's office of regulatory affairs.

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