Melamine: It Tastes Just Like Chicken

It is official, this is no longer just a pet food recall:

U.S. health officials are now looking at whether humans may have consumed food containing a chemical linked to a recall of pet foods and livestock feed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday.

FDA officials said they would inspect imports of six grain products used in foods ranging from bread to baby formula for traces of melamine, a chemical thought to have killed and sickened cats and dogs.

Those six grain products are wheat gluten, corn gluten, corn meal, soy protein, rice bran and rice protein. As many as 39,000 dogs and cats may have been sickened or killed due to melamine contamination.

But wait, it gets worse:

The California Agriculture Department said separately it was trying to contact 50 people who bought pork that may have come from pigs fed food containing melamine. The state's health department recommended humans not consume the meat, but said any health risk was minimal.

Melamine, a chemical used in plastics and fertilizer, has already been found in wheat gluten and rice protein imported from China for use in some pet foods, triggering a recall of more than 100 brands. [...] Some tainted material was used for hog feed before the contamination was found, and officials said on Tuesday thousands of pigs might be affected on farms in North and South Carolina, California, New York, Utah and possibly Ohio.

The FDA is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several states to investigate the now-quarantined farms and whether hogs on those farms were slaughtered for human food.

"Some of the hog operations were fairly sizable," said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

And worse:

A poultry farm in Missouri also may have received tainted feed, officials added.

Mmm. Melamine... it tastes just like chicken.

And all this news comes only hours after Congressional hearings on food safety, at which the FDA didn't bother to mention any of this at all. Typical.

Back on April 1, when I first started covering this story at length, I wrote:

Unless and until the FDA determines otherwise, one cannot help but wonder if our sick and dying cats are merely the canary in the coal mine alerting us to a broader contamination of the human food supply.

I take some pride but no joy in my prescience, and it now seems clear that from the moment the FDA first thought to test for melamine, they clearly understood the potential scope of this "economic adulteration." A huge swath of our food supply has been compromised: any processed food containing high-protein additives, and any and all livestock, including farmed fish. And considering how widespread the melamine contamination appears to be, and the Chinese government's indignant non-reaction, it is not hyperbole to suggest that all imported Chinese foodstuffs should for now be viewed with suspicion, as should all domestic products using imported Chinese ingredients.

This is a huge story, and I cannot for the life of me understand how the news media has let it slip so far under the radar. It is virtually impossible, given the nature of our food industry and the circumstances publicly known thus far, for the tainted foodstuffs not to have made it into the human food supply. Americans and their pets are being slowly poisoned by melamine, and quite likely have been for years.

You'd think maybe, some enterprising reporter might be smelling a Pulitzer in there somewhere?

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