Melamine-Tainted Corn Gluten Confirmed -- Is Anything Safe To Eat?

Melamine-tainted corn gluten, imported from China, has been confirmed in South African pet food:

Johannesburg - Tests have confirmed that Vets Choice and Royal Canin dog and cat dry pet-food products contained corn gluten contaminated with melamine, says the manufacturer.

The contaminated corn gluten was delivered to Royal Canin by a South African third-party supplier and appears to have originated from China.

Once again the rumors prove right, and FDA denials prove wrong. On Tuesday, April 17, I informed the FDA that "the word [...] is that corn gluten and rice protein concentrate are being recalled" -- information they firmly denied.

What we have here is a pattern, and there is absolutely no reason to assume that it is limited to the pet food and animal feed markets. Wheat gluten, corn gluten and rice protein concentrate are all used to supplement the protein content of both animal and human food, and all three have now been found to be contaminated with melamine. Three different Chinese manufactures have now apparently been implicated.

Given the facts, it is now reasonable to assume either massive, industry-wide negligence, or intentional contamination, and that all Chinese produced high-protein food additives are now suspect. Steve Pickman, a VP at MGP Ingredients, the largest U.S. producer of wheat gluten, explores the most likely theory:

"It is my understanding, but certainly unheard of in our experience, that melamine could increase the measurable nitrogen of gluten and then be mathematically converted to protein. The effect could create the appearance or illusion of raising the gluten's protein level. Understandably, any acts or practices such as this are barred in the U.S. How the U.S. can or cannot monitor and prevent these types of situations from occurring in other parts of the world is the overriding question."

In grading the quality of these food additives, the protein content is usually extrapolated from measured nitrogen levels. It now seems likely that unscrupulous manufacturers, in an effort to up the grade and price of their product, are intentionally spiking nitrogen levels with melamine, an industrial chemical used in China as a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.

One would expect the FDA to test this theory by directly measuring protein levels in melamine-contaminated samples to see if they otherwise fall below grade. One would also expect the FDA to release the names of all importers, distributors and manufacturers who are suspected of handling contaminated product. But then, one would expect a lot of things from the FDA that they have thus far failed to deliver.

The truth might be a good place to start.

During a conference call today, the FDA confirmed that melamine-tainted pet food was reprocessed and fed to hogs. People eat hogs. Figure it out for yourself.

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