Kucinich demands answers from FDA about pet food recall
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking pointed questions about the pet food recall that has now affected 60 million cans of food and at least four pet food manufacturers.
"Millions of American families have a right to be assured that everything possible is being done to protect the health of their beloved family pets and to determine how in the world the pet food supply could have been contaminated," Kucinich said in a statement released to RAW STORY today. "We must also find out when the FDA officials first learned that our nation's pets were in danger of being poisoned by their own pet food."
The letter demands information about how the FDA learned of the tainted food and what action was taken.
According to the official FDA count, so far 16 animals have died as a result of eating tainted pet food, though the FDA says they have fielded more than 8,000 complaints. Independent sources, however, have reported much higher pet death numbers.
"PetConnection.com, a Web site that is tracking the recall, has allegedly received as many as 2,900 reports of pet deaths from food-related kidney failure," reports the Post Chronicle.
The FDA has halted shipments from Chinese wheat gluten importer Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. Ltd. in connection with the tainted pet food.
Geng Xiujuan, the company's sales manager, told reporters that the wheat was purchased from other manufacturers in China and they might not be the only distributor to the US.
"There are many other exporters and I don't see why they would just blame us," she said.
According to experts, tainted food from China is not an uncommon occurrence.
"Frankly, I was not surprised to read about the wheat gluten poisoning incident," Roger Barlow, executive vice president of Catfish Farmers of America told the Toronto Daily News. "We know that Chinese fish farmers routinely use a variety of chemicals and antibiotics banned in the U.S. for use in or around human food, and that residues of these substances remain in the fish after harvest."
Imports of catfish from China are up 1,055% in 2007, and there is growing concern over how much might be reaching American mouths. The FDA currently only examines 1.3% of all food imported into the United States, according to the Associated Press.
The nationwide recall expanded on Monday, as manufacturer Eight in One, Inc. recalled pet treats for dogs, cats, and ferrets that may have been infected with salmonella. The bacteria could infect humans if handled, reports the AP.
A copy of Kucinich's letter is below:
April 2, 2007
Stephen F. Sundlof, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Food and Drug Administration
Center for Veterinary Medicine
Dear Director Sundlof:
On March 16, 2007 Menu Foods Income Fund instated a recall of "cuts and gravy" style cat and dog food distributed throughout the United States (U.S.). The recall includes a reported sixty million pet food products produced by Menu Foods between December 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007. Press reports indicate that companion animals have died as a result of eating the recalled pet food.
On March 23, 2007 the New York State Department of Agriculture reported that the toxins aminopterin and melamine had been found in samples of the recalled pet food. On Friday March 30, 2007, Paul Henderson, President and CEO of Menu Foods Income Fund stated in a press conference that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had confirmed the presence of the compound Melamine, a chemical used in the manufacturing of plastics, in pet food products recalled by the company on March 16, 2007.
The Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has broad oversight jurisdiction covering many agencies including the FDA. So that I may have a more comprehensive understanding of the circumstances at hand, please provide me with answers to the following questions:
- When was the FDA first aware of a potential problem regarding Menu Foods products?
- When was the FDA given confirmation that Menu Foods had produced tainted pet food?
- Who notified the FDA about the tainted food?
- How did the FDA initially respond to the notification?
(For questions 1 through 4 please provide all internal records documenting these incidents and the actions taken by the FDA including emails, phone calls, memorandums, etc.).
- Does the FDA have a preexisting protocol designed to deal with a crisis such as this? If so, what does the protocol entail?
- When did the FDA begin testing of the tainted pet food and what tests have been performed on the tainted pet food?
- What are the results of the testing? Include all data and findings collected from these tests.
- Can the FDA be sure that the tainted pet food does not contain the presence of aminopterin? If so, how?
- Does the FDA dispute the New York State Department of Agriculture's finding that the tainted pet food contains aminopterin in addition to melamine?
- Is the FDA continuing to test the tainted pet food for additional toxins?
- To your knowledge which other state or federal agencies have tested the tainted pet food?
- Has the FDA concluded that melamine is the only toxin contained in the tainted pet food?
- Which ingredients used in the manufacturing of the tainted pet food have been found to be contaminated?
- What further testing does the FDA feel is necessary to ensure that the tainted food has been thoroughly inspected and all harmful substances identified?
- Is the FDA concerned that additional Menu Foods products may be contaminated? If so, which products are of concern?
- How many companion animals have died due to the tainted food?
- How many companion animals have become ill due to the tainted food?
- What are the criteria for determining if a companion animal's illness or death is related to consumption of the tainted food?
- When were the last inspections of the four Menu Foods manufacturing facilities? Please provide inspections reports for inspections conducted in the last two years.
- Which Menu Foods factories does the FDA believe are responsible for the production of the tainted pet food? Have those facilities been inspected since the implementation of the recall? Please provide any existing inspection reports.
Additionally, I request your assistance in determining how toxins such as aminopterin and melamine would enter a pet food manufacturing facility and penetrate the pet food products being manufactured therein. Aminopterin is not approved for use in the U.S. as a rat poison, therefore what legal method(s) exist for obtaining the toxin and for what purpose(s)? How much aminopterin would be needed to taint the amount of pet food involved in the recall? Please answer the same questions regarding melamine.
Have there been any previous instances of tainted pet food sold in U.S. markets? Please explain the circumstances and provide documentation as applicable.
I understand that the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is responsible for ensuring the safety of the pet food sold in the United States. Obviously CVM did not approve aminopterin or melamine for use in pet food. Nevertheless, your agency is responsible for guaranteeing that the ingredients in pet foods are safe and provide appropriate function. Therefore, I look forward to your prompt response. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me or Jaron Bourke, Staff Director of the Subcommittee.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Subcommittee on Domestic Policy
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform