Oh my it appears it wasn't melamine in wheat gluten, it was in wheat flour.
And it wasn't in rice at all.
Here's Dr. David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food protection with the FDA, speaking on May 8 at a media update:
DR ACHESON: Thank you. This afternoon I would like to address 2 issues
you all, which are 2 new ones, and then obviously old issues if we have to
address that in Q and A. But I'm going to focus on 2. The 1st is related
a misrepresentation of the wheat gluten and the concentrated rice protein.
I want to preface it by saying as you are all aware we have been following
wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate from two sources in , and
have undertaken a number of tests with those related to the detection of
melamine and melamine-related compounds. As part of our strategy just to
ensure that we are following this in all possible directions, a portion of
both the wheat gluten and the rice protein concentrate that was already a
concern because of melamine has been further analyzed by our forensic
chemistry center. And we have discovered that these products, labeled
gluten and rice protein concentrate, are we believe mislabeled, and that
they actually contain wheat flour that is contaminated with the melamine
and melamine-related compounds.
As we discussed previously, none of these products have been used as
ingredients directly in the human food supply. We are not talking about a
new set of ingredients. These are the ones we have been tracking since the
beginning of this situation. We've just taken the analysis of those a
little further. And to reemphasize what we've discovered is that these are
not wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate, but are in fact wheat flour
contaminated with melamine.
Okay, we aren't eating the actual adulterated product .
We're just feeding it to chicken, pigs AND farmed fish.
(MenuFoods, remember them?) sold a lot of it to be made into commercial fish food.
Mostly catfish, it sounds like.
And in the following Q&A session:
11th REPORTER: …For Dr. Acheson, would it be reasonable to assume that
some company along the supply chain would have discovered before now that
the product wasn't a protein concentrate at all but a wheat flour, or not?
Because they only checked for protein levels.
DR ACHESON: Well, that's an interesting question, and I think when a
company typically gets a product in they will do that quality control of
that product. Different companies will have different degrees of quality
control. Does it meet the standards of what their standard is? If it
doesn't, they will typically reject it. They are not going to ask
questions, well why doesn't it work, what's the problem with it? They will
just simply say, this shipment doesn't meet our standards, doesn't do for
us what we need it to do, and reject it. They don't necessarily have an
obligation just to tell anybody about that. That's just an internal
decision, so I can't rule out the possibility that the companies got this
stuff in. It didn't perform as wheat gluten, and therefore they rejected
REPORTER: So explain that last part again? I mean, the companies all along
have been saying they used the wheat gluten and the rice protein
DR ACHESON: Yes, they did, because my understanding of that is that they
didn't know it wasn't wheat gluten. They assumed it was wheat gluten. The
REPORTER: With an average amount of due diligence, should they have
DR ACHESON: That's up to their quality control in the context of their
manufacturing processes. So we're talking initially about the pet food
manufacturers. I don't know what level of quality control they go through
to ensure that when they receive something labeled as wheat gluten they
ensure that it is wheat gluten.
REPORTER: Okay. And then finally it's somewhat easier to see how the wheat
flour is one step on the process to wheat gluten, so you're saying the
protein concentrate was not a rice-based product at all?
DR ACHESON: That's my understanding, yes.
So, let's see.
They had just no idea at all what this stuff was.
And now we know they've been putting it in feed in China for the past 15 years, and we know nothing about what it does, either to livestock, or to people a little higher up on the food chain.
And we've fed it to a couple million chickens, some pigs, and a lot of fish.
Well, I always wanted to do science, and here I am, a guinea pig!
6th REPORTER: This is Karen Roebuck with the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.
While it's not expected that people would get sick in the short term from
eating the contaminated food, are the various federal agencies who studied
his ruling out the possibility of long-term health effects from consuming
the compounds over time since kidney damage is cumulative? And also,
effects aside, Dr Petersen had said last week that the pigs that had eaten
the adulterated food legally could not be put into the market because they
knew they ate the adulterated food. Yet now it seems those, even though
know they ate the adulterated food and the chickens ate the adulterated
food, they are going into the market. Is that, so my question is, how
that be legal?
DR ACHESON: Your question on the 1st part which was addressing the
long-term exposure consequences, well 1st of all we don't know for a fact
there's been long-term exposure. We don't even know for a fact yet that
melamine has gone into the human food supply other than via hogs and
poultry at extremely low levels. My best answer to your question on the
long-term health effects is as I said before, we are working with ,
looking for any shifts in trends. At this point we can't rule it out.
I think this may become more apparent as further work around this evolves
because obviously one of the questions is feeding studies of these kinds
levels to animals under research conditions to answer those very
So at this point I can't specifically rule anything in or anything out
other than to say there's absolutely no evidence of just that happening.
As I recall, the absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence.
There's no evidence, because no one's ever looked for it.