by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Pet food

Sep 25 2008

If it’s made in China and contains milk, better check for melamine

Chinese candies imported to New Zealand have been found to contain melamine–at a level of 180 milligrams per kilogram.  The candies only weigh a few milligrams so each one doesn’t have much.  They are unlikely to be harmful unless some kid eats a lot of them.  But, as I explain in Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine (and how’s that for a good guess?), very low doses of melamine can form crystals in kidneys if one of its by-products, cyanuric acid, is also present.  The lowest harmful dose of melamine plus cyanuric acid has not been defined.  We are now hearing lots of calls for more inspections and better regulation of imported foods, and about time too.  In the meantime, if a food comes from China and has milk as an ingredient, send it back.

As for the latest on the scandal over melamine in Chinese infant formula, the numbers keep growing: 53,000 sick infants, thousands of hospitalizations, and 3 deaths.  The formula companies – at least 20 brands are involved – were diluting milk with water and adding melamine to make the milk look as if it had enough protein.  This, apparently, has been an open secret in China since 2007, and should have been expected from what was known about melamine in pet foods.  Hence: Chihuahua in the Coal Mine.

Sep 16 2008

Melamine in Chinese infant formula: the saga continues

My interview with Eating Liberally this week concerns the wake of the pet food recalls that I wrote about in Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine. Some Chihuahua!  Now we have the Chinese infant formula scandal and don’t we wish we had Country-of-Origin Labeling?  It’s been a busy few days on the scandal.  The toll so far is 2 babies dead and 1253 sick, with 340 still in the hospital, and 53 of these are in serious condition.   The Chinese have arrested two brothers who run a milk collection center on suspicion that they added melamine to make the protein content appear higher.  An investigation of dairy producers found 22 to be producing milk contaminated with melamine.  The largest of these dairies is owned in part by Fonterra, a New Zealand company.  Fonterra says it tried to get the formula recalled earlier but the Chinese refused.

September 17: Today, it’s 3 babies dead, 1,300 in the hospital, and 6,244 sick.  They were adding melamine to cover for diluting the milk with water.  Hmm.  Just like we used to do in the early years of the 20th century before passing pure food laws.  Regulation, anyone?

When I was in New Zealand last year at a ministerial agriculture meeting, I heard a lot about how ranchers were giving up on sheep and starting large dairy farms to supply milk to China.  This meant the end of pristine streams and sheep dotting the landscape.

Sep 12 2008

More on Chinese infant formula

The FDA has issued a warning not to buy infant formula made in China (read labels!), since some of it may be in ethnic markets in the U.S. under the “grey” market.  And China is investigating, threatening punishment, and issuing recalls.

Sep 11 2008

Eeks! Melamine in Chinese infant formula

I can hardly believe it but USA Today reports that Chinese infant formula has been found to be contaminated with melamine, the very same toxic ingredient that caused the pet food recalls of 2007.  Melamine-laced pet foods killed cats and dogs.  Who knows what it might do in infant formula.  Melamine is high in nitrogen.  Tests for protein just test for nitrogen and don’t care where it comes from.  Melamine, which is cheap, makes pet foods and infant formulas look like they have a lot of protein, which is expensive.   That would be bad enough but melamine and one of its by-products, cyanuric acid, form crystals that block kidney function.  The fraudulent addition of melamine to pet food is precisely the subject of my book, Pet Food Politics.  It’s subtitle is The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine.  Now you know why. 

Sep 10 2008

My birthday in Parma

I’m in Parma on a speaking trip (to Academia Barilla), it’s my birthday, and here are three nice presents that came in on today’s Google feed (“pet food”): my latest column in the San Francisco Chronicle (“Which is better, food or nutrients?”), a review in the San Francisco Chronicle of Pet Food Politics, and an interview about the new book with Jill Richardson on AlterNet.  Enjoy!

Sep 5 2008

The Economist reviews Pet Food Politics

I don’t do this sort of thing very often on this site so please indulge me a little.  Today’s issue of The Economist features Pet Food Politics as its lead Books & Arts review.  I recorded a podcast to go with it and that’s available too.  Enjoy! (I did).

Aug 23 2008

Pet Food Politics is out!

I am off to California for Slow Food Nation and the launch of Pet Food Politics. The events start with readings at pet food stores, Holistic Hound in Berkeley (Sunday, 4:00 p.m.) and Noe Valley Pet Co. in San Francisco (Monday, 6:00 p.m.). Others are listed under Public Appearances. I’ve never done readings in pet food stores before, so this should be fun. Stay tuned.

Jun 17 2008

Pet food recall settlement: how to file a claim

The New Jersey court has now moved on to the next step in settlement of the class action suit against pet food makers involved in the melamine recalls of 2007. If you think you qualify for compensation, you need to fill out a form and send it in by November 24.  If you want to deal with this some other way, the same claim website explains how.  This won’t bring back the lost pets, but it may help a little.  Go for it.

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