CHINESE AGRI-SCUM: Pet food contamination creates continuing food security incident
Our national anti-terror experts love to rattle on how easy it is for al Qaeda to strike at every aspect of American life. Indeed, one of their favorite memes is how easy it is for jihadists to attack the food supply.
Jihadists could easily contaminate our milk with the microbial toxin that causes botulism! CNN even included it as an attack scenario in an Anderson Little-hosted biggest threats
collection yesterday! Jihadi-caused hoof-and-mouth disease would cause panic in the streets and destroy our supply of beef!
So successful have they been with this windbag activity that one reporter for a major newspaper chain fairly recently bragged to your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow that it would be easy for even him to commit an act of agroterrorism.
"All I'd have to do is cut the hooves off a diseased cow and toss them in a cattle pen," he said matter-of-factly. "Easy!"
However, the usual bio/agroterror-is-coming experts haven't had much to say yet about the mass contamination of protein extenders used in pet foods.
Even the FDA's website is more careful than helpful, publishing only infrequently and then just passing on the same information one can get from implicated vendors like MenuFoods.
"The importer of the bad wheat gluten, ChemNutra Inc. of Las Vegas, contends that its Chinese manufacturer, Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., illicitly added melamine to the gluten in order to boost the measurable protein level and thus the price of the shipment," writes the Chicago Tribune here.
"If so, the FDA may find itself pursuing criminal charges against the Chinese company," it adds.
Indeed, ChemNutra has started a blog to press the issue.
In a statement on its website, the company's CEO states: " ... here at ChemNutra, we are concerned that we may have been the victim of deliberate and mercenary contamination for the purpose of making the wheat gluten we purchased appear to have a higher protein content than it did, because melamine causes a false high result on protein tests. We had no idea that melamine was an issue until being notified by the FDA on March 29. In fact, we had never heard of melamine before. It’s simply not a chemical even on the radar screen for food ingredient suppliers."
However, ignorance of the identity of particular poisons is not an excuse, one must add. The point is to keep any poison, even those of unknown character, out of the food supply through due diligence. One thinks this would be somewhat obvious.
In an escalating crisis, the Feds have raided the Las Vages offices of ChemNutra and a plant in Kansas operated by MenuFoods, a business partner of ChemNutra's. MenuFoods, which furnished many of the recalled pet foods rebranded by other vendors, is now suing ChemNutra and the companies are battling each other with press releases.
Another implicated animal feed importer/vendor, one which has apparently shipped an astonishing tonnage of contaminated material, is Wilbur-Ellis Feeds.
Wilbur-Ellis' website does not even mention its role in the crisis.
The page on its feeds simply notes: "The Livestock Nutrition Group for Wilbur-Ellis Company is currently comprised of 3 business units. These units are primarily involved in the custom blending of minerals, trace minerals, vitamin and medicated feed articles. We also provide other specialty feed ingredients to the animal feed industry. We service a wide range of customers which include; feed manufacturers, feed dealers, independent consultants, veterinarians, dairy operations, beef feedlot operations, beef cow/calf operations, swine operations, layer operations, broiler operations, turkey operations, and other specialty animal operations."
Confidence inspiring, is it not?
On ChemNutra's crisis blog, the company excerpts a news report it attributed to a piece from the International Herald Tribune
"For years [Chinese] animal feed sellers have been able to cheat buyers by blending the powder into feed with little regulatory supervision, according to interviews with melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here," it reads. [Note
: DD was able
to find the sentence in Google's database on a page trawled from the newspaper along with "Melamine scrap is added to animal feed to boost the protein level." However, the link to the story, entitled "Feed sellers in China routinely use protein substitute," identical to ChemNutra's citation, is dead and no cached copy of the piece was found. The search function at IHT.COM also does not return the story, which ran today. It is also not listed on the newspaper's frontpage. Decidely odd. A mirror of the vanishing IHT story is presented on this blog.
The Chinese, predictably, have had little of substance to say on the matter.
"While the FDA has targeted select states for hog inspections, the pet food recall and the large number of sick cats and dogs have overwhelmed state agencies that often only investigate a dozen pet food complaints a year," continued the Tribune story.
"But just as troubling, federal officials and congressional critics of the FDA say, is the ease with which the bad gluten was passed along once in the U.S. After the Sept. 11 attacks, food and water safety were an issue of great concern, they say, but those concerns seem to have eroded."
The reporters are sort of getting to the reality, but it's a harsh one and they need to be encouraged to dig for the subtleties.
The fact is, warning about jihadi agroterrorism
has become, for want of a better explanation, a fun game in the United States. State universities vie for funding for laboratories to study agroterrorism. Papers on agroterrorism are published. And the FBI holds a yearly seminar on agroterrorism, called -- get this -- Protect-The-Food.
But much of it is professional clowning, welfare for scientists and security-men, and enjoyment of taxpayer-delivered anti-terror funding.
Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has seen numerous reports on what kind of agroterrorism Islamists might perpetrate. It has not seen a single report in the last couple years on the vulnerability of the food supply to global businesses which turn predatory and do something awful sub rosa
in order to maximize profits.
In others words, this country is drowning in security experts who enjoy writing fictions, but really scarce in people rooted in reality, or any who much entertain risks associated with those most likely to perpetrate it, inside jobbers motivated by greed or other strong personal issues.
Consider, for example, a slide presented at the FBI's Protect-The-Food in 2005.
It is an astonishing example of pure idiot buffoonery. Completely baffling, it's intent seemed to be to make the point that agroterrorism is a much bigger threat now than a few years ago, when a Photoshopped George W. Bush and Saddam were sharing a beer down on the farm.
Presented by an agroterror expert from Kansas, a state with a big university vieing for funding of a new lab to study agroterrorism, it was proudly displayed on the FBI's website for over a year. Then it was noticed by this blog, at which point it was pulled.
If the contamination of protein extenders with melamine had initially been discovered in our food, rather than that of our pets, the story would have been an instant firebomb in March. That it now involves feed suppliers who serve the human food chain belatedly raises levels of outrage.
It is worth repeating that it is now obvious that pet food manufacturers, and large animal feed suppliers like Wilbur-Ellis, have lost control of their supply chain.
And this has come about through business decisions, now rightly judged to be bad ones, to engage with suppliers in China.
Protein extenders -- like wheat, corn and rice gluten -- are not unusual commodities and they can easily be furnished within the United States. However, apparently this has not been an attractive option to North American businesses because China does it so well
with industry that is unregulated whie employing a slave labor workforce.
The American partners of the Chinese have had their reputations severely damaged. It may well crush some of them. It it is also possible they will face criminal charges if found to be in collusion with Chinese partners, and not just stupid and victims of betrayed trust or bad luck.
Previously, this blog has labeled the unfolding matter incidental agroterrorism. Not as a result of a desire to create fear, disturbance, pain and mayhem, but functionally creating the same out of a desire for dollars.
If it had been done to feeds more widely disseminated to slaughter animals and perpetrated by al Qaeda, cruise missiles might be flying, the Special Forces certainly getting ready for a recon-in-force search-and-destroy mission into the suspected area of trouble.
Related: Chinese tampering?The FBI's Yearly Agroterror Confab.Wilbur-Ellis Feed's Livestock Nutrition page.Letter from CEO of ChemNutra.ChemNutra's PR blog.