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ChemNutra, Steve Miller

Mr. Pet Food Supplier goes to Washington

By Judi McLeod

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How to recoup lost revenues on pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical killing off an unknown number of pets? Brand it as "salvaged" and feed it to thousands of farm animals.

Within hours of yesterday's congressional hearing into food safety came the alarming news that tainted pet food on recall was fed to hogs in as many as six states.

"Food safety officials have quarantined hogs at farms in California, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and possibly Ohio. (Fox News, April 24, 2007). The urine of hogs in some states has tested positive for the chemical melamine the Food and Drug Administration said.

Stephen S. Miller
Stephen S. Miller
Wanted by thousands of angry pet owners.
"At this point, I don't have a definitive answer other than to say that the issue is being addressed," Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's chief veterinarian told reporters when asked if any of the hogs had entered the food supply. A poultry farm may also be involved, he added.

Let's hope that the FDA addresses the possibility of tainted food entering the human food chain better than how it handles tainted pet food bagged and canned for household pets.

Pet owners, who are turning off the pet food industry and the increasingly inconclusive FDA in droves, were looking for answers when they tuned into the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, Tuesday.

Committee members pussyfooted around (no pun intended) CEOs at the heart of the contaminated pet food scare. No tough questions were put to the CEOs, two of whom provided unexpected entertainment by seizing the opportunity to point the finger of blame at each other in their opening statements.

There was no hint during the hearing that recycled melamine had just jumped the animal world for the human one via tainted pet food-fed farm hogs.

How the China-imported ingredient killing and sickening pets could be sold as feed to farmers should be--and could be with mainstream media attention--the burning question of the day.

Thousands of hogs have been quarantined until the FDA can advise what to do next.

Quarantined too are the 873 tons of wheat gluten imported from China by the Los Vegas-based ChemNutra, chief supplier to at least four pet food manufacturers at the heart of the current pet food scare.

In fact, according to elusive CEO Stephen S. Miller (Steve to the committee), the wheat gluten imported from China by ChemNutra has been quarantined in ChemNutra's warehouse since March 8.

"It will be disposed of in ways that are acceptable to the FDA," Miller told committee members during testimony yesterday.

Pet owners, tuned in to the hearing via television and computer, heard Miller claim victim hood in the poisoned pet saga: "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," said Miller.

In a post to the company's ever-changing website, Miller said that melamine is "simply not a chemical even on the radar screen for pet food ingredient suppliers".

Although another posting to the website explains inventory is purchased from "over 200 quality-assured manufacturers in China, with whom we have had strong relationships over the past 12 years", Miller yesterday told the committee, "This was a new product" and that "We just started last fall in this business."

Miller made no mention of ChemNutra's company in China within an hour's drive of Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development, the company from which he purchased tons of tainted wheat gluten.

Ranking member Ed Whitfield (Kentucky-R) did ever so briefly quiz Miller about his wife Sally, being ChemNutra's President. "Since your wife is a citizen from China, you would have some recourse," Whitfield said.

In his opening address to the committee, Miller criticized Menu Foods, the company that recalled more than 100 pet food brands for waiting "nearly three weeks" to recall the foods after the melamine was found.

For his part, Menu Foods CEO Paul Henderson reiterated that ChemNutra was the supplier who sold his company the contaminated pet food that had to be recalled.

Perhaps the most instructive information Miller told committee members was that the wheat gluten he imported from China for pet food was human "food grade".

ChemNutra's Miller is not the only key figure some pet owners would gladly see tarred, feathered and run out of his no-sign-on-the-doors Las Vegas headquarters.

Wilbur-Ellis has confirmed that contaminated rice protein was distributed to several pet food makers. Three of them--Natural Balance Pet Foods, the Blue Buffalo Co. and Diamond Pet Foods--have pulled some of their products within recent days.

But Wilbur-Ellis and the FDA declined to name the other two makers.

As a worried pet owner wrote Canada Free Press: "That leaves one remaining manufacturer who was supplied by Wilbur-Ellis, and if Senators Durbin and Cantwell and a HealthDay writer are correct, five more manufacturers who were supplied by that second importer."

Mystery, confusion and unanswered questions continue to dog the poisoned pet food story.

Even more than six weeks later, no one including the underfunded FDA, has put a number to the pets that ate the tainted food before companies began to recall some 60 million cans, pouches, biscuits, kibbles and treats. The FDA listed 250 different flavours of recalled cat food alone.

Toronto-based Menu Foods, in reality a publicly traded income trust fund, bought 1.7 million pounds of wheat gluten from ChemNutra. The gluten was sold to three other pet food makers, names of which have never been revealed.

Before tainted pet food even became a problem, many pet owners were unaware of the content the multi-billion-dollar pet food industry puts in its cans, bags and pouches. Although its manufacturers play it down, commercial pet food on supermarket shelves sometimes contains corpses of cats and dogs from rendering plants. Chemicals and pharmaceuticals go into the mix along with bird beaks, animal feet and intestines.

Experts now predict that the deaths and illness of pets will mount into the thousands before the poisoned pet food scare ends.

The House Committee on Energy & Commerce found no conclusive answers to the contaminated pet food scare yesterday. But then again they asked the CEOs no tough questions.

Meanwhile, of the 8.9 million food shipments that come into the United States each year, a mere 1 percent ever gets checked.

Unfortunately, that's a fact of life that not only consumers and pet owners but also America's enemies are now privy to.

Canada Free Press founding editor Most recent by Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years experience in the print media. Her work has appeared on Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com, Glenn Beck. Judi can be reached at: [email protected]

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