We’ve talked about the pervasive industrial chemical melamine appearing in Chinese food – from its domestic supplies of milk to its exports of wheat gluten found anywhere from pet food to chicken feed. We’ve also covered how new tracking measures are being implemented to improve food safety (see New Tracing System To Improve Safety of Chinese Products). However, as James E. McWilliams, a history professor at Texas State University at San Marcos, points out in a New York Times op-ed piece, there’s plenty of undetected melamine circulating around in the American food system, thanks to lack of regulation and testing. He explains:
Fertilizer companies commonly add melamine to their products because it helps control the rate at which nitrogen seeps into soil, thereby allowing the farmer to get more nutrient bang for the fertilizer buck. But the government doesn’t regulate how much melamine is applied to the soil. This melamine accumulates as salt crystals in the ground, tainting the soil through which American food sucks up American nutrients.
But there's melamine in chicken that consumers eat - chickens fattened by melamine-laced chicken feed, as McWilliams continues:
More ominous, the United States imports most of its wheat gluten. Last year, for instance, the F.D.A. reported that millions of Americans had eaten chicken fattened on feed with melamine-tainted gluten imported from China. Around the same time, Tyson Foods slaughtered and processed hogs that had eaten melamine-contaminated feed. The government decided not to recall the meat.
Only a week earlier, however, the F.D.A. had announced that thousands of cats and dogs had died from melamine-laden pet food. This high-profile pet scandal did not prove to be a spur to reform so much as a red herring. Our attention was diverted to Fido and away from the animals we happen to kill and eat rather than spoil.
That's real agribusiness for you - plenty of questionable practices, human (and certainly animal) health prioritized well below profits. It's true that tainted pet food is only the beginning, and yes, we could be very well be next, if animals fed with melamine-tainted feed are what we are having for dinner.
(Going veg, anyone?)
New York Times
Related Links on Melamine
The Melamine Page
Tainted Pet Food: We Could Be Next
Update on Tainted Pet Food: We Are Next
Got Melamine? 53000 Chinese Children Did - In Their Milk
New Tracing System To Improve Safety of Chinese Products