Saturday, April 28, 2007
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued border alerts for specific protein ingredients, imported from China, that may be incorporated into products destined for human consumption.
Inspectors from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will hold products, such as wheat and corn gluten, as well as soy and rice proteins until they can be tested for melamine, the contaminant found to have sickened pets through its use in pet food. If determined to be free of melamine, the ingredients will be released to the intended recipient. Materials such as glutens and protein powders are used commonly in many forms of food products.
The CFIA said it was not acting on specific information, but rather taking a cautious approach to human protection. “That’s why we have the border lookout for the ingredient, so that we can proactively assess any potential that the product is contaminated,” Paul Mayers of the CFIA told CBC News.
Since the border alert for melamine is a new procedure, the government can’t be sure if the contaminant made it into the food chain previously. The CFIA acknowledged that the same Chinese company under suspicion in the tainted pet food affair had shipped wheat gluten to a Canadian company, which in turn used it in food for fish farms. Although the fish were subsequently eaten by people, the CFIA believes the health risk from such consumption would be low.
In related news, Canadian researchers at the University of Guelph believe they may have determined the mechanism of how melamine caused illness in cats and dogs.
Both cyanuric acid and melamine were found in urine samples from pets that died after consuming contaminated pet food. The two compounds react with one another to form crystals that may block kidney function, researchers at the university said. The researchers observed crystals formed in cat urine by the addition of melamine and cyanuric acid. The composition of these crystals matches those found in the urine of affected pets when compared by infrared spectroscopy (FTIR).
“You wouldn’t normally expect to find those compounds in pet food, and hence nobody was really looking for it,” said John Melichercik, director of analytical laboratory services. “It’s just another piece of the puzzle along the way in this particular pet-food issue.”