By Rowan Wolf of Uncommon Thought Journal
While it has not been added to the US list of problematic ingredients, there was an article today from South Africa of renal failure in dogs and cats due to melamine in corn gluten. While the food was processed in South Africa, the gluten – once again – came from suppliers in China. This would place on the danger list wheat, rice, and corn gluten and concentrated vegetable protein from any of these sources.
As was pointed out in an April 3rd article by Christie Keith in the SF Gate – Bigger than you think: The story behind the pet food recall – it is possible that the contamination may be in the human food supply as well.
What we have happening here is a growing number of companies in China which have supplied and array of grain glutens, powders, and concentrated vegetable proteins on the international market. What this would seem to indicate is that this is not a “contamination” issue. “Contamination” is an accident. It might happen at one processor for one or two processing runs. However, the exact same “contaminant” showing up in products from multiple producers points to a broader source than a contaminant would indicate. Also, melamine as a chemical is not a “cheap” filler – wood dust maybe, but not melamine.
This takes my thoughts to something within the growing, harvesting or storage of crops. So if melamine is not being deliberately added, how is it showing up in wheat, rice, and corn from different processors. I went on a hunt for information about melamine. I did not have to hunt for long.
Caution to Readers: Let me preface what I am about to say with the caveat that I am not a chemist, a biologist, or a toxicologist. I have absolutely no proof, but this is a scenario that makes sense of the (sketchy) information that has been released to the public. The scenario below is pure speculation on my part.
I looked up “melamine” and an interesting result popped up at Wikipedia. According to that source:
“Melamine is a metabolite of cyromazine, a pesticide. It is formed in the body of mammals who have ingested cyromazine. It was also reported that cyromazine is converted to melamine in plants.
Light bulbs went off and bells started ringing. A pesticide that metabolizes to melamine in animals and possibly plants.
Another quick search on cyromazine found me at the PAN Pesticide Database for cyromazine. The toxicity information for this pesticide indicates that it is “highly toxic” as a “PAN Bad Actor.” The explanation at the site states: “PAN Bad Actors are chemicals that are one or more of the following: highly acutely toxic, cholinesterase inhibitor, known/probable carcinogen, known groundwater pollutant or known reproductive or developmental toxicant. NOTE! Because there are no authoritative lists of Endocrine Disrupting (ED) chemicals, EDs are not yet considered PAN Bad Actor chemicals.” It is also shown as a highly toxic groundwater contaminant.
Cyromazine is also listed as used as an acaricide and insecticide – “mite growth regulators” and “chitin synthesis inhibitors” (Alan Wood’s site – is the source for this information and his credentials lend credibility to the pesticide information he provides).
If a pesticide is the source, then the contamination could indeed be much broader than is currently reported.
Melamine is also used in resin products as a flame retardant/inhibitor. It seems possible (though less likely than the pesticide hypothesis) that such a usage in storage facilities could be the culprit. The use of a melamine precursor as a (common) pesticide in storage facilities is another thought. Or if all the grains involved were grown in the same area that the culprit could be ground water contamination by cyromazine – or something in that family – or melamine.
What still remains troublesome with the word that melamine is the what is causing the illness and death in pets, it has also been widely reported that melamine is not generally toxic in this manner. So the question remains whether melamine is the actual culprit, or if there is some variant of melamine being found in these grain products which is more acutely toxic than melamine itself.
As noted earlier, all of the above is speculation on my part. But it seems clear to me at this point that the problem is not a “contaminant” in the usual sense of the word. Anything this widespread has to have a broader source – perhaps even a general practice source. If that is the case, then it could also be a much larger issue than pet food, and it would be global in impact (wherever China exports those products).
Note: The cyromazine link was also brought up in a Forbes article April, 6, 2007, but China denies any contamination on its part.
Information on Pet Food Recall from Dog Aware. This article has some very interesting information.