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In an import alert buried deep on its website and just uncovered tonight, the FDA last Friday expanded its hold on imported foods from China - ingredients including Wheat Gluten, Rice Gluten, Rice Protein, Rice Protein Concentrate, Corn Gluten, Corn Gluten Meal, Corn By-Products, Soy Protein, Soy Gluten, Mung Bean Protein, Soy Bean Meal/Powder/Gluten/Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Powder, Wheat Gluten, Wheat Flour Gluten, Wheat Gluten, Rice Protein, Rice Gluten, Rice Protein, Corn Gluten, Milled Rice Products, Amino acids and protein hydrosylates.

They also, for the first time, published estimates of pet deaths closer to what other authoritative sources have been speculating for weeks now:

As of April 26, 2007, FDA had received over 17,000 consumer complaints relating to this outbreak, and those complaints included reports of approximately 1950 deaths of cats and 2200 deaths of dogs.

These numbers are very much in line with what we've seen in our own database of self-reported cases at PetConnection:

   * Total reports of illness or death: 14,228
   * Total cats reported dead: 2,334 cats
   * Total dogs reported dead: 2,249

From the FDA report:

   * Total reports of illness or death: 17,000
   * Total cats reported dead: 1950
   * Total dogs reported dead: 2,200

To quote my editor and fellow PetConnection blogger, Gina Spadafori:

(Y)ou would not believe the crap we have had to take for our Pet Connection database. We have been accused of promoting everything from hysteria to our own careers, and through it all the FDA has said nothing that substantiated what we and the independent Veterinary Information Network knew was the scope of the tragedy.

[...]

Perhaps now every time a media outlet says "16″ or even "17 or 18″ or "high teens" or some other such nonsense, the reporter will get this FDA document in their e-mail inbox from, like, every one of us who cares about making these pets count.

I take absolutely no joy in being "right," and I would gladly be wrong to have all those pets still alive. But I truly do believe if it weren’t for the pressure from those of us working to get this information out and force the FDA to step up, there’d be a lot more people grieving for their pets tonight.

And tainted products would still be flowing into this country.

USA Today had this to say:

The Food and Drug Administration is enforcing a new import alert that greatly expands its curtailment of some food ingredients imported from China, authorizing border inspectors to detain ingredients used in everything from noodles to breakfast bars.

The new restriction is likely to cause delays in the delivery of raw ingredients for the production of many commonly used products.

The move reflects the FDA's growing unease with what the alert announcement called China's "manufacturing control issues" issues and that country's inability to ascertain what controls are in place to prevent food contamination. For example, the agency says that, after weeks of investigation, it still does not know what regions of China are affected or what firms there are major manufacturers of vegetable proteins.

Inspectors are now allowed to detain vegetable-protein imports from China because they may contain the chemical melamine. Melamine, used in the manufacture of plastics, was found in the wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate that has led to the recall of 5,300 pet food products.

At last Thursday's press conference, the FDA said it had no idea how many pets had died and wasn't likely to ever know, and made no mention of the information in this notice. The press conference began at 4:30 PM Eastern time; this notice was posted the next day.

Updated with quote from today's Washington Post article:

"I do think this pet food thing has shown people, including people at the very highest levels of the administration, that something needs to be fixed," said William Hubbard, associate director of the FDA from 1991 to 2005. "If this isn't a wake-up call, then people are so asleep they are catatonic."

Updated on 5/1/07 at 6:27 PM Eastern Time: I just liveblogged this afternoon's FDA press conference over on PetConnection.

Originally posted to ChristieKeith on Mon Apr 30, 2007 at 09:46 PM PDT.

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