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I've been too busy trying to keep Wikipedia up-to-date to put a proper blog together on this, so for now I'll post a brief email I sent to Ben over at Itchmo and Daily Kos's own Susan Hu.  If you've been following the news regarding the 2007 pet food crisis and the use of melamine to inflate the protein measurements, you can probably follow it right off.  If not, go read my last blog post (A Perfect Storm or the China Syndrome: Food Fraud) or check out the info at the wikipedia entry above.

An argument for removing the economic incentive to dump industrial waste into our protein products follows after the jump:

Hi Ben and Susan,

First,

Thank you both for all the good work you are doing.

Second, just wanted to make it clear that that first tidbit about the transcript of China's april 26 press conference is not related to my second item.  It is just typical and troubling that while it was widely reported that China had banned melamine use and admitted that melamine-tainted products had been exported, no mention of it is made in their transcript.

Third, I'm looking some more into the detection issues and will try to get back to you with more.  In brief, urea-formaldehyde resin is another nitrogen containing compound that would inflate the crude protein measurement tests and it is apparently readily and inexpensively available in China where such resin products are ground up into powder.  It has no relation to melamine, so there is no reason to believe that any melamine specific QC test would detect it. And while it is made from urea and formaldehyde heated in the presence of a mild base such as ammonia or pyridine, once it is processed into a resin, I do not believe that it would be detected by the QC tests designed to detect urea, itself.  

It's that last part that I do not have definitive proof for, but it seems to be the basis for its use in China.  If you know anyone who can read the chinese sites I sent (in the wiki enry), they may be able to learn more.

As a general matter, it is another argument that, rather than trying to develop QC tests for each possible nitrogen compound that could inflate crude protein measurement, we need to move to true protein testing to remove the economic incentive to adulterate proteins with any non-protein nitrogen.  First it was urea, now it's melamine, maybe urea-formaldehyde, tomorrow someone will come up with another cheap nitrogen compound.

In at least one other segment of the food industry, the dairy industry, some countries (at least the U.S., Australia, France and Hungary), have adopted "true protein" measurement, as opposed to crude protein measurement, as the standard for payment and testing: "True protein is a measure of only the proteins in milk, whereas crude protein is a measure of all sources of nitrogen and includes nonprotein nitrogen, such as urea, which has no food value to humans. ... Current milk-testing equipment measures peptide bonds, a direct measure of true protein." P.M. VanRaden and R.L. Powell. Genetic evaluations for true protein. United States Department of Agriculture.
So, at least in the dairy industry, we've demonstrated that this change is economically feasible.

Best to you both.

While my educational background is in physics and biophysics and I've worked in protein structure determination and prediction in the biotech portion of the pharmaceutical industry (in Seattle, btw, Susan), I am not a biochemist or a specialist in industrial quality control testing.

For more on this check out the NPN as additive and protein testing in wiki.

That's it. If purchasers are paying only for the protein, there won't be any more incentive to add non-protein nitrogen industrial waste.  This has been an episode of simple answers to complex problems.

And more on that nitrogen-rich industrial waste.  According to our new info over at wikipedia, melamine and cyanuric acid, in combination as crystals formed from melamine/urea production waste product is a known combination.

Originally posted to Abby Kelleyite on Fri May 04, 2007 at 09:25 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Can I Ask Maybe A Stupid But Honest Question (6+ / 0-)

      I have four little kittens, not cats, I got that needed a home help. I called my vet about the food I buy, if it was ok. Later, after what I am about to outline, I went online (I know my bad) and saw my food was on the list.

      I had a cat that went from being my fav of the group. The runt of the four I took. I love them all. Loved her the most. On a Saturday she wasn't as active or around me as much. Sunday more. Two Monday's ago totally non-responsive.

      I picked her up and blood was coming from her rear end. Couldn't tell from where. But a lot of it. I rushed her to the vet that second.

      I was told massive kidney (7 months old) issue.

      The facts laid out to me where bleak. I asked time and time again, what did I do wrong? How could this happen? I was told it just happens in a very small percentage of cats.

      "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

      by webranding on Fri May 04, 2007 at 09:31:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Whoops, I Should Have Added (0+ / 0-)

        My gut is the food for our animals. Those we love and those we eat, are being feed the same thing. This worries me a lot. But guess I am preaching to the choir here.

        "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

        by webranding on Fri May 04, 2007 at 09:32:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  so sorry to hear about your kitty (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vivacia, Rogneid

        I've been lucky with mine so far, given that I didn't really pay all that much attention to what they ate before this whole thing started.  It's not your fault they were being poisoned.  Best to you and your other kitties.  

        "Yours for Humanity" Abby Kelley

        by Abby Kelleyite on Fri May 04, 2007 at 09:38:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well I Should Not Have Had That Beer Or Two (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rogneid

          so I have not been clear enough. But thanks.

          To me it is the trickle down effect. This shit is being feed to my domestic cats and dogs. In a larger amount to the cows and pigs we eat (and I do eat them).

          Real Time tonight hit on this issue pretty hard. Glad I have a garden planted and I eat a lot less meat then I used to.

          "It is not enough to win, all others must lose," Sun Tzu.

          by webranding on Fri May 04, 2007 at 09:42:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I called my vet about my cat food (0+ / 0-)

        due to the vitamin D lawsuit (Royal Canin)....he didn't know anything about it and admitted that their office is so busy that many times its his clients that alert him to these things first.  There is no system in place to inform vets in this country of recalls quickly.

        I'm sure that was part of the reason why your vet did not indicate the food was a problem.....he/she simply didn't know.  Also, the media has not done the greatest job alerting people that more pet foods were contaminated.  It's sick, considering that the Anna Nicole Smith Circus got so much coverage, everyone knew the intimate details of that case. sigh....

        I'm so sorry about your sweet kitty.....that's so heart-breaking. :(

        What I am confused about is that your vet hasn't acknowledged now that the food was the issue after the fact???

  •  You know, I don't mean to sidestep the issue (8+ / 0-)

    here, but all this bolsters the already strong case for steering clear of processed foods in the first place.  There's a lot less opportunity to screw up, say, an apple or a whole bean/legume/grain/etc.  Much healthier too.

  •  My late mother was a scientist (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Abby Kelleyite

    Several times back in the 1980s she pointed out a new business strategy to take toxic byproducts and add them in small quantities back into manufactured goods. Cheap way to "recycle" or "dispose of" bad chemicals.

    I remember one having to do with something like paint. Another about metal.

    Mother wouldn't buy pots made in Mexico for this reason.

    There's this unreasonable notion in the business world of infinite expansion of profits and growth, which lead to deadly short-cuts.

    •  I keep being reminded of catch-22 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LNK

      where Milo corners the egyptian cotton supply and can't unload it, so he covers it in chocolate and tries feeding it to the troops for the good of the "syndicate".

      "Yours for Humanity" Abby Kelley

      by Abby Kelleyite on Sat May 05, 2007 at 05:05:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The scorpion... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LNK

      always stings.

      How long will it take us to realize this?  I'm so angry at this whole episode.  My cat was stricken by this, though not killed, and I can only imagine the thousand-fold grief I would feel if a loved one was poisoned by their food or medicine.

      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      --Bush lied, thousands died

      by indyjones48 on Sat May 05, 2007 at 03:50:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Reading soap labels today, slightly off-topic (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    matx, Abby Kelleyite

    I was on the verge of buying Tom of Maine's liquid hand soap when I read the label which listed wheat protein as an ingredient. The label seemed to be boasting protein as an ingredient.

    What is this protein fetish anyhow?

    When I went away to college my mother used to ask if I was getting enough protein. My English friend's mother used to ask if he was getting enough greens!

    •  Maybe because your skin and nails are a type of (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      QuinnLaBelle, LNK, Abby Kelleyite

      of protein, some people will think they are doing something healthy for their skin and nails if they wash with it.  Except that your nails and outer layer of skin are basically dead cells, so I think any benefit is merely cosmetic and certainly fleeting.

  •  Relative costs of the tests (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dkmich, Abby Kelleyite

    I think AK has the right idea here:  if you take away the incentive to cheat, it's likely the cheating will go away. The only reason to keep the old nitrogen based test would be because the more accurate test is "expensive".

    I'm putting "expensive" in quotes because the traditional nitrogen test is only cheaper if the people who bring in tainted feed aren't sued to within an inch of their lives, and are not protected by our pro-corporate FDA from the consequences of using the cheaper test to bring in potentially tainted feed.

    But that said, I'm guessing a real protein test costs more.  So I have to ask:  just how much more.

    I don't see an alternative, since the incentives to cheat are too great not to use the more expensive test.  But knowing how much more the test costs will tell us how hard these turkeys are going to fight to avoid using it.

    •  the dairy industry (0+ / 0-)

      is a good place to start looking for this information. i expect there must have been a fight involving adopting true protein there.

      "Yours for Humanity" Abby Kelley

      by Abby Kelleyite on Sat May 05, 2007 at 05:07:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed, but it's a band aid solution (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Abby Kelleyite

      AK and mbayrob,

      I completely agree that your idea should be implemented immediately...these "businessmen" are motivated by greed and ignorance.  Take away the incentive and it eliminates the incentive.

      However, really, it has to be recognized as a band aid solution.  It fixes this one problem, but not the larger issue -- which is that we rely on a country that has 3rd world regulations for critical parts of our health, wellness and food.

      As the NYT article mentions, in China, additives are innocent until proven guilty!  Add that to the massive graft and corruption in the government, and you've got a recipe for many more disasters like this.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to imply that you don't feel this way too, I'm just venting and this thread seemed appropriate to what's been really annoying me the most.

      --Bush lied, thousands died

      by indyjones48 on Sat May 05, 2007 at 04:00:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  completely agree re the larger issue (0+ / 0-)

        but I do think this is more than a bandaid given the very deadly combination of melamine and cyanuric acid waste being dumped into protein products and the possibly devastatingly widespread nature of the current case.  I see this as a quick step to help with the particular acute symptom.  Longer term, we need to do much more with regard to regulation of all food and drugs as per all the other issues raised in for instance Susan Hu's latest diary.  Personal, political, regulatory and economic pressure is all needed.

        "Yours for Humanity" Abby Kelley

        by Abby Kelleyite on Sat May 05, 2007 at 06:36:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  AK, (0+ / 0-)

    what does Susan Hu do for a living.  I know she is somehow tied, but I don't know how.  We have so many valuable participants here, it is hard to know without bios.

    "Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat." Mark Twain

    by dkmich on Sat May 05, 2007 at 04:12:30 AM PDT

  •  Another thought about our food. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JuliaAnn, matx, lemming22, Abby Kelleyite

    If we can absorb all the toxins, antibiotics, etc. that is injected, sprayed on, our food etc., what impact would all of the growth hormones injected into our livestock have on the obesity epidemic???  If it makes the animal get bigger/heavier faster so they can decrease time to market and increase profits, what effect do you think all those growth hormones have on us getting bigger/fatter faster?

    "Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat." Mark Twain

    by dkmich on Sat May 05, 2007 at 04:15:17 AM PDT

    •  this is another area that bears much looking into (0+ / 0-)

      Personally I buy organic dairy products both for the potential health reasons (precautionary principle in science) and also because there are some reports that it isn't very good for the cows receiving the growth hormone (humane principle).  That said, I don't have anything nearly like the science on protein additives to back up these personal positions ... yet.

      "Yours for Humanity" Abby Kelley

      by Abby Kelleyite on Sat May 05, 2007 at 05:13:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I haven't been buying organic; but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Abby Kelleyite

        I have been buying antibiotic meat.  However, we have a Whole Foods store in our town, and I have decided to start.  I hope somebody looks into the impact growth hormones in our meat has on us.  Our food has turned into trash.

        "Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat." Mark Twain

        by dkmich on Sat May 05, 2007 at 08:02:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Little girls are maturing early (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CalNM

          A 3rd grade girl in my neighborhood has a lot of hair on her legs already.   Periords are ealier.

          Hormones in food is harming us.

          When you have to buy free speech, only the rich have a voice. Bill Moyers

          by Pink Lady on Sun May 06, 2007 at 05:45:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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