By Dan Shapley
Melamine, the illicit industrial ingredient from China suspected of killing pets that ate tainted food earlier this spring, was also used by domestic animal feed producers, the FDA revealed Wednesday. Whereas in China the melamine was added to falsely boost the apparent protein content of wheat and rice products, the U.S. feed makers said they used a melamine-laced ingredient for its binding properties. Melamine is an industrial chemical typically used to make plastics. The feed went to farms raising cattle, sheep, goats, fish and shrimp. The Food and Drug Administration says there's a very low risk of any health problems if humans eat meat from animals, fish or shellfish that consumed the tainted feed. The use of the industrial chemical -- which before this spring was associated only with plastics manufacturing -- highlights again the complex system that supplies processed foods to the American market, and the degree to which self-policing food manufacturers have held themselves to lower standards than the public might expect. This latest recall shows how little U.S. regulators know about the domestic food supply, let alone imports from China and elsewhere. With food flowing in from more than 170 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe
, the lack of oversight at even domestic facilities won't inspire confidence in a wary public, according to a story in the May 31 USA Today.