Three businesses and their owners have been indicted by a federal grand jury today, meaning they will face trials over allegations related to the melamine-tainted pet food that sickened pets throughout the United States last year.
The Food and Drug Administration made the announcement, labeling it a "scheme to import products purported to be wheat gluten into the United States that were contaminated with melamine. These products were used to make pet food."
Named in two separate but related indictments are:
Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., LTD., a Chinese processor and exporter of plant proteins, and Mao Linzhun, its owner and manager.
Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products, Arts and Crafts I/E Co. LTD., a Chinese export broker, and Chen Zhen Hao, its president.
ChemNutra, Inc., a Las Vegas, Nevada corporation that buys food and food components from China to sell to U.S. companies in the food industry, and its owners, Sally Qing Miller and her husband, Stephen S. Miller. Sally Q., a Chinese national, is the controlling owner and president; Stephen S. is an owner and CEO.
The indictments allege that more than 800 tons of purported wheat gluten, totaling nearly $850,000, was imported into the United States between Nov. 6, 2006, and Feb. 21, 2007. According to the indictments, SSC falsely declared to the Chinese government that those shipments were not subject to mandatory inspection by the Chinese government prior to export.
Melamine can be used to create products such as plastics, cleaning products, glues, inks, and fertilizers. Under certain conditions, melamine mixed with wheat gluten can make the product appear to have a higher protein level than is actually present. Melamine has no approved use as an ingredient in human or animal food in the United States. Wheat gluten is a natural protein derived from wheat or wheat flour, which is extracted to yield a powder with high protein content. Pet food manufacturers often use wheat gluten as a thickener or binding agent in the manufacture of certain types of pet food.
ChemNutra contracted with SSC, a Chinese registered export broker, to purchase food grade wheat gluten, according to the indictment. SSC then entered into a separate contract with XAC to supply the wheat gluten it needed to fulfill its contract with ChemNutra.
The indictments allege that the products purported to be wheat gluten were misbranded because the labels incorrectly represented that the purported wheat gluten had a minimum protein level of 75%.
On March 15, 2007, a pet food manufacturer alerted FDA to the deaths of 14 cats and dogs, several reported by consumers and several that died during routine taste trials conducted by the company. The animals were reported to have developed kidney failure after eating pet food that had been manufactured with the purported wheat gluten.
The FDA did not indicate what penalties are possible based on the charges.
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