A Chinese company accused of selling chemical-tainted wheat gluten that has been linked to the deaths of at least a dozen pet cats and dogs in the US said yesterday that it sells most of its wheat gluten within China.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week blocked wheat gluten imports from the Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development in the eastern city of Xuzhou, saying they contained melamine, a chemical found in plastics and pesticides.
The company has said it is investigating the claims.
Li Cui, director of Anying's foreign exports, told reporters yesterday that the US is the company's only overseas market for wheat gluten. Most is sold to domestic Chinese buyers, Li said, refusing to say whether gluten from the allegedly contaminated batches was sold in China.
The Chinese Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture did not immediately respond to questions on whether they had concerns about tainted gluten on China's market.
China is struggling to improve its food safety record, but manufacturers often mislabel food products or add illegal substances to them.
Last year, seven companies were punished for using banned Sudan dye to color egg yolks red. In 2004, at least 12 infants died from malnutrition after drinking formula with little or no nutritional value in eastern China's Anhui Province.
Las Vegas, Nevada-based ChemNutra, which imported the wheat gluten and shipped it to companies that make pet foods, said on Tuesday that Xuzhou Anying had never reported the presence of melamine in the content analysis it provided.
Earlier this week, another official at the Chinese company said the gluten was not manufactured by Xuzhou Anying, but was bought from companies in neighboring provinces.
The FDA has confirmed about 15 pet deaths, and anecdotal reports suggest hundreds of cats and dogs may have died of kidney failure from the tainted food.
Nearly 100 brands of cat and dog food made with wheat gluten have been recalled.
The FDA still does not know where all the contaminated wheat gluten ended up, though it appears unlikely any got into human food.
ChemNutra said it has recalled hundreds of tonnes of gluten that it shipped to three pet food makers and a single distributor who supplies the pet food industry.
The company said the recall applied only to the product from Xuzhou Anying, one of its three Chinese suppliers of the ingredient.
Xuzhou Anying's Web site describes it as a private company set up in 1995 to make and sell animal feed, wheat gluten and vegetables. It said the company produces and exports more than 10,000 tonnes of wheat gluten each year.
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