With tainted pet food making the headlines last year and last month marking the one year anniversary, many people have come to wonder if any pet foods are safe these days. From dog and cat chow to hog and chicken feed, and even fish food - the chemical melamine has been detected in foods that killed thousands of American pets.
What is this now infamous chemical? Melamine is a nitrogen-containing organic compound. It is made from coal and used for a variety of purposes including: fertilizer, fire retardant, a "melmac" dishware polymer, and the cleaning magic behind "Magic Erasers".
Some of the contaminated fish food was linked to the company, Tembec BTLSR Inc. in Toledo, Ohio. A product manufactured by Tembec, Aquabond, was found to contain the melamine. Aquabond is a binding agent that the company HBH Pet Products used to make their pelleted foods for fish and shrimp. Tembec admitted to adding the melamine in order to enhance the binding potential of the pelleted foods. Despite this seemingly useful property, the FDA prohibits the presence of melamine of any concentration in pet food. A second source of contamination was linked to wheat gluten of Chinese-origin laced with melamine. This was imported to Canada via ChemNutra where it was incorporated into fishmeal and then sent on to the United States.
Other contaminated pet feeds were linked to a Canadian company, Menu Foods, which incorporated the impure gluten into over 100 different brand name pet foods. The melamine-containing feed caused kidney failure in dogs and cats. This was surprising to those researching the deaths since melamine was previously thought to be a rather benign material and not very toxic. It was thought likely that melamine was serving as a marker of the presence of some other toxic chemical. The suspected identity of that chemical was cyanuric acid, a metabolic by-product of melamine which is often used to chlorinate swimming pools It too, is a rather non-toxic material on its own. The disastrous consequences occur when the two compounds are found together. Cyanuric acid and melamine are capable of hydrogen bonding with one another. This bonding allows for the formation of crystals which are highly stable and capable of accumulating in the kidneys and disrupting kidney function. Such crystals were, in fact, found in the urine of affected animals.
Unfortunately, the effects of melamine on fish are not well documented. It would be very difficult to directly link specific fish deaths to the contaminated food. However, some suspect that melamine may cause renal failure in fish just as in cats and dogs. A fish with kidney failure loses is osmoregulatory capabilities and will appear bloated as it takes on water. he most unsettling part of the whole story is that many Chinese companies intentionally add the melamine to their manufactured foods and exported ingredients. The managers of Chinese companies that commercially produce melamine admit to selling scrap melamine to companies that incorporate it into their feed. Why would companies intentionally adulterate their products? Remember that melamine is an organic, nitrogen-containing compound, it therefore mimics amino acids in basic tests. Amino acids are, of course, the building blocks of proteins. Adding melamine to the food results in the appearance of a higher protein content and tricks the buyer into thinking they are purchasing a higher-quality food. However, when the melamine is ingested and broken down into various by-products such as cyanuric acid by both the animal and bacteria, the consequences are deadly. Currently the quality control of Chinese products is far below par. When this is combined with the near impossibility of the USDA and FDA to scrutinize every import. This means all food made outside of the USA comes with a risk. At Angels Plus we recognize that your fish are what they eat. When they are fed cheap, imported flakes, pellets, and freeze-dried foods, they reflect this poor nutrition in a lackluster appearance. However, when fed fresh, unadulterated food such as our American-made flake foods - they reflect a vibrant, healthy appearance.
© 2008 Angels Plus