FDA Press Conference

Itchmo liveblogged the 3pm Eastern Time FDA Press Conference. This is not a transcript, but a record of the event.

Here is a summary of today’s FDA press conference: (Press relase is now available on the FDA site)

Recall of ingredient: The source of contamination is within the US and is not related to the pet food recalls. Two companies are recalling their feed ingredients because melamine was used to make livestock and fish feed. The first company called Tembec, Toledo, OH makes Aquabond and Aqua-tec II which is used for fish and shrimp feed. This is used for both domestic use and is exported. The second company called Unisource, Inc., Johnstown, CO makes Xtra-bond which is used for livestock feed and is for domestic use only. Tembec distributes to Unisource. Tembec added melamine to the product even though melamine is not an approved additive for feed. FDA is warning companies to stop adding melamine to their feed products.

How did the FDA find out about this?
Unisource tested their product for melamine and it came back positive for melamine. The FDA found out about this on Friday, May 18 and on that next Monday, FDA began its investigation of Uniscope and Tembec. FDA is saying that they are raising companies’ awareness and to be wary of their suppliers. Today, May 30, is the first day of the recall.

The FDA is suggesting that Tembec was using melamine not as a protein source but to improve the binding properties of the feed pellets. At this point, the investigation is still continuing, so the FDA cannot comment on what they have found in their investigation, how long this has been going on, and what if any punishment will occur to Tembec for putting in melamine in a feed product. The FDA is also not aware how much feed is out there and will also not comment on what other countries have received the Aquabond and or Aqua-tec II. The product is meant for commercial fish feed and not for tropical or pet fish.

Human Safety: The FDA assures us all that there is very low risk to humans. The estimated levels in the Xtra-bond is less than 50 parts for million of melamine or melamine-related compounds. The estimated levels in the Aquabond and Aqua-tec II are 230-460 parts for million of melamine or melamine-related compounds.

The full liveblog after the jump.

The FDA briefing will be on the recall of products tainted with melamine.

The panel:

–David Acheson, M.D., assistant commissioner for food protection, Office of the Commissioner, FDA
–Kenneth Petersen, D.V.M., M.P.H., assistant administrator for field operations, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
–Michael Rogers, director, Division of Field Investigations, Office of Regulatory Affairs, FDA
–Kim Young, deputy director of Compliance, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA
–Captain David Elder, director, Office of Enforcement, Office of Regulatory Affairs, FDA
–Michael Herndon, Office of Public Affairs, FDA

Conference begins.

Herndon introduces.

Acheson: telling us a recall of the ingredient that is in live feed for fish and livestock
1) source of the contamination is within the US
2) not directly related to the pet food situation
voluntary recall with two companies
1) Tembec, Toledo, OH - makes aquabond and aqua-tec 2 and distributes to Uniscope- used for fish feed- is for exported and domestic use
2) Uniscope, Johnstown, CO- makes X-trabond- used for livestock feed- for domestic use
-all products are binding agents used to feed cattle, fish, shrimp
-melamine is not an approved additive and the companies have stopped adding melamine to the feed product

we’re advising companies to recall finished feed from aquabond but not for x-tra bond. estimated in the x-tra bond is less than 50 parts of million– estimated levels in auqabond is 200-460 parts for million of melamine and mel. related compounds
these estimated levels vary due to the different levels of melamine and dilution in final product
scientists determined that the consumption of pork, fish and chicken is still highly unlikely for humans to be at risk

Q and A:

NYT: how did you find out about this? how long has this gone on? any criminal probe?
A: this came to our attention because uniscope brought it to our attention. we have raised awareness to manuf and to be vary of suppliers- they used a product that could be potentially contain melamine and tested it themselves to a private lab and found it to be present. they informed us of the situation- FDA is proactive in communicating with the industry and taking our respons seriously.
-we’ve published our analytical methods so companies can analyze. they brought this to our attention on evening of may 18 and then on monday, FDA begin its investigations and invest are ongoing and we will not comment on the invest.

Washington Times: there have been steps taken in China in re: to their food problems. do you have any thoughts of these actions that they are taking will be effective in making Chinese food exports safe?
A: we can’t say anything about their actions. we met with them recently and working with them on food safety issues.
Q: if the chinese take actions, then the authorities in our country should have thoughts on them?
A: can’t comment on their actions and their recent actions may not be assoc with the food safety concerns-

Boston Globe: do you have sense that this it? are there other recalls that we should expect?
A: right from the beg of the calls, we’ve been acknowledging that food safety is an international and domestic issue. we’re not aware that it has gone beyond that. we are still continuing to invest. hopefully the awareness of companies will be raised.
Q: how much cont. feed is out there?
A: we don’t know at this point. that is info that will be gathered during the invest. this recall is starting today and we are working with firms in exec of this recall.

Tribune Media: all began in March with pet food- if everything has been held up in border, at what point can we say that pet foods are absolutely and undoubtedly safe? at what point will there be no recalls?
A: things that we put in place at the border will prevent protein conc from coming in- this does not mean that a particular manuf doesn’t have something in a warehouse- hopefully the raising awareness part will help- it’s hard to believe that a pet food manuf wouldn’t know something about it- we have put as many controls we can as much as possible. 1) put controls on what comes into the country; 2) if something is currently being used and is not being tested, we can’t rule out that at some point, it may be found out that it is contaminated — also there is a lot of cross-contamination within the companies– i can’t give you an absolute never to the recalls. we are trying to keep this problem from recalling. companies are starting to test their products.
Q: what is that point where things will be safe for safe food? and consumers can feel confident? for fish feed, how about food that we give to out pet fish?
A: all of the evidence is that it is going to commercial application- in 50 pound bags for bulk feed- not for tropical or pet fish

USA Today: 1) the company that was making this product- were they using melamine for a protein source or for a plastic glue to hold pellets together?
A: it seems that they weren’t using it as a protein source. it was used to improve the binding properties. melamine is not an approved additive
Q: you have a recall on the food going out? what about the animals that were being fed?
A: at this point, no. the levels in the x-tra bond do not reach a level of concern. the levels in the aquabond and aquatech were higher and so they didn’t reach a level of concern for human health. in the aquabond and aquatech, there was a concern for the fish

WA Post: i don’t see a press release?
A: it will be up in a minute
Q: it sounds like Tembec that was adding these melamine ingredients- so Tembec never approached you about this or never stopped using melamine- until Uniscope had tested did they stop. do you think it is irresponsible on the part of Tembec to stop adding melamine to the product
A: that is part of the active investigation- it came to our attention on May 18. we can’t comment on that because we don’t have any info on that.
Q: on what basis did you say that they weren’t trying to increase the protein but to use it as a binding agent
A: discussion with firms and the levels of mel in the product were not as high as we saw in wheat gluten.
Q: are these products sold with a certain amount of protein level?
A: no, I don’t think this is the case

Sac Bee: would be the particular ingredient be used in other products and what other testing will be done with feed?
A: we are focusing on the invest of the binding agent in the fish feed. we are informing fish feed and live stock feed manuf and our focus is on the binding agents.

LA Times: were either of these companies using melamine for a long time? what are their methods of manuf? when did they start using it? are there other livestock that could have been fed this binding agent?
A: part of the invest is trying to figure out how long- it most likely has been going on for awhile- we don’t have specific info to share-
Q: how far might this have gone? you have mentioned sheep and goats?
A: it’s cattle, sheep and goats- they are primarily for the xtrabond. the fish and shrimp are targets for aquatech 2 and aquabond. we don’t know the extent of far this has gone. the aquabond and aquatech 2 are exported and we are notifying those countries.
Q: domestically, how major is this?
A: most of the aquatech2 and aquabond are for exports. with the xtrabond, we don’t have a good sense of that since the recall just started today. all of this info is in process of being obtained. the feed with the xtrabond we don’t except to see a recall.

CNN: have you checked to see who else Tembec is selling to?
A: tembec is only selling to uniscope.

CNN: melamine is unapproved. are there any approved uses of melamine?
A: it is approved for use in plasticware, dinnerware as a polymer.
Q: but not for feed or for food.
A: yes, not approved for feed or human food.
Q: what action is being taken against tembec?
A: tembec and uniscope are being cooperative. our investigation remains open. tembec have stopped using melamine and uniscope has stopped selling the product. no unapproved use or unapproved distribution going on now.

NPR: tembec was doing this themself? they weren’t getting melamine from other countries?
A: correct
Q: only used for fish feed and not for pet fish?
A: it is intended for fish feed.

Pittsburgh Tribune: what is the level in other two products? why did it take 12 days for the FDA to announce this?
A: the levels were for melamine and mel related compounds. they were heavily melamine. the levels of melamine were by far the highest, cyan. acid were low comp to melamine. the xtra bond was less for 50 parts for million in finished feed. the aquabond and aquatech were higher and in the region of 230-460 parts for million depending on the dilution when product is actually put together?
Q: why did it take 12 days? what other countries?
A: we are notifying countries- until they are all notified, we don’t want to comment. we had invest in there on that monday. from may 25-26, we were trying to contact companies and get the recall going. with the holiday weekend, it took longer.

Balt Sun: how do melamine levels found in aquabond and aquatech 2 compare to the levels of wheat flour in China?
A: way higher. the levels were 20% in the pet food.

Q: is the FDA doing anything now so that you will find melamine in products if companies are not doing testing themselves?
A: yes, we are focusing on feeds and anything with imported products
Q: how many companies are you actually testing the product for? how many companies are making this? what are the chances that you can detect this without them coming forward?
A: we can’t get to every company- this part of the strategy is to raise awareness in manuf to look and to see what you’re getting- uniscope did that. it’s a multi-prong approach
Q: but the company selling to uniscope didn’t come forward? what could you do to the company?
A: if we don’t know about them, we can’t do too much about it. the provisions and the statues are clear. companies who commit prohibited act will be prosecuted.

Q: ABC NEWS: it sounds as if Uniscope didn’t know what they were getting?
A: Tembec was the orig manuf. they manuf aquabond and aquatech2. that same ingredient was shipped to uniscope and used it to make xtrabond. the ingredient is a binding agent to hold pellets together better.
Q: you have no idea how much Tembec has made? what was the percentage of melamine in the binding agent?
A: the levels in the binding agent varied- up to 31,000 parts for million- that was in the original agent and not the final feed.
Q: you have not shut down Tembec?
A: tembec is not producing products with melamine. they are producing products with no melamine in it.
Q: would it have been labeled as anything else as melamine? would they not have done that they were mixing with melamine?
A: i can’t speak to what Tembec knew or didn’t know. it’s speculation.

Q: what are you expecting from private companies in terms of surveillance? are there any regulatory issues? is it strictly voluntary? what are the costs for testing?
A: it’s vitally important to not make any assumptions about what’s in your product- know your suppliers and know what they are sending you.
Q: what are the companies expected to do in light of this new situation? how does a company to protect itself with a known supplier?
A: if I were a CEO, i would ask who my suppliers were and if you didn’t get a level of comfort, then test it yourself. how assured am I that I am receiving what I am expecting.

FDA conference concludes.

223 Responses to “FDA Press Conference”

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  1. Flamin says:

    wow, scary stuff Deb! I wonder where this is all going. Some contaminates viruses, can be passed along in our food and water supplies. What would happen if melamine turned out to be ebola, or some contagion in the pet food, or people food supply someday. Where would they detain/quarantine large amounts of people, or animals?

    But that could never happen, now could it.

  2. DMS says:

    I think the FDA should definitely be checking human food. In my own opinion, I think they really must have already, could they really have neglected to check human food when every other type of feed is contaminated? Now they haven’t said anything, and with our government that makes me think the worst. Surely they would have said if all is well. Do they have the melamine inventor sitting on the FDA? I bet they know our food has been contaminated for a long time. And still, this is getting very little press. The Tembec article was on page 4 of my local paper. That’s the closest this whole thing has gotten to the front page yet. To sum it up they say the FDA says all is well, very little risk. Private companies following FDA’s proactive advice to be vigilant. We’re on top of it. They are just feeding us the government line.
    If the FDA won’t test our food, I believe we do need to. Someone has to do it. I’m just not sure why other countries’ governments are looking out for them, but we can not get the same protection. REalistically, I know it is money, but how can they be so blatantly corrupt and get away with it. How can they justify their decisions to themselves? All this talk we are doing, it means nothing to them. They have a separate agenda and it doesn’t include looking out for the consumer. Known carcinogens are approved food additives, gmo’s are an experiment with our health and our whole environment–not to mention the world’s food supply. Any company that invents any food additive or drug has a good chance of getting approved, even if it suspected of being dangerous. They pull out the POOMA figures in their peer reviewed research, if it ever gets that far. Everyone in statistics knows what POOMA figures are–pulled out of my @$$! It seems to me the FDA is saying, prove it isn’t safe; otherwise there is not indication that it is dangerous. It should be prove to me it is safe. Over the long term. Then take a the cautious step of adding it to people’s food or medicine cabinet. There is no urgent need for melamine supplements or sodium benzoate, or cancer causing dyes. How does this risk outweigh the advantage?

  3. kellie says:


    Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative, effectively killing most yeasts, bacteria, and fungi. It is effective only in acidic conditions (pH

  4. kellie says:

    Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative, effectively killing most yeasts, bacteria, and fungi. It is effective only in acidic conditions (pH

  5. Deb says:

    I agree with his lockdown, he didn’t follow direction. He sealed his own fate. Apparently this room in the jail is the only place the county can detain him….this is where he needs to be. I do agree that the guy needs a tv with cable, internet and the right to shower. I don’t think he should be set free.

    I hate to sound this way…I don’t live right next to the border….but close enough. I think it is fair to say, most people are aware of the illegal border crossing issues. I don’t know how to put this with out sounding really rude…..you have to wonder what the state of these people’s health is when they enter this country. We can have cases of this funky TB walking across our borders daily. It’s scary…..but there is really nothing we can do….hope if someone has it….they are responsible enough to take care of their own health issues?? That’s about it.

    Flamin….the Feds torn the the WWII containment camps in Florence, AZ. You bring up a good point…..if it ever comes to that where would they be? Just think of all the bleeding hearts out there…..that would try to stop the building of a center. Then there is the issue of….not in my backyard.

    I wonder if CDC was the number of cases of this stain or any strain of TB posted on the site.

  6. kellie says:

    ok that was weird..lets try again..from wikipedia
    Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative, effectively killing most yeasts, bacteria, and fungi. It is effective only in acidic conditions (pH

  7. kellie says:

    what is going on ITCHMO ADMIN??
    it keeps cuttying off all my posts..theres a big block of text that wont post…3 tries

    anyway everyone read wikipedia on sodium benzoate

  8. Deb says:

    This was in today’s ‘paper’ also. I know no one will die from fake Nikes…BUT…..the level of trust and good business practices……doesn’t seem to be a popular practice in the Mainland.

    2 plead guilty in conspiracy to smuggle fake Nike shoes from China
    Sean Holstege
    The Arizona Republic
    May. 31, 2007 01:40 PM

    Two defendants pleaded guilty in an international conspiracy to smuggle fake athletic shoes from China through Arizona.

    Federal prosecutors described the case, which involved a plot to dump 135,000 knock-off Nike shoes on U.S. markets, as one of the nation’s biggest counterfeit busts.

    Smugglers tried to skirt export laws by giving an undercover U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent $25,000to falsify records for 15 cargo containers full of shoes. The shoes were unloaded in Los Angeles and bound for Mexico through Nogales.

    The falsified records would have illegally allowed the counterfeit shoes to be distributed throughout the United States, at retail value of $16 million.

    With the guilty pleas Tuesday of defendants from China and Hong Kong, five of the six suspects have been convicted. Two Texans and a defendant from Mexico have also pleaded guilty. Another Hong Kong man remains a fugitive, and is believed to be hiding in China.

  9. kellie says:

    basically sodium benz occurs naturally in acidic fruits and veggies. In organic cranberries for example, they contain much higher levels than what’s in soda.

    being a soda drinker i had to look into this after reading here.

    it’s a natural substance, not chemical, not like melamine.

    the wiki entry did say cats are sensitive to this more than rats or dogs which makes me wonder about all the natural cat foods i’m using that have cranberries and that stuff in them.

    As far as we as humans are concerned if we eat alot of fruit or fruit juice we are taking in way more than what’s in a cola.

    my 2 cents.

  10. DMS says:

    Must have been a Freudian slip in my last post. I meant to end with the question, “How does the (alleged) advantage outweigh the risk?” But I guess it can go either way these days. What is the alleged advatage anyway, Cheap? EAsy? Portable? Even if it is known to be a carcinogen, or damaging to our health in some other way? Even if there is a suspicion, we should not have it in our food. Most people are not even aware of some of the risks they are taking everyday just by eating and feeding their children. And we should not have to spend hours each day researching our food, calling manufacturers, getting the run around, following up with an email. And there are new additives all of the time. It’s all about mass production and getting new products to market, cornering and dominating that market. First, in the 80’s and 90’s, we sat back while the big companies grabbed up a good percentage of the family farms. They have consolidated most of the food processors and manufactures and have gone global. There’s no end to their appetites. But the FDA is in the powerful position of gate-keeper between us and them. And they have failed us miserably. Their operating philosophy seems to be “there is no indication, so we are not going there.” A truly proactive position would be “we’re there already, checking it out.” And I believe they are where they want to be. The whole system seems to be built on growth that is so explosive it can not be monitored. If they can only check 1.3% of imports, the rate of growth is out of proportion to the fortification of the safety infrastructure that should support it. Growth unchecked is a cancer. Eventually, it will destroy the entire organism. The same goes for our domestic mega conglomerates and the producers that feed into them. The system is too large for the appropriate checks and balances. We can’t even keep tabs on the FDA. And this leads me right to our government’s back door. The question for me is, are these the people we want watching out for us anymore?

  11. DMS says:

    kellie, just because sodium benzoate is natural substance, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Mitochondrial disruption is pretty serious stuff. Are you sure about the ratios of a soda drinker to a fruit eater? Nitrates are natually occuring, but strongly suspected if not proven to cause blood cancers. Uranium is a natural substance and lots of other dangerous elements and compounds. You don’t want to load up on them.

  12. TC says:

    Holy cow. Here is an update to the story - so much for “ignorance”. And I am in the legal field as well. And from that perspective, I hope they hang him high, cause I don’t need peers this stupid. He knew what he was doing.

    globe-trotting Atlanta lawyer with a dangerous strain of tuberculosis was allowed back into the U.S. by a border inspector who disregarded a computer warning to stop him and don protective gear, officials said Thursday. The inspector has been removed from border duty.

    The unidentified inspector explained that he was no doctor but that the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely “discretionary,” officials briefed on the case told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under investigation.

    The patient was identified as Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old personal injury lawyer who returned last week from his wedding and honeymoon trip through Italy, the Greek isles and other spots in Europe. His new father-in-law, Robert C. Cooksey, is a CDC microbiologist whose specialty is TB and other bacteria.

    Cooksey would not comment on whether he reported his son-in-law to federal health authorities. Nor did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain how the case came to their attention. However, Cooksey said that neither he nor his CDC laboratory was the source of his son-in-law’s TB.

    Speaker is now under quarantine at a hospital in Denver. He is the first infected person to be quarantined by the U.S. government since 1963.”

  13. TC says:

    Sorry the link looks wierd - the story is at kgw.com, and likely all over the ‘net by now. What I posted was just an excerpt - there is more of the article at that link. Will try once more below:


  14. kellie says:

    yes i’m sure i read for about 2 hours on the subject.
    I found it occurs naturally in acidic fruits and veggies in high concentrations, same as methane does in tomatoes and the likes.

    i’m not lulled into a false sense of anything. There is enought serious toxins everywhere, i’m just not going to get alarmed about something that is made by friut acids and not a chemical company.

    i am against flouride in water and toothpaste if that gives you an idea of how not “lulled” i am. :-)

  15. DMS says:

    sorry, kellie, i certainly didn’t mean to offend you. i may have put it too awkwardly. i am just so suspicious of the additive makers comparisons of their additives to whole natural foods. They did the same thing with nitrates and green leafy vegetables. I have read, and cannot give you any evidence, this is purely asubjective idea from a holistic article i once read that whole foods often contain compounds that may be toxic when isolated, but are counteracted by other compounds in the whole food. Now i would not want the FDA to base decisions on this philosophy, I think we do need science and have been screaming for it lately with the safe levels of melamine and its analogues in our food. I will investigate the levels of sodium benzoate in fruits and vegies, of course considering how much of those particular ones the average person eats each day compared to someone who drinks some odd number of sodas a day.
    I really did not mean to be condescending. Sorry if I offended you.

  16. DMS says:

    Kellie, I do not mean to be a thorn in your side, and I know cranberries contain vitamin C, but the article I read


    says that one problem the fda was finding is higher than allowed levels of sodium benzoate in sodas. The Sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid react in the acidic environment of the soda and form benzene which is not considered a safe ingredient. I know i heard something about this last year. It’s a case of two seperately believed harmless ingredients combining into a harmful one.

  17. Deb says:

    TC….The lawyer, I just don’t understand his claim of not knowing ‘just how bad it was’….apparently he is not a very bright man….but he is educated. One would this his father-in-law would have had a chat with him? Then the border inspector….disregarding the warning because he looked healthy??? Who else has Mr Border inspector let in? Something is really wrong with this one.

    The lawyer is in a private room in a hospital? Why? I think it would have been a better move to have him bunk with the guy in PHX. It would be more cost effective.

  18. kellie says:

    you did not offend me DMS

    it’s all good.
    i have no problem with healthy civil debates.

  19. kellie says:

    with all the other things i have given up lately, i’m just not ready to abandon my soda just yet.

  20. DMS says:

    Kellie, I hear ya. I have a soda once in a while, too. And have been known to give the kids a hot dog or two. I almost feel that there is nothing to eat with confidence anymore. I’m totally stressed out cooking for the kids. Even the dogs! I don’t want the kids to become overly worried, but I want them to grow up learning not to take things at face value, to check it out for themselves. Sometimes i think I’m overreacting, maybe we could go out to a restaurant again, only to hear something else that reinforces my suspicions. I really am over the edge with this, and I want to see some changes. I want to do something to help, but I am not sure where to start. I know this cause isn’t entirely futile because I have seen change happen, albeit slowly, in my lifetime. In the 70’s, they said recycling would never be economically viable. Well, now it is. So here I am, trying to inform myself, sending letters, making calls, buying organic. I’m even thinking of going back to school. I am really that fed up.
    But I do respect everyone else’s decisions and opinions here. At least we are doing our own best to come up with some answers and make informed decisions. The truth is out there somewhere in the shades of grey.
    Everyone out there has helped me to sort this out for myself. And get through it because from listening to mainstream media, I thought no one really cared.

  21. kellie says:

    I care. And i’m right there with ya in the feeling helpless dept.

    All we can do is urge companies and gov. to change. if that gets us nowhere then all we can do is try to educate ourselves, read both sides of the debates and go with our gut about what to eat and what to avoid.

  22. Itchmo » Blog Archive » Recall: HBH Fish Food For Pets says:

    […] spoke to a representative at HBH Pet Products today and he said that the recall went up on Monday. Aquabond, which was found to have contained melamine and related compounds, was used in these products. A contracted manufacturer for HBH Pet Products alerted HBH Pet […]

  23. FDA Warns Tembec About Violations At Animal Feed Plant | Itchmo: News For Dogs & Cats says:

    […] our daily email digest or subscribe in a RSS reader.In May of this year, Tembec was under fire for adding melamine as a binding agent in livestock, fish, and shrimp feed. The feed was used for both domestic use and was exported to 13 other countries. A recall on the […]

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