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.
–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
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?
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.