Itchmo liveblogged the 2pm Eastern FDA press conference. This is not a transcript, but a report of the event.
Here is a summary of today’s FDA press conference: (Transcript now available)
Fish and Fish Feed: The contaminated fish feed has been recalled. Two commercial fish farms had the contaminated fish feed: one in Hawaii and one in Washington state. Both went through testing of their fish and both farms came back negative for melamine. Fish feed was not able to be tested because it was all consumed. For the hatcheries, the fish are tiny and the feed has been recalled, so the fish are not being fed the contaminated fish feed and since the fish are tiny, there should be no health risk. There is no import alert on the fish as of yet.
Import Alert/Domestic Assignment: Since April 27, 46 shipments of vegetable protein concentrate have been detained. None of these shipments have been proven to be melamine free, so the FDA is still detaining the shipments until they are satisfied. With the domestic protein assignment, investigators have gone into companies that have received vegetable protein concentrate from China and collected samples to test for melamine. They collected 63 samples from various states: AZ, CA, CT, IA, MN, NH. No positive results were found. 37 tested negative, 23 are pending, and 3 could not be analyzed (these three were a mixture of rare dog chews and gel capsules, so it could not be tested).
Customs and Border Protection: CBP is undertaking testing of wheat, corn gluten and rice protein concentrate. They began to test samples from China on 4/30 and on 5/2, they expanded testing to all countries. They want to amend the sampling process, so that there can be a random sampling protocol.
Investigation in China: Not too much was said about the investigation in China and says that specifics cannot be discussed. They said that it was a normal amount of time for the investigators to be able to enter into China because there are certain protocols and they don’t have the authority in a foreign arena.
FDA will be looking into other ingredients that should be reviewed or tested.
A full report of the FDA conference after the jump.
Here is the panel for today’s press conference:
-David Acheson, M.D., assistant commissioner for food protection, Office of the Commissioner, FDA
-Curt Mann, D.V.M., deputy undersecretary for food safety, USDA
-Vera Adams, executive director, Commercial Targeting and Enforcement, CBP
-Stephen Sundlof, D.V.M., Ph.D., director, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA
-Michael Rogers, director, Division of Field Investigations, Office of Regulatory Affairs, FDA
-Michael Herndon, press officer, Office of Public Affairs, FDA
Acheson: wants to update us on 1) info on status of fish farms and hatcheries; 2) inspections and investigations with import and domestic surveillance
General overview - fish feed has been recalled and the wheat gluten that had been received from China is from the same company that led to pet food recalls — not much harm with melamine tainted feed
2 are commercial fish farms- 1 in Hawaii and 1 in WA
Hawaii: testing done by a private lab with an endorsed FDA process — testing of the fish from the fish farm have been negative for melamine- result the company has started harvesting fish again
WA: they have also tested fish by FDA and they have proven to be negative for melamine- was not able to test any of the fish food because it was all consumed.
Hatcheries: fish are tiny and the feed has been recalled, so they are not being fed the fish food and since they are tiny fish, there should be no risk to public health — not going directly into commerce
Inspection- Import Alert: since 4/27, 46 shipments of veg protein from China have been detained- none of these shipments have been proven to be melamine free so they are still being detained until FDA is satisfied
Domestic protein assignment: going on for a couple of weeks of manufacturers that received veg protein from China- investigators have gone into companies and raised awareness and collected samples for melamine- collected 63 samples from variety of states:AZ, CA, CT, IA, MN, NH- no positive result of melamine -37 were negative, 23 pending, and 3 could not be analyzed (mixture of rare dog chews and gel capsules, so could not be tested)
-CBP is undertaking testing of wheat, corn gluten and rice protein concentrate- sampling samples from China on 4/30 and then on 5/2, expanded to all countries — analyzing samples for melamine
-since beg. of operation, lab analysis is 80% complete and has found no melamine or other melamine related compounds. since large % has been tested, eval operation if sampling process can be amended and have a random sampling protocol– continue to work with FDA
Boston Globe: what you make of the Chinese govt statement that the US shouldn’t take any stringent action against any other suppliers than the other 2 that have already been invest?
Acheson: the import alert began with a problem in wheat gluten and melamine and expanded to other veg protein conc - we clearly believe that this is the right action- our primary mission is to safeguard public health in the US
BG: the various fish tested negative- are they clearly negative or are there traces?
Acheson: the test only tests for a certain low level- it is below the limit of detection using our sensitive testing.
Petconnection: FDA is sampling pet food- how many samples? any positive? results?
Acheson: not aware of how many we have tested- not aware that any came back positive- don’t know specific answer- the testing is still ongoing
USA Today: is customs sampling the shipments that the FDA is detaining?
CBP: we are targeting using our own systems within our scope of this operation
USA Today: who is the importer for cereal byproducts?
A: not prepared to answer that question– all suspect sources go back to the 2 Chinese companies
CBS News: don’t understand about last question on if custom is detaining the product? How do you prove if the product doesn’t have melamine?
CBP: both CBP and FDA can detain products- we can put on hold independently to FDA- we are sampling shipments and sending to the lab and we reporting those results to the FDA- then the FDA can review the results
Acheson: shipments will remain on detention until we get the report that they are free from melamine - if shippers use their own testing- their testing has to be validated.
Q: how many shipments?
A: 46 shipments have been detained and none have been released.
LA Times: those 46 have been detained, how many? are they just being tested for melamine?
A: 46 of 46. any veg protein conc from China has been detained. we are testing for melamine and melamine related compound.
WGN: it took several weeks for invest to go to China- there was diff getting visas and everything was cleared out of the facilities. how assured can we be that there aren’t others that are involved? how helpful have the Chinese been? it has taken awhile to get answers and we don’t have answers. how assured that veg proteins can be safe?
A: with regard to the time, it’s not simple to get an invest from SF to China- certain protocols- not slower than normal. it certainly could be going on at other manuf which is why we have an import alert- that is why nothing can be imported if it is proven to be negative
Q: where are you with those discussions of invest?
A: can’t give you any specifics
WA Post: how many suppliers produced these 46 shipments? CBP have selected many samples and are they from China?
A: 46 shipments - only veg protein conc from China- all 46 have been detained- in order for them to move forward, we have to receive info that they are neg for melamine- we can’t analyze if we’re concerned with the results- as of now, none of 46 can be moved on.
CBP: we are taking samples from all countries: corn gluten, wheat gluten and rice protein conc
Market Watch: it may be going on in other countries- what if fish have been being fed this to China over a long period of time
A: we have been testing fish for melamine- no import alert are in the fish
Q: how does melamine and cyanuric acid come into a solid
A: melamine and cya. acid in there- add the two together- don’t believe the risk assessment has taken into account of the syngerism- haven’t demonstrate of synergism
Q: the Chinese said that no sign of the chemical has been found- the FDA has expressed satisfaction of quality control
A: the invest have returned and I have not seen the report- the FDA are continuing the import alert until we are satisfied that this is under control
Q: is the statement is accurate or not accurate
A: we have continued concerns from imports from China- with our import alert
Q: how long did it take for the chinese to get there? do you think the Chinese took any concealing during that period.
A: we don’t know what happened before we get there. we don’t have the same authority in a foreign arena than in the domestic arena- these products aren’t under our jurisdicition - we did meet with the HSIQU- the 2 companies aren’t making that product anymore- having further dialog of quality product that is coming out of China- that doesn’t negate what we are doing now
Tribune: quantify the 46 shipments in tonnage? what % of veg. protein conc grown in our country and what % we import?
A: don’t know the tonnage. don’t know off the top of my head
Q: any update on the fifth contaminant?
A: I’m not sure what you are leading to-
Q: redacted document?
A: fifth contaminant- there is a screen that we utilize- standard screen- covers a range of chemicals- we redacted it because it was of a sensitive nature
Baltimore Sun: the fish in the hatchery from China are still being held?
Q: random sampling? what were you doing before the random sampling?
A: we were doing a deliberate target than a random sampling- some of the all other countries doing a statisically automated testing- still in talks
Congress Daily: can you say if we are working with other countries than China?
A: several years ago, we worked with the Mexican govt in regards to cantaloupe- we gave them advice, involves site visits to help produce a safer product- it worked- continued to test periodically- then when there was a problem with salmonella, we worked with them again.
Q:when will it be wrapped up with China?
A: not sure when we will wrap up
Bloomberg: how long do you plan on testing these products? is there a deadline?
A: the import alert explains what needs to be done to get off the import alert. there are various criteria that are very lengthy.
Q: could you go back and talk about the dog food?
A: we are collecting samples- collected 63 samples
NPR: is FDA collecting the review of other food ingreds? what other additives that be targeted?
A: that’s a really good question- we thought what other ingreds or products that we should be thinking of- our testing is based on risk and using the conventional way of thinking like wheat gluten wouldn’t be high risk- this situation made us think in a different direction- what other ingreds might be broadly used or that we import of- we are looking into it
Q: how do you begin that process
A: we look at the ingreds and linking with what is used widely
Reuters: 46 shipments- can you walk me through how the testing has been done- done in bulk, bags?
A: there is no specific strategy- company goes through a reasonable testing process and present it to the FDA, and we review and if we are not satisfied, we say no.
Q: how many tests per shipment per load? is this protein in bulks or bags?
A: it can come in any kind of form- we’re not going to tell them the specific number of tests-
CNN: puzzled that you can test for melamine related compounds in fish flesh but not in chicken or pork flesh? are there technical reasons for this? what is the working hypothesis?
A: initially, we were testing the feed and the raw ingred. like wheat gluten and rice protein conc.- we measure melamine, cy. acid, and 2 other chemicals related to melamine- we were able to measure our tests to measure all 4 of those. what the lab has been trying to do has been trying to measure those all 4 in animal tissue. it’s much harder to measure in the tissue versus the feed- working to develop the cyan. acid part. working with muscle and tissue samples is difficult to test in wheat gluten
Q: can you use the other half of the FDA (like pharm. companies) to test? the pharm companies have better equipment than universities- are you outreaching to larger labs?
A: our research and the group that deals with this- it’s not just a food group- the expertise is all across the board- one of the difficulties is handling food matrices- a lot of faith that our team has been looking everywhere for help- it’s something that we can follow up and we can pass this suggestion along.
End of press conference.