64 Food and Drug Law Journal 313-334 (2009).
In mid-March 2007, Ontario-based Menu Foods Inc. started recalling its “cuts and gravy” style pet food, after receiving information that pets that had eaten the product had fallen ill. Within a week, the company was inundated with complaints and expressions of concern from about 200,000 of its customers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined in late March 2007 that the most likely culprit in the illness, and in some cases death of the pet animals, was contaminated wheat gluten, a vegetable protein imported from China. One of the FDA identified contaminants was an industrial chemical called melamine. Reports of widespread adulteration of animal feed with melamine in China raised concern of similar contamination in the human food supply. In response, on April 27, 2007, FDA announced the detention of all vegetable proteins imported from China, whether for animal or for human consumption. But, FDA’s action came too late. On May 1, 2007, officials from FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicated that between 2.5 to 3 million people in the United States had consumed chickens that had been fed with contaminated vegetable proteins imported from China.
The 2007 pet food recall incident provided an ominous early warning that, unless the international community can come up with a better food safety mechanism, more such food contamination disasters could happen in the future.