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3 firms, executives indicted in pet-food case

Article

National Report - 2/8/08 - A federal grand jury indicted two Chinese firms, an American firm and their principals on multiple counts related to tainted pet foods that sickened or killed perhaps thousands fo pets last year and triggered the largest pet-food recall in the nation's history, involving some 150 brands or about 1 percent of the total pet-food supply.

National Report - 2/8/08 - A federal grand jury indicted two Chinese firms, an American firm and their principals on multiple counts related to tainted pet foods that sickened or killed perhaps thousands of pets last year and triggered the largest pet-food recall in the nation's history, involving some 150 brands or about 1 percent of the total pet-food supply.

One of two indictments names Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co. LTD (XAC), a Chinese maker of plant proteins, and its owner-manager, Mao Linzhun; and Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products, Arts and Crafts, an export firm and its top executive, Chen Zhen Hoe.

It accuses both Chinese businesses and their leaders of 13 felony counts of distributing adulterated food, and 13 felony charges of distribution of falsely branded food.

The other indictment charges ChemNutra Inc., of Las Vegas, along with owners Sally Qing Miller and her husband, Stephen S. Miller with 27 felony counts of intentionally defrauding and misleading major pet-food manufacturers about tainted ingredients they imported and sold while allegedly knowing they were mislabeled.

Both indictments call for fines against the companies and jail time for the executives, but it was unclear whether the prosecution actually can enforce fines and/or extradite officials from China, under international law.

The ingredient, wheat gluten, was tainted with melamine, a man-made substance often used in making plastics and fertilizer. It can make pet food appear to have a higher protein content.

The tainted foods also contained cyanuric acid, possibly as a by-product. It was neither melamine nor cyanuric acid acting alone, but rather the combination of them that killed or sickened the animals, according to a veterinary toxicology study performed last year at the University of California-Davis.

ChemNutra imported the product between November 2006 and February 2007, receiving about 800 shipments at Kansas City, prosecutors say. A lengthly investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) largely focused there, and the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City brought the charges to a federal grand jury.

ChemNutra released a statement saying the company and the Millers deny all charges, had no knowledge of wrongdoing or intent to defraud and point out that the government isn't accusing its owners of knowing about the presence of melamine, but only of knowing the product was falsely labeled.

A spokesman for Suzhou Textiles said the company no longer ships food to the United States.

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