KCUR News
4:30 am
Thu February 7, 2008

Pet Food Recall Leads to Indictments in KC

KANSAS CITY, MO – Early last spring dogs and cats around the country got sick, and about 4000 died, after eating canned food laced with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, counter tops and cleansers. That triggered one of the biggest pet food recalls in U.S. history and federal indictments against three companies on Wednesday.

A company called Xuzhou Anying was charged with mixing melamine in wheat gluten as a cheap way to make it look like the food had higher protein levels. Another firm, Suzhou Textiles slipped some 800 metric tons of the tainted gluten past Chinese inspectors into the U.S. market.

"In today's global economy, crimes that occur half way around the globe can seriously impact our lives," John Wood said. Wood is the U.S. Attorney for Western Missouri.

The American company indicted is ChemNutra, which is based in Nevada. It is charged with distributing the tainted wheat gluten, knowing it was never properly inspected. ChemNutra spokesman Steve Stern says the company is innocent.

"This was an issue of a criminal in China, who was in fact indicted and sent to jail for this act," Stern said.

The U.S. has no extradition treaty with China, so it's unlikely anyone from China will actually face trial in the United States. In the meantime, U.S. pet food makers and retailers, like Wal-Mart, face as many as 20,000 plaintiffs in class action suits spawned by the recall.