Chinese Frequently Cut Pet Food With Melamine

The melamine thought to be the cause of dozens of pet deaths is routinely added as a filler to food in China, New York Times reports.

While adding no nutritional content, the additives high nitrogen levels makes a food look like it’s chock full of protein. And it’s certainly cheaper than actual food.

In China, they make melamine from boiled coal. Mmm, yummy coal! Makes kitty’s fur lustrous and eyes so shiny! — BEN POPKEN

Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in China [NYT]
(Photo: Ariana Lindquist)


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  1. OMGLAZERS says:

    Not surprised in the least. This may be a cultural barrier to break but in many countries in Asia, pets are not valued highly. They’re considered at best, a rich man’s luxury or at worst, a pest.

    It’s understandable why cats and dogs would be eaten, along with horses in these countries. You have a choice of feeding yourself and your family, or an animal.

    It seems weird to us, but i’m sure that this kind of thing as shady as it seems here, is passable there since it’s for animals, not humans.

    I’m not agreeing with their practice. They pretty much lied and hid it as far as I can tell, and the manufacturer or company should be held responsible, but they didn’t do it out of malice so much as negligence or sheer ‘pft, its pet food!’ attitude.

  2. Xkeeper says:

    And this is why relying on shady foreign companies to do your bidding is generally bad. See also every outsourced component of any company ever.

  3. hubris says:

    So why now all of a sudden? Why is there a huge rash of animals getting sick all of a sudden? Did it just start getting used in pet food that is being consumed outside China?

    And if they’ve been feeding it to animals there for years, why didn’t they get sick as well? Or is it just animals that were slaughtered anyway, so no one noticed the difference?

    There must be more to this.

  4. cjc says:

    I’m under the impression that mainland China’s current food quality standards are just this side of Upton Sinclair. This, plus cultural differences on what’s food, what are pets good for, etc., is colliding with rich world food quality expectations, where instances of food contamination that affects a few hundred people are sufficiently rare that they make national headlines.

    These types of collisions will sort itself out in the next few years. Rich country consumers will demand standards on food imports, even for “pft, pet food”. Note that this will continue to happen, even after China does more to QA its food processing. What will we see when, say, Africa starts to modernize and export its agriculture?

  5. zibby says:

    Seriously, you gotta love the Chinese – they do whatever the hell they want. Poison/food? Hey, what’s the dif? “License?” No speakee!

    We’ll be takin’ it, too, so long as they finance our idiotic spending habits.

  6. ElizabethD says:

    Yeah, what Zibby said above. And China is the country that in a decade (or some figure like that) will be the largest economy in the world? Pass the poison dumplings plz.

  7. Pelagius says:

    @ElizabethD: Pass the poison dumplings

    And the soy sauce made from human hair, too.

  8. SadSam says:

    Good thing we have gov. inspectors that test imported food ingredients to catch poison that will be added to pet food, people food or pet food fed to people food (cattle). Oops – we don’t have those inspectors and therein lies the problem.

  9. paco says:

    @omerhi: I get the idea that these problems may have existed for a while, and that animals may have died of kidney failure prematurely for a while. My guess is that it just surfaced now because one company found that its food caused several suspicious deaths–and the news leaked.

  10. exkon says:

    So how did China EVER get to host the Olympics?

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    Simple solution: feed samples to every “government isn’t the solution to problems, government IS the problem” types’ families. If their kids make it to school, great! If the lil’ princesses and peewee league stars keel over, noses bleeding, bellies swelling, and kidneys failing, whoops. Time to write a really harsh letter!

    This is one more notch in the Fair Trade, Not Free Trade arsenal.

    Personally, I think that we should ban (or threaten to) ALL food trade from China until they get a first-world-standards safety regime set up. Gods knows the US and the EU make enough food. It’s the only thing that will push the Chinese to do anything.

  12. phrygian says:

    @paco: That’s what I’m worried about. I fed all three of my cats a brand of food that was on the “tainted” list (Nutro Natural packets). Luckily, I didn’t feed them much of the wet food, but the damage might already be done.

    I no longer trust most of the major brands of pet food and am looking only at specialty/organic brands with no wheat gluten. Right now, the cats are eating Castor & Pollux brand. They like it well enough to rip open the bag in the middle of the night, so it might be the brand we stick with.

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    A Chinese feed producer explained “that melamine used in pet food would probably not be harmful. “Pets are not like pigs or chickens,” he said casually, explaining that they can afford to eat less protein. “They don’t need to grow fast.”

    Good point. You know, humans too – they have eighty years to catch up!

  14. oldhat says:

    Welcome to the free market, where priority #1 is to make money, lots of it and fast.

    I guess that means EVERYTHING else comes second? Corporations listen to stockholders and by law have to give them the best profits they can.

    What could possibly go wrong when everyone’s main goal in life is to make money?

  15. So how did China EVER get to host the Olympics?

    It was a close-run thing, since the Chinese don’t have anything like the really sophisticated, 21st-century corruption knowhow that the magnificent bastards in the International Olympic Committee expect to see from today’s host nations.

    Still, somehow China got their artless Communist act together and managed to out-whore France, out-drug Turkey and out-bribe Japan.

    (Canada was never really in the race, of course.)

  16. LAGirl says:

    what?? no kitty picture?

  17. Jason.Falkner says:

    Melamine? Is this the same substance that picnic/unbreakable dinnerware is made out of?

  18. Landru says:

    Have a look at the ingredients in a loaf of bread next time you’re at the supermarket.

    Guess where that wheat gluten comes from?

  19. shdwsclan says:

    In america slaves are treated worse than human slaves.

    Im just taking the example from the family in florida that had a mexican slave that had to sleep on rug on the kitchen floor while the dog had his own doggy bed.
    And….they hit her with the newspaper….and the didnt touch the dog….

  20. coelacanth says:

    I have to disagree with the characterization of this as “negligence,” since melanine — a coal derivative — is added specifically to make the food appear rich in protein, which it is not. To my untrained ears, this sounds like “fraud.”

  21. jaewon223 says:

    The problem here (other than the contaminated food) is that we are purchasing it from them. How about companies stop outsourcing and start using what is available here. It might be more expensive but it can’t be as bad as finding out that the food you were using to make pet food is poisonous. Companies must be losing a lot of money as a result.

    If we kept it all domestic we would be able to find where the food came from specifically instead of just blaming an entire nation..

  22. CatLady says:


    Two reasons:

    University of Guelph discovered that the cyanuric acid detected in some of the food reacts with melamine and causes crystals that block animals’ kidneys very quickly. Cyanuric acid is one of the stages that the ingredients of melamine go through during production, so it was probably really crappy (poorly made) melamine which caused what we are seeing now.

    Bloggers got their hands on it and a handful of sites have refused to let the story be marginalized. The number of “16 dead” that the FDA would prefer that the mainstream media uses isn’t going to fly with thousands of enraged pet owners all talking to each other and realizing the scope of the problem that the FDA prefers not to admit.

    And yes, I think it’s been going on a while, probably years. But a handful of dead animals here and there sound like a bad batch of food, and before now, no one connected the dots to realize the consumer fraud that was going on.

  23. MonsieurBon says:

    @OMGLAZERS: I don’t know that it’s as much about survival as it is what’s culturally acceptable. Don’t most other industrialized nations eat horse meat?

    It’s also a lot easier to keep cats and dogs around for food than some other animals.

    But people, have you ever READ the label on the dog or cat food you buy? Does it not say something like 5-15% ASH content? Ash. Why are we surprised that some other filler is being used? Sure, it’s unfortunate that they were doing it without anyone’s knowledge, but by no means surprising.

  24. TechnoDestructo says:


    IIRC, the problem wasn’t that it was made from human hair, so much as the chemicals they used to break down the hair so that they could make soy sauce from it.

    I’m still wary of buying Chinese soy sauce.

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    Monsieur –

    Ash is neutral. Keep in mind that the SOLE reason they use melanine is that it skews testing equipment so that the food appears to have more protein than it actually does. It’s fraud, illegal for that use here and in the West for that reason.

    The fact that it is both common and legal in China indicates that we should ban all processed foods from there until they shape up.

  26. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    While adding no nutritional content, the additives high nitrogen levels makes a food look like it’s chock full of protein. And it’s certainly cheaper than actual food.

    Yes, that certainly does sound like fraud to me, and it’s explained in further detail in the article. So it’s obvious that Chinese companies knew about it..but did Menu foods? Is it a case of “Our Chinese suppliers are trying to commit fraud” or is it a case of “Shhhhh….it’s our little secret…let’s commit fraud together!” between the Chinese source and the Canadian or American manufacturer. Either one is sleazy, although I’d like to think that the highly developed US and Canada have slightly higher standards than emerging-industrial China.

  27. swisher59 says:

    this is what happens when american companies try to cut costs buy outsourcing production to countries where the average annual income is around US$300.
    are you really surprised that people living in poverty try to earn as much as they can by resorting to less-than-savory methods?

    @omglazers: you hit the nail on the head. pets are a luxury everywhere outside of the US. asians eating cats/dogs/horses is a myth though. it’s as rare as french eating horses. which, yes, some still do.

    @zibby: no speakee? nice. why didn’t you just go, ‘ching chong ching chong’ a la rosie?

  28. ahwannabe says:

    we’re talking about a country that doesn’t even care about human rights. Is this really a surpirse?