U.S., Chinese Companies Indicted in Pet Food Case
Thursday, February 7, 2008
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb. 6 -- A U.S. company and two Chinese businesses were indicted Wednesday in a case related to tainted pet food that may have killed thousands of animals last year and raised worries about products made in China.
ChemNutra Inc. of Las Vegas and the Chinese firms Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development and Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products Arts and Crafts I/E were charged in two separate but related indictments.
The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City said the Food and Drug Administration received consumer reports suggesting 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs died after eating food contaminated with the toxic chemical melamine.
U.S. Attorney John F. Wood said authorities have not been able to substantiate all those reports, but "as for pet deaths, we think it's in the thousands."
One of the indictments charges the Chinese firms Xuzhou Anying Biologic of Jiangsu Province and Suzhou Textiles of Suzhou with 13 felony counts of introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce and 13 felony counts of introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce.
The indictment also names Mao Linzhun, Xuzhou's owner, and Zhen Hao Chen, Suzhou's president.
ChemNutra and company owners Stephen S. Miller and his wife, Sally Quing Miller, were charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce, 13 misdemeanor counts of introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce and one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The indictments allege that export broker Suzhou Textiles mislabeled 880 tons of tainted wheat gluten made by Xuzhou to avoid inspection in China. Suzhou then did not properly declare the contaminated product it shipped to the United States as a material to be used in food, the indictment says.
The indictment says Xuzhou added the melamine to artificially boost the protein content of the gluten to meet the requirements specified in Suzhou's contract with ChemNutra.
"The defendants intended to deceive the Chinese government in addition to consumers," Wood said.
According to the indictment, ChemNutra picked up the melamine-tainted product, then sold it to makers of various brands of pet foods. Wood said that prosecutors are not alleging that the Millers and ChemNutra knew that the product was toxic, only that they were aware the product had been shipped into the United States under false pretenses and failed to notify their customers.
Steve Stern, a spokesman for ChemNutra, said the Millers "deny the allegations by the Justice Department in the strongest of terms and look forward to the opportunity to prove their innocence at trial."
Wood said the Chinese government is cooperating with the investigation and shut down Xuzhou last year.
Wood also said that Chinese authorities took Linzhun into custody at the time his company was shut down but that he did not know if Linzhun was still in custody.
The United States does not have an extradition treaty with China.