February 26, 2008 — /FDA/ — FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations announced that two Chinese nationals and the businesses they operate, along with a U.S. company and its president and chief executive officer, were indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 6, 2008. The indictments are for their roles in a scheme to import into the United States products they claimed were wheat gluten. The products were contaminated with melamine and used to make pet food.
A federal grand jury in Kansas City, MO returned a 26-count indictment against:
- Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co., LTD. (XAC), a Chinese firm that processes and exports plant proteins to the United States
- Mao Linzhun, a Chinese national who is the owner and manager of XAC
- Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products, Arts and Crafts I/E Co. LTD. (SSC), a Chinese export broker that exports products from China to the United States
- Chen Zhen Hao, president of SSC and a Chinese national
Also charged in a separate, but related, 27-count indictment were:
- ChemNutra, Inc., a Las Vegas corporation that buys food and food components from China to sell to U.S. companies in the food industry
- ChemNutra owner Sally Qing Miller
- Chem Nutra owner Stephen S. Miller, husband of Sally Qing Miller
ChemNutra contracted with SSC to purchase food-grade wheat gluten, according to the indictment. SSC then entered into a separate contract with XAC to supply the wheat gluten it needed to fulfill its contract with ChemNutra.
Among the charges against all seven defendants are: delivering adulterated food that contained melamine into interstate commerce, and introduction of a misbranded food into interstate commerce.
The indictments allege that more than 800 tons of purported wheat gluten, valued at nearly $850,000, were imported into the United States between November 6, 2006, and February 21, 2007.
Melamine can be used to create products such as plastics, cleaning products, glues, inks, and fertilizers. Melamine has no approved use as an ingredient in human or animal food in the United States.
Wheat gluten is a natural protein derived from wheat or wheat flour, which is extracted to yield a powder with high protein content. Pet food manufacturers often use wheat gluten as a thickener or binding agent in the manufacture of certain types of pet food.
On March 15, 2007, a pet food manufacturer alerted FDA to the deaths of 14 cats and dogs. The animals were reported to have developed kidney failure after eating pet food that had been manufactured with the purported wheat gluten.