Almost a year after tainted pet food killed and sickened thousands of dogs and cats, indictments were finally handed down yesterday against three companies, two in China and one Las Vegas based company. Xuzhou Anying Biologic Technology Development Co.; Suzhou Textiles, Silk, Light Industrial Products Arts and Crafts I/E Co.; and Las Vegas-based ChemNutra Inc. were indicted.

One of the indictments charges Xuzhou Anying Biologic, located in China’s Jiangsu Province, and Suzhou Textiles, in Suzhou, China, 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 Sally Quing Miller, a Chinese national, and her husband, Stephen S. 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 Suzhou Textiles, an export broker, mislabeled 800 metric tons of tainted wheat gluten manufactured by Xuzhou to avoid inspection in China. Suzhou then did not properly declare the contaminated product it shipped to the U.S. as a material to be used in food, the indictment says.

It also says the shipment was falsely declared to the Chinese government in a way that would avoid a mandatory inspection of the company’s plants.

“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 at a port of entry in Kansas City, then sold it to makers of various brands of pet foods. The indictment alleges that Xuzhou added the melamine to artificially boost the protein content of the gluten to meet the requirements specified in Suzhou’s contract with ChemNutra.

Wood said adding the melamine, which would allow it to pass chemical inspections for protein content, was cheaper than actually adding protein to the gluten.

He added that prosecutors aren’t alleging that the Millers and ChemNutra knew that the product was toxic, only that they were aware the product had been shipped into the U.S. under false pretenses and failed to notify their customers. (Yahoo! News)

Although the US Attorney’s office in Kansas City been unable to fully substantiate the reports, the FDA did receive information that more than 1950 cats and 2200 dogs died due to the tainted food. U.S. Attorney John F. Wood did say “as for pet deaths, we think it’s in the thousands.”

“Millions of pet owners remember the anxiety of last year’s pet food recall. These indictments are the product of an investigation that began in the wake of that recall,” Wood said.

Of course ChemNutra is denying any wrongdoing but the Chinese government is said to be cooperating.

The U.S. doesn’t have an extradition treaty with China, meaning there’s no legal way to force China to hand over Linzhun or Chen, Wood said. But federal authorities have alerted Interpol and other law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for them if they leave China.

What the final outcome of this will be is anyone’s guess but at least for now, the government looks like it is trying to hold someone accountable. It’s a step in the right direction. Sadly the those who last pets and who are still dealing with sick pets, it’s far too little far too late!

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