Crystalized Kidneys: What Melamine does to pets

I continue to be astonished that the Melamine Issue has such a low profile on Television and Newspapers. Maybe it’s because having Diabetes at such a young age has made me acutely conscious and concerned with protecting my kidneys. But it seems to me that a lot of questions aren’t being asked. And when they’re asked, they aren’t necessarily answered.

And even when asked and answered — who’s reporting it? Here’s some of what I learned today:
From ScienceDaily:

Pet Food Recall: How Melamine Impairs Kidney Function

Science Daily — Scientists at the University of Guelph have made a chemical discovery that may explain how pets in the United States and Canada were affected by chemical contaminants discovered in recently recalled pet food products.

Perry Martos and colleagues in the Agriculture and Food Laboratory at Guelph’s Laboratory Services have found that melamine and cyanuric acid can react with one another to form crystals that may impair kidney function. Tests conducted at the University’s Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) and elsewhere have identified these crystal-like substances in the kidneys and urine of affected animals.


…Tests conducted at the University’s Laboratory and in the United States have identified the compounds as contaminants in gluten used to make a variety of pet food and treat products.

Their findings provide evidence of the possible link of these compounds and the deaths of pets exposed to contaminated food.

“This is a significant finding,” said John Melichercik, director of Analytical Services in Lab Services. “We knew these two compounds had been implicated, but because neither seemed sufficiently toxic on its own, it was unclear how they might have been involved.”

And from the May 1, 2007 FDA Press Conference:

First of all, to deal with the hog issue. I want to emphasize that we still have no evidence of harm to humans associated with any of the processed products from the swine that were fed the contaminated feeds.

And we believe that the likelihood of illness from such exposure is extremely low. We also have no evidence of reports of harm to the swine themselves. One of the reasons we believe that this (effect) is very low on humans is due to the dilution effect insomuch that the hog feed is only made up of – to a small degree (off) of the contaminated pet food.

Further the melamine is excreted in the – from a hog in urine. It is not known to bioaccumulate in the animals.

At least, it’s not known to accumulate in animals we eat — only those we love. I guess.

It doesn’t seem real scientific to me, though — to just stop there…. So, moving on (more from the Press Conference):

Secondly, to move on to the other press release, we did release another press release jointly yesterday with USDA that was related to poultry. And it was essentially in this situation, contaminated wheat gluten that was used as a portion of chicken feed on some farms in Indiana.

I should point out that it was rice protein concentrate that was (the trouble along) on the swine; but the poultry, it was the contaminated wheat gluten. Same situation that we had seen with the pet food. These are just – it’s the same pet food, a portion of which was used to make the hog food.


And our sense is that the investigation will lead to additional farms where contaminated feed may have been fed to either animals or poultry. But that will come as the data and the investigation continues. Currently, there are six states involved with the swine part of the investigation; that’s California, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah.

And then as you heard, Indiana is the primary state of interest regarding poultry that were fed the contaminated feed.


(Marian Falco – questioning): Well the question I had was, how many people may have eaten some of these chicken products? Your press release yesterday was very way vague. It was
processed but how much? How many people may have consumed this?

You told us about 350 hogs in California and Kansas and Utah, but how many chickens are we talking about? How many people might be out there?

(Kenneth Petersen – answering): Okay. Well we, of course, have to remember, we haven’t found any evidence to indicate consumption of this is unsafe.

Yesterday, when we identified the farms of interest, so now we’re at – we’re looking at the farms and then what was determined was the poultry were fed this feed several months ago.
And so given the short lifespan of chickens when they grow out, those have already gone into the food chain. And so we would need to look at what individual plans they may have gone, too?

But given those other consumption factors that Dr. Acheson indicated, that’s not a feature of our investigation today. It’s trying to find how many people, you know, consumed chicken from these individual farms.

As you indicated, chicken, of course, is an important part of the American diet. It’s not necessarily something that people are going to eat everyday and on an ongoing basis.

So because we don’t see any health issue because of the consumption factors, how many people could have eaten infected chicken or not infected, but the chicken that consumed the contaminated feed or even pork that was consumed. It’s not the feature of our investigations today.

Ah, NICE — The FDA thinks we don’t eat enough chicken or pork for this to affect OUR kidneys. So, the number of people exposed to this melamine contamination isn’t an issue for them.

I wonder if the Center for Disease Control Agrees? (Nothing on their website menitions the issue)

How about the National Institutes of Health? — A search on their site shows a ton of Medline hits on the Pet Food Recall and the spread to chicken and hog feed. But, the articles I saw only quote the FDA assurances (above) that humans won’t be affected by this.

Honestly, I’m not over reacting.  Aside from trying not to eat food that comes from China, we haven’t made any drastic changes to our diet (although I wonder about all that chicken we eat.)  Still, I think it’s important to be informed.

What an irony it would be if I focused so long and hard on controlling my diabetes only to have them crystalize from melamine poisoning.

This entry was posted in Contaminated Food, Melamine.


  1. FARfetched May 4, 2007 at 4:23 pm #

    There’s always vegetarian. ;) I guess it would be tough getting a veg diet together, though, that would be beneficial to a diabetic.

    I wonder why they used the word “infected” though – I think “contaminated” would have been more accurate. The question is, how much chicken are we talking about, and how widely distributed was it? (A local distribution, this time, would be the cause for concern since a few people could get a large dose.)

    The kidney connection is scary: Mrs. Fetched has only one kidney (staghorn stone got the other), and The Boy is diabetic too. He’s doing a pretty half-fast job of talking care of himself, as usual… and he’s been dropped off our insurance since he’s 19 & not in college. We’re going to get him on Medicare, for what it’s worth, but I hope he doesn’t need anything major for the next while.

  2. katiebird May 4, 2007 at 4:31 pm #

    I hate the for-profit health care industry. It makes people like your son virtually uninsurable from birth. There aren’t really any alternatives for him, are there?

    It sounds like Melamine contamination is like Ice Nine, doesn’t it?

  3. FARfetched May 4, 2007 at 8:57 pm #

    Heck, if he had his act together & was in college (like he should have been), he’d still be on our insurance. He’s pretty much stuck with Medicaid because he doesn’t have a steady job, let alone one with benefits.

    LOL about Ice Nine – wanna play footsie? :-D

  4. katiebird May 4, 2007 at 9:26 pm #

    About the college health insurance thing, that’s another example of tying insurance to a job. I think if we want to keep covering our children (or parents or siblings or best friends) we should be able to.

    Some kids just aren’t ready for college straight out of high school — for all sorts of reasons. But denying them access to health care, especially when they often have family willing to cover them, is unfair.

    I’m missing all sorts of references tonight – I’m afraid that I don’t get the relationship to Ice Nine and footsie. Although I’m always HAPPY to play it!

  5. FARfetched May 5, 2007 at 12:45 pm #

    Oh, the footsie comment goes with the Ice Nine comment — it’s from the same Vonnegut book (the name of which escapes me at the moment).