Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thanks For The Melamine!

"May you live in interesting times." My handler taught me the Chinese for that in the mountains somewhere north of Shinhua. Instead, maybe I should've asked the Chinese phrase for, "Where is the nearest dialysis machine?"

Anyhow, melamine certainly is interesting. And it's coming to a meal near you. One your pets have eaten. One we've most likely ingested in any number of foods in the past 6-7 months. We and our pets live in the same houses and are served by the same loving, caring Global Corporate Entities.

Melamine's chemical formula is C3H6N6. Similar to cyanamide, basically it's a complex trimer cyanide molecule with three amino acids hanging on it. It is formed in the bodies of mammals after they have consumed and metabolized cryomazine, a pesticide. Plants can also metabolize cryomazine into melamine, and its industrial applications include polymer formation processes and adding it to resins as a fire retardant. So it's really not too surprising why Lord Cat was barfing up blood along with his Eukanuba, flirting with kidney failure, and generally looking like he was about to die. This last point about the fire retardant may not explain why so many people had difficulty incinerating their pets after their food killed them.

I'm supposed to know a thing or two about capitalism, supply chains, queing theory, profit, shareholder adoration, the use of yarrow sticks in corporate boardrooms, how to read the entrails of spread-sheets, and generally how to worship the Horned God of Optimization and the Fertility Goddess of Capacity Utilization. Many people who rely on the outmoded quaintnesses of common sense may ask me, "Why would North American pet food companies buy wheat gluten from China?" Simple: because it is cheaper to ship wheat grown in North American fields to China, have a NORINCO corporation process it into flour or wheat gluten, put it into bags, and ship it back across the ocean to pet food processing plants. Having melamine in the wheat actually helped it win contracts, because the extra amino acids made it look in tests not like a deadly compound, but like it was more protein-rich. A better product at a lower price. And the compound is very common in the Chinese food-producing system.

So, what has the FDA done? Well, 50,000 swine have been quarantined in Illinois. I haven't been eating much pork for awhile anyway. Also, the Chinese wheat gluten was actually simply wheat flour adulterated with melamine, not wheat gluten. It was sold to many fish and animal farms in the US and Canada. The FDA can't say to which farms owned by which corporations in which states. That's ok, though. I haven't been eating much farmed Salmon lately. Or bread with flour in it. Or waffles. Or fortune cookies. Plus, the FDA thinks melamine is not a "residue of concern" to begin with. Phew! Glad we got that concern over with. I'll tell Lord Cat to either keep chowing his pet food down or he'd better start catching some birds on the back lawn.

Finally, we've got nothing at all to worry about. Even if we had, the only thing that matters is that Big Business is able to make money, because that's what makes the world go 'round and engenders the competition which makes everything wonderful. The dance around the corporate May Pole is right around the corner. Do you know who the sacrifice is yet?

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