Possible Dangers with Imported Fish Food in 2018
Why is no one stepping in yet
With tainted pet food making the headlines again and again, many people have to wonder if any pet foods are really safe now days. From dog and cat foods to even fish food now – Now it seems that the chemical melamine has been detected in foods that killed thousands of American pets.
What is this now very famous chemical you ask? Melamine is a nitrogen-containing organic compound or waste product. It is made from coal and boi fuels and used for a variety of purposes including: meat glue, fertilizer, fire retardant, a “melmac” dishware polymer, and the cleaning magic behind “Magic Erasers” we all love so much to take off satins and clean walls.
Melamine bond of death and what the FDA says
Melamine [C(NH2)N]3, is a nitrogen-rich industrial compound used in the manufacture of plastics, flame-resistant products, and cleaning agents. It is not a legal food additive; however, it has been added to food products in order to falsely represent the amount of protein present, as protein level is often determined using simple, nonspecific nitrogen content assays. Melamine is not considered toxic alone at low doses; however, illnesses and deaths have been traced to exposure to melamine in the presence of cyanuric acid. The FDA legal maximum is 10µg/g in pet foods and still far above what is toxic to fish, but only 1µg/g or less in human foods so that is intresting as usual on the part of the FDA.
FDA permits a certain amount of cyanuric acid to be present in some non-protein nitrogen (NPN) additives used in animal feed and drinking water. Cyanuric acid has been used as NPN. For example, Archer Daniels Midland manufactures an NPN supplement for cattle, which contains biuret, triuret, cyanuric acid and urea.
Cyanuric acid 1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triol or (CNOH)3 is classified as “essentially nontoxic” However, when cyanuric acid is present together with melamine (which by itself is another low-toxicity substance according to FDA), it will form a insoluble and rather nephrotoxic complex in the liver.
Melamine and Cyanuric acid together are killers!
Now some of this is used in fish foods and some of the contaminated fish food was linked to the company, Tembec BTLSR Inc. in Toledo, Ohio. A product manufactured by Tembec, Aquabond, was found to contain the melamine. Aquabond is a binding agent that the company HBH Pet Products used to make their pelleted foods for fish and shrimp sold in many outlets across the world. Tembec did admit to adding the melamine in order to enhance the binding potential of the pelleted foods stating that a lot of fish food company’s do and it is common practice now days. Despite this seemingly useful info and openness of some company’s when asked, the FDA prohibits the presence of melamine of any concentration in pet food. A second source of contamination was linked to wheat gluten of Chinese-origin laced with melamine. This was imported to Canada via ChemNutra where it was incorporated into fish-meal and then sent on to the United States.
Other contaminated pet feeds were linked to a Canadian company, Menu Foods, which incorporated the impure gluten into over 100+ different brand name pet foods. The melamine-containing feed caused kidney failure in dogs and cats. This was surprising find to those researching the deaths since melamine was previously thought to be a rather benign material and not very toxic. It is now thought that it is likely that melamine is serving as a marker of the presence of some other toxic chemical. The suspected identity of that chemical was cyanuric acid, a metabolic by-product of melamine which is often used to chlorinate swimming pools and keep sponges’ algae free. It too, interestingly enough is a rather non-toxic material on its own. The disastrous consequences seemed to only occur when the two compounds are found together and they form a bond. Cyanuric acid and melamine are capable of hydrogen bonding with one another. This bonding allows for the formation of crystals which are highly stable and capable of accumulating in the kidneys and disrupting kidney function in animals. Such crystals were, in fact, found in the urine of affected animals.
The fake labels and why
Unfortunately, the effects of melamine on fish are not well documented yet. It would be very difficult to directly link specific fish deaths to the contaminated food without a lab. However, some of us that do have labs suspect that melamine may cause renal failure in fish just as in cats and dogs. A fish with kidney failure loses is osmoregulatory capabilities and will appear bloated as it takes on water and would just be thought of as dropsy by most when in fact it is poisoning at fault. But really the most unsettling part of the whole story is that many if not all of Chinese companies intentionally add the melamine to their manufactured foods and exported ingredients used throughout the fish industry. The managers of Chinese companies are pretty open about this fact and companies that commercially produce just the melamine admit to selling scrap melamine to companies that incorporate it into their fish feeds from some pretty well know brands. My thought is why would companies intentionally adulterate their products and for what purpose would it serve? Then it dawned on us, there could be a monetary reason that melamine is an organic, nitrogen-containing compound, it therefore mimics amino acids in basic tests. Tests are the magic word in a label you see on the fish food. Real amino acids are not cheap and are, of course, the building blocks of proteins. So, buy adding melamine to the food it will result in the appearance of a higher protein content and tricks the buyer into thinking they are purchasing a much higher-quality food than what they really are. However, is the risk worth the money? Because, when the melamine is ingested into the fish gut and broken down into various by-products such as cyanuric acid by both the animal and bacteria, the consequences are deadly over time. Currently as you know the quality control of Chinese products is far below par but very cheap. When this is combined with the near impossibility of the USDA and FDA to scrutinize every single ingredient import source, it spells trouble for fish keepers in the future. So, what does this mean to fish keepers around the world? This means all food made outside of Thailand or USA comes with a risk. You should always recognize the fact that your fish are what they eat. When you feed cheap, imported flakes, pellets, and freeze-dried foods and now some frozen foods with labels vs price that seem too good to be true, they reflect this poor nutrition and could be deadly over time. However, when fed unadulterated foods such as quality made foods or WorldBetta-all natural made pellet foods available in mid-2019 – your fish will reflect a vibrant, healthy appearance and be feeding on natural ingredients not a time bomb waiting to kill you fish slowly.
US Food and Drug Administration, October 2008, GC-MS Screen for the Presence of Melamine, Ammeline, Ammelide, and Cyanuric Acid, Laboratory Information Bulletin No. 4423, www.fda.gov.
WorldBetta aquaculture lab inc. Bulletin No. 223 (2018)
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