Message Number: FHL919 | New FHL Archives Search
From: "Sukie Crandall"
Date: 2007-05-08 18:18:50 UTC
Subject: [ferrethealth] pork, chicken and how melamine works

> Pork farmed today is so genetically pure and housed practically
> antiseptically (well as much as you can get in a pig barn), they are
> not fed "slop" anymore but scientifically formulated diets to pack on
> muscle quickly so trichinosis really has become a thing of the past.

Thanks for an interesting way to approach a new topic!

Last night Bill Gruber passed on to me an article he had found which
FHL members will probably want to read before it goes away,


which is

How Two Innocuous Compounds Combined to Kill Pets
By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 7, 2007; Page A08

explains a good deal of what has now been discovered about
melamine and its related chemicals. The insertions in brackets
are my own as are the non-quoted comments.

Because the pet feed had also been eaten by pigs and chickens
there was concern about whether and how much the compounds
can accumulate in tissues. (Some pigs and chickens who ate
contaminated feed made it into the food stream before the
current quarantine of the rest. Some numbers seem have been
changing in the reports on these. In the past previous report of
numbers an unknown but large number of chickens had made
it into food stream and 50 pigs had done so, but the 50 pigs
I'd previous read about were sold privately so could be easily

This article explains a great deal about both how and how much
melamine the body tries to excrete and the ways in which that
very process poses risks, including the risk of a chemical reaction
which can occur in the kidneys.

In relation to the foods:
>The contaminated samples contained various amounts --
>from 0.2 percent to 8 percent -- of the chemical.

The next quote is on the nature of the melamine, which is
alleged to have been added to raise the nitrogen content to
make it look like the thickeners had higher protein levels
than they really had since usually nitrogen levels are tested
for to ascertain that and apparently higher protein levels
increase the value of the product. A previous cheat had
been to add urea but it became possible to detect that in

>Also found in the gluten in smaller concentrations
>was cyanuric acid. The man-made chemical is used
>to stabilize chlorine in outdoor swimming pools, especially
>in regions such as the American Southwest where the sun's
>rays are quick to dissipate that disinfectant. Two other
>compounds, ammeline and ammelide, were present in even
>smaller amounts.

>The four compounds have similar chemical structures. One
>can easily be made into another with the right chemical
>reaction. All contain relatively large amounts of the element

Bodies use a lot of nitrogen, but bound into these forms a body
is not able to free the nitrogen for use, so one of the problems
associated with melamine is nitrogen reduction as per the
article, but that is not the acutely serious one from the way i read
the article.

>Melamine is an extremely small molecule, and most of it is
>absorbed through the intestinal tract before it is digested.
>It circulates in the bloodstream until it gets to the kidneys,
> where it slips easily into the fluid that eventually becomes
>urine. Melamine can also enter other organs. That is how it
>could have ended up in the tissue of farm animals that ate
>scraps of melamine-laced pet food -- as apparently was the
>case in 2.7 million chickens and 345 pigs slaughtered and
>consumed in recent months.

He adds that late last another 20 million melamine contaminated
chickens were identified and quarantined.

The next portion tackles two things which are of great interest
(though it does not answer question on levels of accumulation
in organs that are needed by ferrets fed at-home made foods
to have healthy levels of needed minerals and other nutrients).

>As a practical matter, though, only a small amount of
>melamine would ever end up in Buffalo wings or pulled pork.
>Melamine's chemical structure makes it water-soluble, and it
>doesn't accumulate in fat. After an oral dose of melamine, more
>than half is out of the bloodstream and into the urine in three
>Melamine and other chemicals can reach concentrations that
>exceed those limits [of the water to flush out the compounds in
>urine]. When the water can't hold any more, the chemical
>substance begins to form crystals.

That will remind you of how ferrets can get struvite stones when
the diet is too high in plant matter, how ferrets can get cystine
stones when the diet is too high in certain amino acids (cystine,
ornithine, lysine, and arginine), and how ferrets can get calcium
oxalate stones when the diet is too high in oxalate compared to
calcium (at least that is how one hypothesis I read ran for why
reducing calcium in the diet can actually increase the rate of
this type of stones).

>Veterinarians investigating the mysterious pet
>deaths realized that most of the animals died of
>kidney failure and had kidney stones containing
>melamine... it seems unlikely... that the pets could
>have consumed fatal amounts of the chemical.

>Last month, however, toxicologists at the University
>of Guelph in Ontario detected another compound in
>the stones from cats suffering kidney failure -- cyanuric
>acid... ratio... even split.

Then he describes that Doctors Brent Hoff and Grant Maxie,
researchers at U. Guelph combined melamine and cyanuric
acid in a sample of cat urine. The result was crystals which
matched those found in the animals sickened or killed by
the pet foods

It appears that reaction could be at the root of the illnesses
and deaths.

A final quote:

>Studies done decades ago found that rats fed melamine for
>two years developed stones in their urine, which led to bladder
>cancer in some. When rats were fed in one serving a large amount
>of melamine -- the equivalent of a 150-pound person eating a
>pound -- about half died.

>At low doses, however, melamine is nontoxic.

At least in the animal types studied, and we all know that species
differ, though as you see the problem may not be the melamine
itself but what happens if it and one of its by-products are present
together in urine.

So, there are still unknown aspects, but parts of the situation appear
to have been answered.

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