Tainted Wheat Flour continued...
The labels said the products contained wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate. But they actually contained wheat flour.
"I realize this is a perfect storm for total confusion," Acheson says. "Even though it's labeled gluten and we all thought it was gluten -- [and] it was used as gluten -- it wasn't. It was mislabeled and was actually wheat flour.
"The material that was tested that we found to be the wheat flour was the same sample, the same material that had been tested positive for melamine," Acheson says. "It does not represent new batches from different companies, different countries, with yet another problem. It is the same melamine-contaminated material which we have just taken to a next level of testing analysis."
Acheson doesn't rule out further scrutiny of wheat flour, but he says there is no evidence of a wider problem with wheat flour.
There continues to be no sign that melamine-tainted products are in human food, except for the tainted animal feed, according to Acheson.
"We do not believe that any of these ingredients have gone directly into the human food chain. None of that has changed," Acheson says.
Theory on Mislabeled Flour
Acheson described what he called a "plausible hypothesis" about why the wheat flour was mislabeled as wheat gluten.
"Now, this is the point at which we become speculative, but it may throw some light onto how does this all fit together," he says.
Wheat flour contains wheat gluten, which is high in protein. "Rather than taking the trouble to extract the wheat gluten ... you simply grind up the wheat, put it all together, and then artificially create the appearance of it being high in protein by adding a high-nitrogen-containing compound such as melamine."
Yesterday, the FDA and USDA announced that melamine-tainted animal feed fed to hogs and poultry posed "very low" risk to humans. Based on test results, the USDA has begun to clear some hogs and poultry that had temporarily been held from the market due to the tainted animal feed.