OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
FEBRUARY 5, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BUSINESS OWNERS SENTENCED FOR DISTRIBUTING
TAINTED PET FOOD INGREDIENT
FOLLOWS $24 MILLION SETTLEMENT RELATED TO ILLNESS
AND DEATHS OF THOUSANDS OF PETS
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Nevada company and its owners were sentenced in federal court today for distributing a tainted ingredient used to make pet food, which resulted in a nationwide recall of pet food and the death and serious illness of countless pets across the United States in 2007.
“We are committed to protecting the health and safety of the public,” Phillips said. “We will vigorously prosecute those who violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and other federal statutes designed to protect the public from this kind of criminal conduct.”
Sally Qing Miller, 43, a Chinese national, and her husband, Stephen S. Miller, 57, both of Las Vegas, Nev., were sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Maughmer this morning to three years of probation. The court also ordered their company, Chemnutra, Inc., to pay a $25,000 fine. Sally Miller and Stephen Miller were each ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
The court ruled that no further restitution would be imposed in light of a $24 million settlement in the related civil suit reached in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
“We commend the action of the U.S. Attorney’s Office against those companies and individuals responsible for many animal injuries and deaths from melamine contamination of pet food,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. “The FDA will support strong enforcement of the law to protect the health and safety of our pets.”
“ICE will continue to aggressively pursue individuals and organizations involved with illegally importing tainted or substandard goods that may jeopardize the safety of our families, communities and pets,” said John Morton, Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary for ICE. “Today’s sentence sends a strong message that we will work tirelessly to stop dangerous goods from entering the American marketplace.”
Chemnutra is a company that buys food and food components in China and imports those items into the United States to sell to companies in the food industry. Sally Miller is the controlling owner and president of Chemnutra; Stephen Miller is an owner and chief executive officer of Chemnutra. Each of the three co-defendants pleaded guilty to one count of selling adulterated food and one count of selling misbranded food.
More than 800 metric tons of tainted wheat gluten was imported by Chemnutra and the Millers into the United States from China in at least 13 separate shipments, with invoices totaling nearly $850,000, between Nov. 6, 2006, and Feb. 21, 2007. Those shipments of wheat gluten were tainted with melamine, an unsafe food additive. Chemnutra and the Millers received the melamine-tainted product at a port of entry in Kansas City, Mo., and then sold and shipped the product to their customers across the United States, who used it to manufacture various brands of pet food.
By pleading guilty, Chemnutra and the Millers admitted that melamine was substituted wholly or in part for the protein requirement of the wheat gluten so as to make it appear the wheat gluten was better or of greater value than it was. They also admitted that the labeling of the wheat gluten was false and misleading because the wheat gluten was represented to have a minimum protein level of 75 percent, when in fact it did not. The labeling was also false and misleading because melamine was not listed on the label as an ingredient.
Pet Food Recall
Pet food manufacturers recalled more than 150 brands of dog and cat food across the nation in 2007, following reports of cats and dogs suffering kidney failure after eating the affected products. There is no coordinated national tracking system to monitor the number of pet deaths. However, consumer reports received by the FDA suggest that approximately 1,950 cats and 2,200 dogs died after eating pet food contaminated with melamine.
Wheat gluten is the natural protein derived from wheat or wheat flour, which is extracted and dried to yield a powder of high protein content. Pet food manufacturers use wheat gluten as a binding agent in the manufacture of certain types of pet food to thicken pet food “gravy.”
Melamine has a number of commercial and industrial uses, but it has no approved use as an ingredient in human or animal food in the United States. Melamine can be used to create products such as plastics, cleaning products, counter tops, glues, inks and fertilizers. Mixing melamine with wheat gluten made the wheat gluten appear to have a higher protein level than was actually present.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gene Porter and Joseph Marquez. It was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at