Judge sentences importers of melamine-contaminated ingredients

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A U.S. district court recently ruled in the case of the company that sold melamine-contaminated ingredients from China to U.S. and Canadian manufacturers of pet food, leading to illness or death of many animals and a recall of more than 150 brands of dog and cat food in early 2007.

Sally Qing Miller and Stephen S. Miller, spouses and owners of ChemNutra, pleaded guilty to one count each of selling adulterated food and selling misbranded food. On Feb. 5, a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri sentenced the Millers to three years of probation. The judge also imposed a $5,000 fine on each of them and a $25,000 fine on ChemNutra.

The court did not impose additional restitution in light of a $24 million settlement in a relevant class-action civil suit against the U.S. and Canadian companies that supplied ingredients containing melamine or that manufactured, distributed, or sold pet food containing the ingredients.

ChemNutra imported more than 800 metric tons of "wheat gluten" from China to the United States between Nov. 6, 2006, and Feb. 21, 2007, according to the indictments against the Millers. The ingredient actually was wheat flour adulterated with melamine. Adding melamine made the ingredient appear, in tests, to have a higher protein content. ChemNutra sold and shipped the ingredient to U.S. and Canadian manufacturers of numerous brands of pet food.