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Possible Theory on Pet Food Contamination



The article, “Spiking theorized in pet deaths,� by two Los Angeles Times writers ( I found it published in the Chicago Tribune) is about how the recent pet food contaminations could have been caused by Chinese manufacturers adding the chemical melamine to make it look as though the food had more rice protein so they could charge more for an insufficient product.

Since the Chinese manufacturers are being accused of intentionally contaminating pet food, the writers especially had the challenge of being balanced and avoiding libel since this accusation could be damaging. The writers included the side of the FDA and the organization’s chief veterinarian stating that they think the food was intentionally contaminated and why they think that. The writers also included the side of the Chinese manufacturers. There was an indirect quote from the Chinese government saying that the contaminated ingredients weren’t meant for the food. The FDA said that they traced the contaminated food to a specific manufacturer and the writers gave the company’s general manager a chance to talk. Even though the manager just said they are investigating and had no other comment, the writers at least said he was contacted and “declined to answer questions.�

The AP story,�Pet food spiked for protein: theory� (I found it in the Chicago Sun-Times) also covered this news event. The writer had the same challenge of being balanced and avoiding libel by perhaps falsely saying the Chinese manufacturers deliberately contaminated the pet food, which would be damaging. This writer, unlike the LA Times writers, only included the side of the FDA. Upon first glance it looks like the writer included the Chinese manufacturers’ side by saying, “Chinese authorities have said….�. However, this statement is attributed to Stephen Sundlof – who is the chief FDA vet. So an FDA vet spoke for the Chinese authorities, and the statements of the Chinese authorities/manufacturers/ government were not included. Also, in the next sentence, the writer starts off by saying, “Still,� which seems to undermine the validity of what the Chinese authorities supposedly said. Finally, the paragraph is concluded by saying, “That raises the possibility the contamination was deliberate,� without any attribution and seems to be based on the writers’ opinion.

I think the LA Times writers did a much better job at informing readers of the alleged contamination by the Chinese manufacturers. These writers gave both sides an opportunity to speak and attributed all their statements. The AP writer, on the other hand, did not give the Chinese manufacturers or government a chance to respond, and I thought it was inappropriate that the writer let the FDA vet speak for the Chinese authorities.


I thought you did a great job of explaining the two sides of the story. It really made me think about the Chinese manufacturers and what they were really doing, but made me really think about the reporter and why he was attributing the Chinese manufacturers. I guess it would be hard writing a story when you don't have all the facts, since it was still in a developing stage.