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Three companies have been indicted for their involvement in last year's tainted pet food scandal. Yesterday, a federal grand jury in Kansas City handed up indictments to a U.S. company and two Chinese companies and their executives.

From Kansas City, Frank Morris of member station KCUR reports.

FRANK MORRIS: Dogs and cats around the country took sick, and about 4,000 died after eating canned food laced with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics, countertops and cleansers. That triggered one of the biggest pet food recalls in U.S. history and yesterday's indictments.

A company called Xuzhou Anying was charged with mixing melamine in wheat gluten as a cheap way to make it look like the food had higher protein levels. Another firm, Suzhou Textiles, allegedly slipped some 800 metric tons of the tainted gluten past Chinese inspectors into the U.S. market.

John Wood is U.S. attorney for western Missouri.

Mr. JOHN WOOD (U.S. attorney, Missouri): In today's global economy, crimes that occur halfway around the globe can seriously impact our lives.

MORRIS: The American company indicted is ChemNutra, which is based in Nevada. It's charged with distributing the tainted wheat gluten, knowing it was never properly inspected. ChemNutra's spokesman, Steve Stern, says the company's innocent.

Mr. STEVE STERN (Spokesman, ChemNutra): This was an issue of a criminal in China who was, in fact, indicted and sent to jail for this act.

MORRIS: There's no extradition treaty with China, so it's unlikely anyone from there will actually face trial in the United States. Meanwhile, U.S. pet food makers and retailers like Wal-Mart face as many as 20,000 plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits spawned by the recall.

For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Kansas City.

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