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Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/23/2007 3:47 PM

Last week, a leading manufacturer of cat and dog food recalled some 60 million containers of wet pet food from retail stores across North America. Today, the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets identified the fatal toxin as aminopterin, a substance which is used in cancer drugs and rat poision. Although the aminopterin found in cat-food samples from Menu Foods was at least 40 parts per million, "any amount of this product is too much in food," according to Donald Smith, dean of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

CBS News is reporting that the cat-food samples from Menu Foods were tested a month before the company issued its massive recall. "To find out they knew about this weeks ago, and that the cats they tested died!" former cat owner Dawn Marjerczyk told CBS. "Why wasn't it pulled off then?" Paul K. Henderson, president and CEO of Menu Foods, reportedly delayed announcing the recall until the company could confirm that the animals had eaten its product before dying. Earlier this week, The Y Files reported that the price tag for a product recall could top $30 million.

New York State is home to two laboratories that are part of federal emergency lab networks, created through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security after 9-11 to keep the nation's animals and food supply safe. The New York State Food Laboratory is part of the Federal Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) and as such, is capable of running a number of unique poison/toxin tests on food, including the test that identified Aminopterin. For more information, click here.

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#1

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/23/2007 4:05 PM

You shouldn't be feeding your dogs this crap anyway. Dogs evolved to eat the same food people eat, not slaughterhouse ejecta. I cook for my dogs just like I cook for my family. Actually, they eat a little better.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/23/2007 4:18 PM

Perhaps. But that strikes me as a bit of "blame the victim", bhankiii. What about the poor woman whose vet told her to stop feeding Fluffy table scraps, and then learned that the "specially-formulated" products from Menu Foods were actually lethal?

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/23/2007 4:33 PM

She should have used my vet. Or at least have read the newspaper column of this vet:

http://tedeboy.tripod.com/drmichaelwfox/

She is the victim - of the dog food companies' propaganda. If you look at the very best dog food, you'll find that it's prepared to human food standards, using human grade foodstuffs. It's a sad situation, and the reason God created lawyers.

I'm as guilty of this as anyone. We all grew up on Purina commercials, and we all thought that Ol' Roy was actually created by Sam Walton, but the fact is that the dog food industry was created as a means of profiting from the food industry's detritus.

I was amazed at how our 14 year dog perked up when we switched him from dog food to real food. I highly recommend it to anyone who's concerned about their pets health. There are many good recipes out on the net. And you can find human grade dog food products, usually made by small food processors, not a behemoth like Menu Foods.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/24/2007 4:18 AM

and now the lawyers are trying to turn this into a cash crop. The idea that someone should use the suffering of people's pets for gain is abhorrent. From the looks of this some company lied about their grain and the petfood company bought it, and since you do not normally test items for the presence of such toxins from field sources the product was made and sold and none were the wise until pets died.

Since the numbers were so small, it was possible that another source was the problem, so they did not recall the product until they had confirmation. Once confirmation was in hand they acted.

They probably needed confirmation before they could act anyway. Their insurance company would insist on it.

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#7
In reply to #1

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/24/2007 1:52 PM

"Dogs evolved to eat the same food people eat, not slaughterhouse ejecta. I cook for my dogs just like I cook for my family. Actually, they eat a little better."

Correct me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that dogs in the wild never mastered fire and therefore were never able to cook their food. If you want you dogs to eat what they evolved to eat then stop cooking their food.

Something else people forget about is that a dogs metabolism is built around feast and fast eating. In the wild a dog will not eat regular meals but will gorge when food is available. Feeding a dog twice a day is over feeding them, once a day is sufficient and missing the occasional day all together will not hurt them.

The acid in a dogs stomach is at least seven times as strong as the acid in a human's stomach and this means that they evolved eating a vastly different diet to us.

A few human foods that you MUST NEVER FEED TO DOGS are potatoes, chocolate and onions. Onions are probably the worst of the three and will cause severe anemia if fed to any dog.

Dogs evolved in the wild to eat raw meat from freshly killed animals and that includes the parts of the animal we do not eat. Feeding them the same diet of cooked food as humans is not a healthy practice.

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#16
In reply to #7

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 9:34 AM

I wasn't speaking of wild dogs, but the domestic variety that has been happily eating table scraps for the last 20-50 thousand years. You are correct about onions, chocolate and potatoes, although sweet potatoes are fine. You should also avoid any spices and throw in a few (raw) bones and fresh raw meat now and again.

The choice is not between a diet of freshly killed rabbits, skin and all, and people food - the choice is between canned dog food and people food.

If my only choices are people food and rat poison infested grain mixed with offal, I'll choose people food for my dog.

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#18
In reply to #16

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 1:40 PM

Hi bhankiii,

Some years back, I had a couple of Dobermans that were starting to get a little too large about the girth. After discussions with the vet we introduced a diet of 50% dried dog food 50% boiled rice. They were allow dot eat as much as thy liked of the mixture but only 4 times a week. The other three days they just had uncooked beef bones to chew on.

Their weigh went back to what it should have been and they were generally more healthy. One of the most noticeable differences was their teeth which became brilliantly white. They were also considerably more active and when you say a Doberman becomes more active that's a big thing. Dobermans have two speed, flat out and asleep, they are turbocharged couch potatoes that never grow out of the puppy stage.

Small dogs are a different thing however and do not having the sort of reserves that big dog do, so they need to eat more frequently, but even so, once a day is usually enough for most dogs.

I don't however agree with the cooked food in most circumstances. One exception is sheep meat as there are several parasites that are common in sheep, that can be transferred through eating uncooked meat. If you are going to fed them lamb/sheep/mutton then cooking and removal of any bones is a good idea.

I also found that they enjoyed whole beef shin bones more than cut bones It would take them a week or so to smash them open, but boy, did they enjoy that marrow when they finally got to it.

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#20
In reply to #18

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 2:10 PM

I feed a mix of cooked chicken, wild and brown rice, some raw oats, some lightly cooked pork or lamb, some veggies (some raw, some cooked) with a little dried food on the side for roughage. I mix in some raw beef. Occasionally I add a little tuna and/or plain yogurt. To this I add some "specially formulated" dog vitamins and some fish oil to make it all smell nasty. My dog likes to supplement this diet with fresh cat feces. The vet raves about his health, muscularity and soft coat. He's a French Bulldog, but can outrun the Labs, Retrievers and Ridgebacks he plays with at our park. (More accurate to say he out-maneuvers them.) And he loves to bull-bait a local Olde English Bull Mastiff.

I know a couple of people who insist on feeding their dogs nothing but raw meat. Both dogs are razor thin - and you can see their ribs poking out. One of the dogs is a bulldog - which are bred to carry some fat. It looks pathetic.

I have another friend who keeps his dogs fat and happy with fresh mackerel.

you can see pics of my dog, The Gollum, at http://frenchbulldog.meetup.com/125/photos/

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#19
In reply to #16

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 2:01 PM

I just remembered a funny story with the Dobermans that you may appreciate. There is a stomach settling treatment that can be used for humans as well as dogs called mintec. Basically it is concentrated mint extract in a capsule that breaks open once in the stomach. It is very good for settling stomach upsets and treating abdominal spasms and cramps. It is also very good for flatulence as it masks the smell. However if you break wind after taking one it feels like somebody stuck a mintie up your rectum.

Anyway the Dobermans were suffering for a particularly bad bout of flatulence and the smell was getting a bit over the top. I spoke with the vet and asked if the mintec was OK to use on dogs and was assured that it was ok and was worth trying.

The next day I fed the dogs each a mintec tablet and waited for the results. That evening the dogs were lying on the lounge room floor when the older one let rip with one of its farts. Never having experienced the mintie up the rectum feeling before it jumped up with the strangest expression on its face you have ever seen. Meanwhile the other dog was really curious where this strange mint smell was coming from. It was quiet a sight seeing this dog trying to walk around and sit down again with what must have felt like a mintie stuck up its bum.

I don't know if it was the tablets that cured the flatulance or that the dogs just weren't game enough to fart any more but it certainly fixed the problem.

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#5

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/24/2007 11:28 AM

Wheat from China was a major surprise. We live in a country that pays our farmers NOT TO GROW certain crops. We send shiploads of wheat to other nations, often subsidized by our government.

That we have to import Wheat from anywhere was new information for this uninformed consumer.

So how many new laws will this problem create.??

Steve

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/24/2007 11:36 AM

Obviously someone in China knew this wheat was toxic, and so they offered it for less and a buyer was found.

A prudent buyer should inspect the goods they deal with. This stuff had a low level of this toxin but the LD50 in rats is 2.5 milligrams per kilo. So a 5 kilo animal of ratlike physiology would need to ingest 12.5 milligrams for a 50% death rate.

This tells me that cats and dogs are more sensitive than rats to this toxin.

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/25/2007 8:10 AM

China Shmina!! China is not to blame for this tragedy.

Anyone in the shipping industry will gladly tell you that this and other equally toxic rat killing chemicals are in use in every single wheat silo in every single country in the world.

In order to put the puck of poison into the silos [one small puck does an entire silo of wheat], employees in charge of that task have to be completely protected in air-supplied space suits, or they die real fast and horribly. Wheat cargo handlers are extremely wary of breathing the dust loading can generate.

Any company that buys wheat for use in foods is painfully aware of this and other potential hazards, and maintains (as does Menu Foods) labs to test for toxins; or, in the case of smaller companies, is required to purchase from a source with a test lab.

That Menu Foods did not adequately provide for the absence or removal of rat poison from its wheat supply makes them completely negligent.

They will, I predict, end up paying through the nose for the distress the company has caused families who have lost their beloved pets. And, if you're looking for a safe place to get canned wet pet food in future the safest source in the world will likely be one of the Menu Foods brands. Why? Because through this debacle, they will end up being twice as careful as anybody else in the industry.

Mark

PS. My girlfriend's adult female German shepherd sometimes throws up if she eats almost anything other than her specially factory-formulated and vet-recommended (dry) dog food, which contains just the right combinations of detritus needed to keep her healthy.

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#9
In reply to #8

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/25/2007 8:33 AM

I think this is not correct.

Bulk grain is for food is not treated this way. You could not possibly remove such poisons from grain to make it man/beast edible.

Only seed grain has this high level of toxin added.

In addition, they do not treat the inner silio itself, they treat the other areas where rats breed to feed on spilled grain. The inside of a silo full of grain is not a good place for a rat. The top of a full silo is a good feeding spot, but most places have well sealed silos to reduce the rat problem. Then there are the insects.

Thye are testing samples of ingredients and they seem to have settled on some Chinese grain as the source. I wonder if all the US bread makers test their wheat for posions or rely on certification from suppliers? Is there an easy test for aminopterin...a product not used in the USA, and for which test procedures might now be at hand.

While I feel the company should pay for all vet bills, I do not agree with making the sad death of your pet into an opportunistic cash cow for lawyers. No amount of money brings back the pet, so why do it. The company did not intentionally or negligently do this, so why do it.

They are doing the right thing in this sad incident

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/25/2007 3:28 PM

Aurizon

Rodenticides of this nature typically have a half life of about 20 minutes, and are soluble in water, hence washable. No one ever expects that they will make it to the dining table, even after the grain is processed. Tiny tiny amounts are deadly. Even the cost of the compounds reflect their ability at small concentrations. For example, aminopterin costs about $usd 800.00 for 500mg. Use is strongly supervised by government food and drug agencies, or the users copycat supervisory restrictions imposed by countries that use it if they have no corresponding local agency.

No discrimination is made as to where the stored wheat from grainaries will end up. It is all destined for food production of one kind or another. And it is imperative to keep the rats out of the silos, so the rodenticides are either used (gas) before the grain is stored to kill anything in the empty silo, or placed directly on the wheat in storage (evaporative) to kill any attacking rodent population.

Every food production facility that utilizes produce with a potentially deadly effect is required to batch test constantly for toxins. Peanut butter manufacturers, for example, must batch test every batch for eflotoxins, a minor mold that sometimes appears on the peanut 'skins', and kills almost instantly (sometimes entire families at one go around the dining table) by inhibiting kidney function.

Food manufacturers do not, as a general rule, discuss this aspect of the business. It would be bad for sales. Instead they maintain a diligent watch for trouble.

When a company is remiss in watching the store, they are remiss. The end results (this is, of course, by no means the first ever incident of this kind) are what they are. This was not a case of food tampering, just oversight.

Mark

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/25/2007 3:46 PM

I think you are wrong. This poison has a LD50 of 2.5 Mg/Kilo.

So to kill a metric ton of rats(2000 ~1 pound rats) takes 2.5 grams, and you suggest this costs $2000 or $1/rat????

No they were not remis at all. This is a material present in a high enough concentration that even when blended as a small sub-ingredient it could constitute a fatal dose. I suspect the single kernel theory will be what happened to spare so many pets

There are 1000's of toxic chemicals, how can they test for them all? Aflatoxin is indeed toxic,

Species LD50 mg kg -1 bodyweight Rabbit 0.30 Duckling (11 day old) 0.43 Cat 0.55 Pig 0.60 Rainbow trout 0.80 Dog 0.50 - 1.00 Sheep 1.00 - 2.00 Guinea pig 1.40 - 2.00 Baboon 2.00 Chicken 6.30 Rat (male) 5.50 - 7.20 Rat (female) 17.90 Macaque (female) 7.80 Mouse 9.00 Hamster 10.20

Aflatoxin, Specific Species Affects (Reed et al, 1987)

I note that very few pets died compared to those that ate it.

So it might be kernel related. A small number of kernels were treated and mixed in a large amount of feed. The pet unlucky enough to reveive that kernel, sadly died.

I do not believe that half life comment. How can it make it all the way through the process and cooking with such a small half life.

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#12
In reply to #10

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/25/2007 4:29 PM

A simple read of searches for aflatoxin reveals that it is not an acute poison, nor is it a kidney poison. It is a slow metabolic poison of the liver. People can last for weeks after a fatal dose before dying. That puts the lie to your kitchen table scenario.

Hard to say if you are an unwise engineer or a brilliant lawyer. Why did you not do these simple searches?

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 3:22 AM

Oops! Time to defend myself.

Guest:

My information re eflotoxin deaths comes from a cousin who is a senior food chemist in one of our largest local corporate toxicology labs, and daily tests for that poison, plus many other toxic substances in their food production batches. It was some time ago that she explained the batch testing procedure to me, so although kidney is what remained impressed in my mind from the discussion I may have provided the incorrect affected vital organ in the blog response. I assure you that I will check with her immediately, and report back from an unimpeachable source. I'll stand by the the immediate deaths however, because of the impact her report left with me.

aurizon:

"I think you are wrong. This poison has a LD50 of 2.5 Mg/Kilo."

Sorry, are you speaking of eflotoxins or aminopterin?

If the latter, then your quote

"So to kill a metric ton of rats(2000 ~1 pound rats) takes 2.5 grams, and you suggest this costs $2000 or $1/rat????

Species LD50 mg kg -1 bodyweight Rabbit 0.30 Duckling (11 day old) 0.43 Cat 0.55 Pig 0.60 Rainbow trout 0.80 Dog 0.50 - 1.00 Sheep 1.00 - 2.00 Guinea pig 1.40 - 2.00 Baboon 2.00 Chicken 6.30 Rat (male) 5.50 - 7.20 Rat (female) 17.90 Macaque (female) 7.80 Mouse 9.00 Hamster 10.20"

seems to indicate an index of -1 in it. If the index is supposed to be there, and refers to the tonnage (1mg kills 100kg bodyweight), then 2.5 mg kills 25 kilos of rats, and it takes 100 mg to kill a rat-tonne, or $USD 40.00 worth. If this -1 refers to the dosage, we are taking about .1 mg per Kilo, and we are talking about a 200 mg dosage per rat-tonne, and the price I quoted would amount to $80.00 US dollars per rat-tonne, which might or might not be exorbitant depending upon the price of wheat and the expected rat-tonnage per silo.

If the figures you gave were in reference to eflotoxins, I can't comment on the comparison in killing capability between the two toxins, but if a substance (aminopterin) deliberately formulated as a mass pesticide should do a more efficient job over a wider population than a naturally occurring toxin the price per rat-tonne of killing the rats might even be lower than the above.

"No they were not remis at all. This is a material present in a high enough concentration that even when blended as a small sub-ingredient it could constitute a fatal dose. I suspect the single kernel theory will be what happened to spare so many pets."

When I sailed cargo vessels from the lakehead to the southeast US coast and parts between on my first steamship, (up and down, up and down, like a toilet seat ) much of our summer cargo was wheat from the silos. One trip, there was quite a bit of hullabaloo about some poor sod who had a hole in his space suit when he loaded the puck into the silo, and died almost immediately from exposure. In the reportage of that incident, I learned that the silos were purged, as I stated before, either empty with gas, or full with the puck, which evaporated into the grainary. No kernels of any kind were ever mixed with the wheat. For one thing, they didn't have to be.

I really am not prepared to comment as to how the toxin became a part of the pet food. But if I had to conjecture, my guess would be some highly exposed grains that absorbed the toxins through their pores and retained it due to the protective covering of the chaff and lack of cleaning (flush) by the final food preparation company. What they have already admitted to is a momentary lapse in toxicology examination. The facts support the hypothesis that the toxin should not have been present in the first place, since it had plenty of time to disappear. Even so, the testing is done to ensure that the odd exception gets caught in time. Unhappily, not this time.

"There are 1000's of toxic chemicals, how can they test for them all? Aflatoxin is indeed toxic"

Again, I am not a food chemist. My information, as does your own, comes from what I read and hear from reliable sources. Each food industry deals with a known number of dangerous substances potentially present in their basic ingredients. There is no need for them to test for every possible hazard; only the ones that affect their part of the industry.

Aminopterin is manufactured here in Canada, and the manufacturer has the price posted on their website.

Thanks for the 'brilliant lawyer comparison'. I think the unwise engineer is more my style though. As the saying goes, "If you're so smart, why aint you rich?"

Mark

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 7:57 AM

Well, Thanks for the guest comments. They were accurate.

when you speak of a fumigant = gas = totally different than an applied solid that persists on grain.

Your friend sounds as if she has risen above her level of competence, as aflatoxin is not an acute poison. There is no such thing as eflotoxin, as far as I can see. You persist in this bad useage, yet you have had ample chance to verify and confirm these aspects.

Aminopterin. When I say 2.5Mg/Kilo or kilo -1. That means a 2.5 mg dose will kill 50% of the 1 kilogram rats that eat it, assuming we are using the common standard 1 kilo lab rat :)

The fact that when you harvest wheat you end up with the seed of the wheat. This is a kernel when you consider them one by one, some use the term grains, 1 grain of wheat. There is also the germ, but we are not speaking of that. If a batch of kernels is dosed with Aminopterin, you have these toxic kernels. If they are then mixed into a larger batch of wheat then you make pet food by cooking and mixing the softened kernels into the feed, not all cans of feed will get a lethal kernel. If they did, we would expect 1,000,000 pet deaths or more. So I am postulating a small admixture of poisoned kernels and not a large tonnage of poisoned wheat. The ongoing investigation will find this out.

And as they say, If I am so smart, why am I so rich. I dare say on liquidation would be about 5 milli Gates

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#15
In reply to #10

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 8:53 AM

Hi Mark,

Above, you wrote:

"No discrimination is made as to where the stored wheat from grainaries will end up. It is all destined for food production of one kind or another."

Does this mean that part of a shipment could be sent to Menu Foods, while another part could be send to a manufacturer who makes products for human consumption?

Moose

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#17

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 12:31 PM

All sorts of things may get into bulk grains.

About 10 years ago, I was helping a client deal with a ship full of rice from Vietnam that had become infested with insects. Apparently, a hatch had leaked some moisture into the hold on the voyage and insect life blossomed on the rice at the surface of the bulk load. A reprocessing was deemed sufficient for that and, I think, that rice was subsequently consumed by humans in the West Indies.

Anyway, one interesting thing I learned was that that rice had been hand loaded into barges in Vietnam, before the barges delivered the rice to the ocean-going vessel. I saw video of Vietnamese workers carrying large sacks of rice on their backs from the trucks, wagons, and other land haulers. They would haul the sacks onto their backs and scurry across wooden ramps that lead to the hatches on the barge. Talk about backbreaking work!

Apparently, in order for the workers to maintain a sufficiently high level of labor output, the workers were provided some chemical assistance. According to my sources, small, brown vials that once held amyl nitrate were a common containant of the rice procured from Vietnam. Maybe things have changed in the 10 years since, but I suspect not.

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#21
In reply to #17

Re: Aminopterin and the Pet Food Recall

03/26/2007 2:37 PM

It looks like aminopterin is a slow poison. Rats have evolved to taste a new food and if nothing happens eat more later.

If they go there and find dead rats from an acute poison, they will vamoose.

It is expensive too, so it cannot ever be used for bulk treatment of grain. It can be used for those grain based baits you buy and put in corners. They are toxic enough that 1 grain kills the rat.

So I suspect a relatively small amount of poisoned bait grain some how went into a silo. Testing might not find it. They would have to get a poisoned grain to get a + test. So we may have 1 in 10,000 grains are toxic. One ends up in a small animal = death.

In a large animal it may survive as the liver has large recuperative powers if all the cells are not killed.

Has there been any press about the types of animals killed? It looks like 1 grain kills a cat and a small dog. Any large dogs killed.

This is just a speculative analysis and may well be wrong.

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