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St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

A California company that supplies premium ingredients to pet food companies faces a criminal charge in federal court here and accusations that it misbranded its products by using too many lower-quality ingredients, such as chicken feathers, and not enough real chicken and other meat.

Both Wilbur-Ellis and Henry R. Rychlik, a feed division employee who was responsible for the animal protein products from a facility in Rosser, Texas, were charged Monday with four misdemeanor counts of introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce and four counts of introduction of misbranded food into interstate commerce.

Both were also issued a summons Tuesday to appear in court March 14.

The case may grow, however.

On Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Birmingham filed a motion to intervene in a related civil case, writing that the investigation was ongoing and could result in "additional criminal charges and additional criminal defendants."

Jeff Jensen, a St. Louis lawyer representing Wilbur-Ellis, said, "These misdemeanor charges arise from shipments that allegedly occurred several years ago (in) one of the feed division's 32 locations around the world. At that time, the facility was under prior local management," he said.

Jensen added that there were no safety concerns and "nutritional standards were always met."

The charges claim that the Rosser facility used chicken byproduct meal, B-grade "chicken bone byproduct meal," turkey byproduct meal, "hydrolyzed poultry feathers" or "feather meal" instead of chicken and turkey meal.

The company also blended chicken and turkey byproduct meal with other ingredients to make it "appear better and of greater value than the product was."

Wilbur-Ellis supplies pet food companies directly and brokers, distributors and traders, the charges say.

Wilbur-Ellis announced in April 2011 that it had purchased the Rosser facility as part of the assets of assets of American By-Products Inc.

The Wilbur-Ellis website says that they are an "international marketer and distributor of agricultural products, animal feed and specialty chemicals and ingredients" with sales exceeding $3.1 billion.

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