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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Distribution of Dioxin-Contaminated Animal Feed Halted

FDA Veterinarian Newsletter March/April 2003 Volume XVIII, No 2

FDA recently announced that its dioxin-monitoring program has found elevated levels of dioxin in some mineral components used in animal feeds. In response to notification from FDA about the problem, both the supplier of one of the mineral components (zinc oxide) and the mineral premix blender contacted their customers and urged that they immediately stop further distribution of their products made with this mineral component. The implicated zinc oxide premixes were used in livestock, aquaculture, and poultry feed and feed products.

An additional mineral component (copper oxide) is also being investigated as a possible source of dioxin. Both mineral components currently under investigation are reclamation products from industrial metal production.

Because mineral premixes are diluted greatly in the finished animal feed, it is unlikely that human health effects would occur from this limited exposure. At this point in the investigation, FDA does not believe this poses a human health risk.

Based on present information, FDA has requested the recall of certain animal feed and feed products. The recalled products were distributed to feed manufacturers and suppliers in eleven states (CA, IA, IL, MN, MO, MS, NE, NY, PA, UT and WA) and Canada. The investigation of this incident is continuing and, as further information is learned, additional recalls of other products may be necessary.

One of FDA’s public health objectives is to reduce the level of exposure to dioxin in the animal and human foods it regulates. Finding and stopping sources of added dioxin, such as the mineral components, from entering the food supply is one of the primary goals of FDA’s dioxin monitoring program. FDA will continue to evaluate this problem and will provide the Agency’s findings to the public.

Dioxins are ubiquitous, low level environmental contaminants. With cumulative exposure, they are potential carcinogens and may cause reproductive or developmental health problems. Presently, the primary source of human exposure to dioxins is through food.

Environmental sources of dioxin pollution have been markedly reduced over the past decade. The result has been a significant reduction in overall dioxin exposure to the public. To further reduce public exposure to dioxins, the FDA established food and feed surveillance programs. These programs further our understanding of dioxin levels in FDA regulated foods. It was through these surveillance programs that FDA identified the mineral components as the primary source of dioxins in the affected animal feed.

FDA is currently investigating whether similar products are being used in other FDA-regulated feed, and whether other feed products incorporated the mineral components. FDA is working cooperatively with State feed regulators and other relevant Federal agencies to trace the distribution of these products.