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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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FDA and USDA Investigate Tainted Animal Feed

Consumer Update

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA continue their investigation of imported rice protein concentrate which has been found to contain melamine and melamine-related compounds. Melamine is an industrial chemical that has no approved use in human or animal food in the United States.

The rice protein concentrate was imported from China by San Francisco-based Wilbur-Ellis, an importer and distributor of agricultural products. Although the company began importing product from China in August 2006, the company did not become aware of the contamination until April 2007. FDA determined that the rice protein was used in the production of pet food, and a portion of the pet food was used to produce animal feed.

What is the likelihood of illness in humans after eating pork from hogs that were fed the contaminated product?
FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating pork from hogs that were fed the contaminated product would be very low.

What is this assessment based on?
This assessment is based on a number of factors, including the dilution of the contaminating melamine and melamine-related compounds from the original rice protein concentrate as it moves through the food system.

    • The rice protein concentrate is a partial ingredient in the pet food.
    • It is only part of the total feed given to the hogs.
    • It is not known to accumulate in the hogs and the hogs excrete melamine from their urine.
    • Even if present in pork, pork is only a small part of the average American diet.
    • Neither FDA nor USDA has uncovered any evidence of harm to the hogs from the contaminated feed.
    • Neither FDA nor USDA is aware of any human illness that has occurred from exposure to melamine or its by-products.

Will hogs known to have been fed contaminated product be approved to enter the food supply?
No. Hogs known to have been fed contaminated product will not be approved to enter the food supply. FDA and USDA are taking certain actions out of an abundance of caution. Because the animal feed in question was contaminated, USDA cannot rule out the possibility that food produced from animals fed this product could also be contaminated. USDA cannot approve potentially contaminated meat.

Which states have received and used contaminated product?
The ongoing investigation and product testing have indicated that certain farms may be affected. FDA and USDA expect the investigation will continue to find more places where product may have been distributed. As of April 26, 2007, sites in the following states are believed to have received and used contaminated product: California, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah. As more sites are confirmed, additional updates will be provided.

Has there been evidence of harm to humans associated with the processed pork product?
At this time, there is no evidence of harm to humans associated with processed pork product. Testing and the joint investigation continue. If any evidence surfaces to indicate there is harm to humans, the appropriate action will be taken. To further evaluate any potential harm to humans, FDA is developing and implementing other tests and risk assessments based on the toxicity of the compounds and how much of the compounds consumers could be expected to actually consume.

Has any other type of animal feed been contaminated?
Yes, chicken feed on some farms in Indiana contains pet food made with contaminated wheat gluten imported from China. At this time, FDA and USDA's investigation indicates that approximately 30 broiler poultry farms and 8 breeder poultry farms received the contaminated feed in early February and fed it to poultry within days of receiving it. All of the broilers believed to have been fed contaminated product have since been processed. The breeders that were fed the contaminated product are under voluntary hold by the flock owners. FDA and USDA anticipate that as the investigation continues, additional farms will likely be identified that received contaminated feed.

What is the likelihood of illness in humans after eating chickens that were fed the contaminated product?
As with exposure from hogs fed contaminated pet food and for similar reasons related to the dilution of the contamination, FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating chicken fed the contaminated product is very low. Because there is no evidence of harm to humans associated with eating chicken that were fed the contaminated product, no recall of poultry products processed from these animals is being issued. If any evidence surfaces to indicate there is harm to humans, the appropriate action will be taken.

Will chickens known to have been fed contaminated product be approved to enter the food supply?
Because the poultry being held have been fed contaminated products, USDA cannot knowingly approve products from these poultry for human consumption. The same procedures are being followed in relation to both hogs and poultry; animals are being quarantined by state order or voluntarily held by the owners. USDA is offering to compensate producers who euthanize and dispose of hogs and poultry that have been fed contaminated products.

USDA and FDA continue to conduct a full, comprehensive examination to protect the nation's food supply and will provide updates as new information is confirmed.

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Health Information Web page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Updated May 1, 2007