US: Melamine from contaminated pet food enters human food chain

Sunday, April 29, 2007

At least 45 people are reported to have eaten pork which came from a hog farm in Ceres, California in the United States, where pigs from the farm were fed pet food which was recalled because it was contaminated with the chemical melamine.

So far none of the individuals have experienced signs of illnesses, but it is not known what effect the chemical, when ingested, has on humans because no major study has taken place on melamine.

On April 21, at least seven urine samples taken from pigs at hog farm, were tested and the results came back positive for the chemical melamine. At least three samples from the feed used to feed the pigs were tested and those results also came back positive for melamine.

Yesterday, the United States Food and Drug Administration or FDA, said in a statement that "we have no evidence of harm to humans associated with the processed pork product" and that "no recall of meat products processed from these animals is being issued."

Despite the consumption of pork by humans, the FDA states that the risk to human health is minimal.

"The assessment that, if there were to be harm to human health, it would be very low, 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. First it is a partial ingredient in the pet food; second, it is only part of the total feed given to the hogs; third, it is not known to accumulate in the hogs and the hogs excrete melamine in their urine; fourth, 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 swine from the contaminated feed," added the statement.

On March 19, the manufacturer of the food, Menu Foods, which is based in Mississauga, Ontario in Canada, recalled all of its dog and cat food which totaled over 60 million items. On April 28, Canadian officials announced that they will hold products, such as wheat and corn gluten, as well as soy and rice proteins that have been imported from China until they can be tested for melamine.

It is not known how extensive the outbreak is.