FDA EXAMINES IF PET FOOD CONTAMINANT IN HUMAN FOOD
By Susan Heavey Wed Apr 25, 8:13 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Health
officials are now looking at whether humans may have consumed food containing a chemical linked to a recall of pet foods and
livestock feed, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday.
FDA officials said they
would inspect imports of six grain products used in foods ranging from bread to baby formula for traces of melamine, a chemical
thought to have killed and sickened cats and dogs.
The California Agriculture
Department said separately it was trying to contact 50 people who bought pork that may have come from pigs fed food containing
melamine. The state's health department recommended humans not consume the meat, but said any health risk was minimal.
Melamine, a chemical used
in plastics and fertilizer, has already been found in wheat gluten and rice protein imported from China
for use in some pet foods, triggering a recall of more than 100 brands.
The FDA named the six grain
products to be inspected as wheat gluten, corn gluten, corn meal, soy protein, rice bran and rice protein.
"We're going to target firms
that we know are receiving imported products," said David Acheson, chief medical officer of the FDA's Center for Food Safety
and Applied Nutrition in a conference call with reporters. "The goal is obviously to sample as much as we can."
There is little research
on melamine's effect on humans, according to World Health Organization, but the chemical has been
studied in animals for its risk of kidney problems and cancer. The WHO does not classify the chemical as a carcinogen for
Some tainted material was
used for hog feed before the contamination was found, and officials said on Tuesday thousands of pigs might be affected on
farms in North and South Carolina, California, New York, Utah and possibly Ohio.
The FDA is working with
the U.S. Department of Agriculture and several states to investigate the now-quarantined farms and
whether hogs on those farms were slaughtered for human food.
"Some of the hog operations
were fairly sizable," said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. But USDA spokesman Steve
Cohen said the feed was sold to smaller and independent hog farms.
A poultry farm in Missouri also may have received tainted feed, officials added.
Still, the FDA has no intention
of banning imports of wheat gluten, rice protein or similar products from China.
"We believe the safety net
is in place to make sure that no additional products are going to get into the commerce of the United States," said David Elder, director of FDA's enforcement office.
Melamine was first found
in March in wheat gluten used for some pet foods. Menu Foods, Procter & Gamble Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co., Nestle SA and
Del Monte Foods Co. have recalled pet products made with the gluten.
More recently, rice protein
tainted with melamine was also shipped to at least five pet food manufacturers by a supplier that imported it from China, the FDA has said.
On Monday, two U.S. lawmakers said a second company likely imported rice protein from China that was contaminated with Melamine. FDA officials on
Tuesday would not say whether there was a second importer.
(Additional reporting by