TAINTED PET FOOD REACHES HUMAN FARE
Officials doubt a health risk, but 1,500 hogs are quarantined as sold carcasses sought
WASHINGTON -- An industrial chemical linked to kidney failure in dogs and
cats has found its way into the human food supply chain. California
officials quarantined 1,500 animals at the American Hog Farm and are tracking who purchased nearly 100 hogs from the farm
this month, when the animals' feed included pet food that had been tainted with melamine .
26 hogs were sold and slaughtered at an unnamed processing plant in northern California
. Federal authorities quarantined those unprocessed carcasses at that plant, but state officials expect to identify more California processing plants that purchased the hogs.
Farm, a specialty slaughterhouse in Ceres, Calif., sells
whole hogs suitable for backyard barbecues to celebrate weddings, retirements, graduations, and other festive events.
A man who answered
the phone at American Hog Farm and who identified himself as one of its
yesterday it is premature to comment since the federal investigation continues.
So little is
known about melamine that it remains unclear why hogs that ate tainted food survived, merely excreting the chemical in urine,
while cats and dogs died from kidney failure. For now, the risk to humans who ate the pork is thought to be minimal, said
Dr. Kevin Reilly of the California Department of Health Services.
of Congress have little patience for yet another food safety fiasco. Tuesday , a US House of Representatives subcommittee
will examine the Food and Drug Administration's "diminished capacity" to assure American food safety. Rosa L. DeLauro , Democrat
of Connecticut , promises to hold additional hearings.
"The pet food
recall is turning into a real crisis," DeLauro said . "FDA initially assured us that the concerns about the pet food supply
was a separate issue and that the human food supply would not be threatened. However, recent reports noting that the melamine
has been found in hog urine which, if verified, has the potential of contaminating human food."
Three pet food
makers this week recalled products made with tainted rice protein concentrate imported from China . More recalls could follow since Wilbur-Ellis Co. , the San Francisco firm that imported the rice protein, said it sold the tainted ingredient to
five pet food manufacturers. That is in addition to more than 100 brands of pet food recalled since mid-March due to contamination
by imported wheat gluten laced with melamine.
Foods of California has an exclusive contract with American Hog Farm to sell pet food that spilled onto the floor during production
or spilled from split bags during shipping, making it unsuitable for sale. Those shipments included Natural Balance pet food
that later tested positive for melamine.
was for the farm to pick up 25,000 pounds of salvage food from the pet food manufacturer every 10 days or so. The farm mixed
that with other salvage resources" to make the pig feed, said Steve Lyle , a California Department of Food and Agriculture
the word 'slops' to feed the pigs, historically?" Lyle said. "It's not uncommon that sources like this would be mined for
suspect that rogue suppliers in China
deliberately laced a trio of protein supplements -- wheat gluten , rice protein concentrate and corn gluten -- with melamine
to inflate the ingredients' protein levels and price tag. If it finds an intent to defraud, the FDA said its investigation
could result in criminal charges.
crisis-weary companies, like a Woburn corporate caterer that
handles a few pig roast requests a year, are bypassing such trouble by rigorously screening suppliers, changing menus, and
"We can't take
that risk. I have to have it perfect," said John Andrews , catering sales manager at
Famous . "I can't have anyone questioning my product. Period."
The Blue Buffalo Co. of Wilton, Conn., stunned to learn that its pet food contained the tainted
rice protein concentrate, now will demand that, if its American suppliers must use imports, they will choose trusted countries
like Australia , Canada
, New Zealand, and the European Union
nations, which have more rigorous standards.
you get into some of these Asian countries, particularly China,
where the regulation just isn't there," said Bill Bishop , the company's president. "We can't tolerate that as a pet food
supplier. We're clearly going to bar China."