Pigs in Six States Possibly Exposed to Melamine-tainted Feed
April 25, 2007 — Harry Snelson
Officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have determined that hogs on 10 farms in as many as six states may have been exposed to pet food contaminated with the chemical melamine which has been linked to a number of cat and dog deaths in recent weeks.
Officials in California have determined that salvage pet food manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods using rice protein concentrate contaminated with the chemical had been sold to American Hog Farm for use in pig feed. Urine from pigs on the farm has tested positive for melamine. None of the affected pigs have shown any clinical signs and it is unclear if the chemical will be detected in pork samples from the exposed pigs. Four meat vendors received pork from hogs raised at American Hog Farm which could have consumed tainted feed.
Contaminated salvage pet food may also have been sent to hog farms in North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Utah and possibly Ohio. A poultry farm in Missouri may have received tainted pet food as well. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine indicates that the contamination could affect "thousands of hogs". All of the affected farms have been placed under quarantine. At this point, the risk to human health has been deemed minimal by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the FDA although authorities continue to study the potential human health implications.
In question are feeds manufactured with rice protein and wheat gluten imported from China. It is suspected that these ingredients were contaminated with melamine prior to export. The contamination may have been intentional, according to the FDA, in an effort to artificially raise the protein content of the ingredients. Reportedly, a shipment of rice protein concentrate imported from China on April 2nd contained rice protein in white bags and one pink bag labeled "Melamine".
[Ed. The problem at this point is knowing what to do with the pigs on these sites. Current lab tests for melamine have not been validated so a determination will have to be made regarding the circumstances by which quarantines can be lifted. There is currently no plan to pay indemnity to producers affected by the quarantines or possible herd depopulations. It should be noted that, at this point, the FDA is still not certain that melamine is the cause of the pet illnesses and deaths.]