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FDA: Contaminated feed could affect farms nationwide

Story Highlights

• Contaminated feed found in 38 Indiana chicken farms; more farms likely affected
• Feed contains recalled pet food with tainted wheat gluten
• No human illnesses have been reported related to tainted poultry feed
• Reports of 4,150 dog and cat deaths related to pet food recall
By Katy Byron
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- More farms across the United States will likely be affected by animal feed tainted with recalled pet food, federal health officials said Tuesday, after an investigation of Indiana chicken farms found the contaminated feed in more than three dozen facilities that raise poultry for human consumption.

The Food and Drug Administration said it expects farms in other states will report they received the tainted pet food and predicted that the number of plants that received contaminated feed could reach into the hundreds.

Recalled pet food containing tainted Chinese wheat gluten was found in chicken feed in 38 Indiana farms, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday, but no chicken recall has been issued because the likelihood of getting sick from eating chicken fed the contaminated product is very low, FDA officials said.

No human illnesses related to the minimally tainted poultry feed have been reported, according to the agencies.

Last week, FDA officials said 6,000 hogs that may have ingested tainted pet food entered the human food supply. Pork producers in California, Kansas, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina and Utah are being investigated for buying adulterated feed. (Full story)

In an effort to further contain the tainted products, the FDA last week detained all vegetable protein imports from China that are used in both human and animal food as part of its investigation into the nationwide pet food recall.

The protein products from China that are affected include: wheat gluten, rice gluten, rice protein, rice protein concentrate, corn gluten, corn gluten meal, corn byproducts, soy protein, soy gluten proteins, and mung bean protein, the FDA import alert dated April 27 said.

NCC: It's like cooking cupcakes

Occasionally, pet food manufacturers sell material left over from the molding process to animal feed manufacturers and that's how the contaminated pet food got into poultry feed, according to Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, the trade group that represents U.S. poultry producers, marketers and processors.

"It's like cooking cupcakes -- you get some of the dough on the pan, you scrape it off and throw it away. What they're saying is that somebody bought that material and it got mixed in corn and soybean that gets manufactured in poultry feed," he said.

"The dilution factor is enormous. You have a relatively small amount of pet food byproducts used," in poultry feed manufacturing, Lobb said.

In fact, "it's a safe and wholesome product to use," he added.

In response to the FDA/USDA announcement, the National Chicken Council released a statement saying "We are confident that any poultry producers involved will work expeditiously with the government to resolve this matter to the satisfaction of the government agencies."

Lobb said it is industry practice for companies to own birds and contract growers to raise them, and that companies supply the feed to the growers as well.

"Nobody buys feed from China," Lobb told CNN.

"Feed is made from corn, soybean meal, minerals... about 70 percent of ration is corn and that's all locally grown in the United States. Soybeans are all grown in the United States," Lobb said.

"Melamine is not supposed to be in any animal feed, pet food... it's an industrial chemical and that problem goes back to China where they were deliberately spiking the product with melamine and before that with urea in order to boost its protein content," Lobb said.

Perdue and Tyson Foods -- two of the largest U.S. chicken producers -- do not import any protein ingredients from China used in their chicken feeds, company representatives told their supermarket chain clients Tuesday.

FDA: No evidence tainted gluten in U.S. stores

FDA officials said they have found no evidence that tainted wheat gluten was added directly to any human food products that Americans may find on store shelves.

The FDA has investigators in China working with the Chinese government's General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to investigate the sources of the contaminated products.

It is unclear how long the United States has been importing tainted food additives from China.

"Clearly that is a concern if that has been going on for a long period of time," said Dr. David Acheson, who was appointed to the new position of FDA Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection earlier in the day.

Melamine, cyanuric acid might be the deadly combination

Monday's report is the latest development in the FDA's investigation into the recall of more than 60 million cans of pet food after at least 17 cats and dogs died of kidney failure. The urine of cats that ate the tainted pet food tested positive for melamine, an industrial chemical used in the manufacturing of plastic utensils and fertilizer.

In addition, the FDA announced last week that rice protein additive imported from China was found to contain cyanuric acid, but the federal agency has yet to positively identify the causative agent in the pet deaths. Cyanuric acid is used as a stabilizer in outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs.

Investigators outside the FDA are uncovering evidence that suggests the combination of melamine and cyanuric acid is responsible for the pet deaths related to the recall. (Full story)

The agency also reported last week that it has received more than 17,000 consumer complaints related to the recall, including reports of 4,150 dog and cat deaths.

More than 150 brands and 5,300 pet food products have been recalled. Companies that produced affected items include Menu Foods, Hill's Pet Nutrition, P&G Pet Care, Nestle Purina PetCare, Del Monte Pet Products, and Sunshine Mills. The affected products have been recalled in cooperation with the FDA. The first recall was initiated March 16 by Menu Foods.

CNN's Joe Johns, Miriam Falco and Tom Watkins contributed to this report


MELAMINE

  • White or colorless crystals used in the production of synthetic resins for plastic tableware and other products.
  • Melamine can cause mild irritation of the eyes, skin, nose and throat in humans.
  • Chemical linked to bladder cancer in male rats. Female rats suffered chronic inflammation of their kidneys.

    Sources: OSHA, CDC
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