Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Is melamine changing your diet?
For the past two months, pet owners have been wondering whether they were feeding their cats and dogs food that might kill them. That's because the Food and Drug Administration found melamine and melamine-like products in various pet foods. The official death toll for animals is still at 17, and the Food and Drug Administration says it has received reports of thousands more.
Melamine is normally used to make plastics, building supplies and is also used in fertilizer - it was found in wheat gluten imported from China. Cyanuric acid, is a compound similar to melamine, normally used in swimming pool supplies, was found in rice protein, also imported from China. 153 different pet products have been recalled, and it was thought to be an animal problem. However, that changed in the past week, when we learned that the contaminated products had made their way into the human food supply.
Now we know that almost 3 million chickens and at least 350 hogs may have consumed animal feed mixed with this tainted pet food, and these chickens and pork products have made their way into the supermarkets and on to people's dinner tables.
But the FDA tells us they "believe the likelihood of illness after eating pork from hogs [and chickens] that were fed the contaminated product would be very low." You may be wondering, how they can be so sure? The FDA says it's all about "dilution."
I spoke with Dr. Michael Payne, a University of California-Davis toxicologist, who explained that the only studies that show how dangerous melamine can be to animals were done with pure melamine. Those studies found melamine to be 15-35 times LESS toxic than caffeine.
However, pets tend to eat the same pet food day after day, so if the food they eat is tainted, they're more likely build up a concentration and get sick from it. People are different. We eat a variety of foods. First of all, not every meal we eat includes chicken or pork. So here's how the FDA explains it:
Pet food with melamine is already considered diluted (not pure melamine). When the tainted pet food is mixed with the animal feed, it's diluted again. When the chickens or pigs eat the animal feed, and we consume the product, it's diluted another time. And when we digest the food, it's diluted again.
That's why they are comfortable telling us that the risk to humans is minimal.
Have you changed your eating habits based on this latest news? Are you concerned about the possibly having consumed tainted chicken or pork?
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