Imports of contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein from China used to manufacture pet food and byproducts used in animal feed have led to the quarantine of hog farms in seven states.
The products in question were reportedly contaminated with melamine and melamine-related compounds, a potential source of concern to animal and human health.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) believe the chance of human illness from the consumption of meat of animals fed the contaminated product is very low.
Still, the FDA and USDA are convening a scientific advisory board to review the risk assessment. FDA maintains an import alert for these products sourced from China.
The affected states include California, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah. The 6,000 hogs that ate adulterated feed have been quarantined and will be euthanized on farm, according to government officials. USDA has agreed to compensate producers for the animals.
Paul Sundberg, DVM, vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board, says that while the number of hogs affected is very small, it is a regional concern, and a big issue as far as assuring consumers that their food is safe.
“Last year we marketed about 104 million pigs in the United States, so it's a very small portion,” he points out.
The contaminated feed incident could have been worse, but pork producers were able to document their feed purchases, thus allowing FDA to determine if hogs had eaten contaminated feed, he explains.
“It's important to keep records, because even in this melamine issue, there are producers who've fed dog food,” Sundberg says. “They've been able to show they're not really part of the issue.”
It's also important that producers document feed ingredients coming into the farm and what's actually been fed to hogs, he stresses.
The vast majority of pork producers will be unaffected by this issue because they feed corn-soy diets and don't use pet food as part of their hog rations, although the practice is perfectly legal, Sundberg says.
He says government officials have assured the pork industry that they have accounted for all of the affected hogs, but that they are continuing their investigation.
The National Pork Board's Web site is providing regular updates on the investigation at www.pork.org.