May 31, 2007

US feed company used melamine in its products; FDA assures chemical no threat on humans



Officials from the Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that an animal feed company in Ohio has long been adding the industrial toxin melamine to its animal feed ingredients which are most likely been eaten by livestock and fish which have entered the human food chain.


The company used the chemical as a binding agent to hold feed granules in pellet form which involved imported ingredients that were spiked with melamine to provide a false measure of protein content, officials said.


However, the levels of melamine applied appeared to be too low to pose as a health threat.


The company, Tembec BTLSR of Toledo, sold the melamine-laden ingredients to Uniscope of Johnstown, Colorado, which used them to make three finished food products-one for cattle, sheep and goats, and two for fish and shrimp.


The contamination came to the FDA's attention on May 18 after Uniscope officials tested for melamine in the feed components they were buying-a process that FDA has been encouraging food producers to do.


Officials said that Tembec initiated a formal recall of its products and that the company has stopped adding the chemical.


It remains unclear, however, why Tembec did not stop using melamine despite the scandal it created with pet food as officials have also stressed the chemical is not an approved additive for human or animal feed.


Officials said they do not know how many animals may have eaten the food or how long melamine has been used to make pellets. But the presumption, according to FDA official David Acheson, is that it has been a long-standing practice.


Melamine levels in the companies' livestock feed were so low that they did not pose a risk to the animals, or to consumers, Acheson said. Levels in the fish and shrimp feed were high enough to raise some concerns about those animals, but are still "very unlikely to pose a human health risk," he added.


Acheson said that the two fish feed products, which Tembec made for Uniscope using tainted ingredients, were exported. The FDA is trying to track the amounts shipped and to find out what countries those feeds went to.

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