Poultry suspected of receiving tainted feed released for processing

08-05-2007 | |

The US government has announced that a risk assessment has found a “very low risk to human health” from consuming meat from chickens known to have ingested melamine.

Up to 3 million broiler chickens were fed melamine-tainted pet food and were then sold on the US market beginning in early February, according to officials at the US FDA and the US Department of Agriculture. Various experts from several agencies gathered for a scientific advisory board to review the risk assessment of humans eating the meat of these chickens.
Melamine’s low toxicity
Because melamine itself carries a very low toxicity to humans, the dose consumers may have received in chicken is very low compared to that eaten by pets in their food.
“As recently as 2000, experts almost took melamine off the list of products to be tested in foods, because its toxicity is so low. In fact, one standard measure of a compound’s ability to cause harm found that people would have to ingest three times their body weight of melamine to run any serious health risk.
Lower dosages
Dogs and cats are primarily eating just one product, so they were eating melamine at high concentrations every day. Humans, on the other hand, didn’t eat the pet food directly. Instead, it was fed to chickens that naturally excrete much of the melamine away. Very little of the compound could be expected to settle in the animals’ muscle tissue.
Different physiologies
There are lots of differences between how species respond to chemicals. Cats can develop kidney failure from chewing on Easter lilies, and dogs can die after eating grapes – neither of which harm humans.
The bottom line
The current melamine scare offers little or no threat to the health of the typical US consumer, experts said. The health of their pets is not so certain, however. It’s still not even clear how many cats and dogs died from eating the tainted products.
Government officials say that there have been no reports of melamine-linked sickness in either humans or in the chickens fed the contaminated pet food.
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