Tainted poultry has entered food supply
Millions of chickens ate feed containing melamine, government officials say
NBC News and news services
Updated: 8:04 p.m. ET May 1, 2007
WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Adminstration said Tuesday that as many as 3 million chickens that may have been given contaminated feed containing melamine have already been eaten by consumers, according to NBC News.
Although the chickens, which came from 38 poultry farms in Indiana, have already made their way into the food supply, there appears to be minimal or no health risk to humans, the government said.
The Agriculture Department and the FDA said in a joint statement Monday that officials learned of the link between the chicken feed and tainted pet food as part of the investigation into imported rice protein concentrate and wheat gluten that have been found to contain the industrial chemical melamine and related compounds.
The affected poultry farms and breeder poultry farms fed the contaminated feed to poultry within days of receiving it, the agencies said. Other farms will probably be identified as having received tainted feed, they added.
All the broilers believed to have been fed contaminated products have been processed, while the breeders are under voluntary hold by flock owners, the agencies said. The farms were given the contaminated feed in early February.
Birds that were given the contaminated feed will not be allowed to enter the U.S. food supply. Farmers will be compensated if they destroy the birds that consume the feed.
The agencies also said there was a “low-risk” to humans and no food recalls were expected at this time. They are uncertain how many chickens were involved, how many entered the food supply or where they went.
“We haven’t completed counting yet,” said USDA spokesman Keith Williams.
Pet food tainted with melamine was also found in feed given to hogs. Last week, the USDA said about 6,000 hogs in six states — California, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah — may have been given the contaminated feed. On Saturday, the agencies cited similar reasons for not issuing a recall.
More than 100 brands of pet food have been recalled since March 16 because they were contaminated with melamine. An unknown number of dogs and cats have been sickened or died after eating chemical-laced pet food.
© 2007 MSNBC InteractiveNBC’s Tom Costello, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report