Risk is minor in pork, chicken

Published May 8, 2007

CHICAGO - It's safe to eat pork and chicken from animals whose feed was mixed with contaminated pet food that sickened or killed cats and dogs, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Monday.

Testing found that the contaminant, the industrial chemical melamine, was so diluted that any human exposure from the meat or eggs of the animals would be thousands of times lower than the level considered safe, he said.

"We literally found that the dilution is so minute, in fact in some cases you can't even test and find melamine any more in that product, " Johanns said.

Based on the testing, the government lifted a quarantine on nearly all of the 20-million chickens that were held from market last week after the feed contamination was discovered.

Those animals now may be slaughtered and enter the food supply.

About 6, 000 hogs still were being held pending additional testing.

Agriculture Department spokeswoman Terri Teuber said the government is confident that the hogs and remaining chickens are safe to consume, but wanted additional testing before releasing them into the food chain.

Melamine, a chemical found in plastics and pesticides, contaminated pet food that either sickened or killed an unknown number of dogs and cats.

Scraps left over from the manufacture of that pet food was sold for use in animal feed before the pet food was known to be tainted and recalled from store shelves.

Since March 16, more than 100 brands of pet food have been recalled because they were contaminated with melamine.