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Farmed fish ate tainted food, officials say

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 9, 2007


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WASHINGTON - Farmed fish were fed meal spiked with an industrial chemical linked to the ongoing recall of pet foods, though the contamination level was probably too low to pose a danger to anyone who may have eaten the fish, federal health officials said Tuesday.

The Canadian-made meal included what was purported to be wheat gluten, a protein source, imported from China. The material was actually wheat flour spiked by the chemical melamine and related, nitrogen-rich compounds to make it appear more protein rich than it was, officials said.

After pigs and chickens, the farmed fish mark the third food animal given contaminated feed. The level of contamination is expected to be too low to pose any danger to human health, said Dr. David Acheson, the FDA's assistant commissioner for food protection.

It wasn't immediately clear if any of the farmed fish entered the food supply. However, Acheson said at least one firm's fish were still too young and small to be sold. Investigators were visiting other U.S. aquaculture farms that used the contaminated feed.

Melamine, a chemical found in plastics and pesticides and not approved for use in pets or humans in the United States, contaminated pet food that either sickened or killed an unknown number of dogs and cats. Since March 16, more than 100 brands of pet food have been recalled because they were contaminated with melamine.

Acheson said that fish samples would be screened for signs of melamine. "Depending upon what we find in that testing, that is going to drive the next steps, " Acheson said.

Canadian officials are aware of the finding, Acheson said.

"We used it to make pet food. They used it to make fish meal, " he said.

[Last modified May 9, 2007, 01:37:08]


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