Low Risk to Humans Who Eat Melamine in Pork, Chicken, Agencies Say

The quick decision to declare Ground Zero's air safe for rescuers and responders after 9/11 cost OSHA dearly in public relations, so the FDA/USDA announcement yesterday that chicken and pork containing the contaminant melamine poses a very low risk to human beings who eat it also may be remembered long from now. The low risk assessment came quickly after federal authorities said melamine had entered the U.S. human food chain after poisoning dogs and cats through tainted pet food.

The assessment was conducted by scientists from five federal agencies: CDC, EPA, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, FDA, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection unit of DHS. FDA and USDA are finding experts to sit on a scientific advisory board to review the assessment.

The risk is considered to be low because both hogs and chickens fed melamine "appear to be healthy," and the amount of contaminated scraps they ate were a small percentage of their total food consumption. Dogs and cats sickened by melanmine were exposed at higher levels and suffered kidney damage because the melamine and its compounds formed crystals in their kidney systems, the agencies said. Still, hoges and chickens suspected of receiving contaminated food are being held under state quarantine or voluntarily held by their owners, they said.

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