04/25/07 — Pigs might have eaten recalled pet foods

View Archive

Pigs might have eaten recalled pet foods

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 25, 2007 1:46 PM

Officials with local hog operations, Goldsboro Milling in Goldsboro and Murphy-Brown in Warsaw, said today that salvaged pet food contaminated with an industrial chemical was not used at any of their farms.

"We're double checking our entire system to make sure, but we don't have any reason to believe we've been exposed to any of the contaminated feed," said Don Butler, director of government relations and public affairs at Murphy-Brown. "We're learning as much as we can about where the contaminates came from, but we don't use any pet food derivatives in our feed.

"We manufacture virtually all of our own feed and we have tight quality controls."

Hogs at other farms across the country, though, particularly in California, New York, South Carolina, Utah, Ohio and North Carolina, are suspected of eating the tainted food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the urine of some hogs tested positive for the chemical, melamine, in South Carolina and California, as well as on a 1,400-hog farm in the western part of North Carolina.

Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's chief veterinarian, would not say if any of the affected hogs had entered the food supply.

"At this point, I don't have a definitive answer other than to say that the issue is being addressed," he said.

But North Carolina Agriculture Department officials were much more optimistic that they had quarantined the affected farm in time.

"The system worked here and these animals were intercepted before they were allowed to leave the farm," said Mary Ann McBride, assistant state veterinarian. "We want people to know the food is very much safe."

Goldsboro Milling director of operations John Pike explained that they have few concerns about the news because not only do they have a lab on-site where they test all their feed ingredients, but they also manufacture all of their own feed themselves.

"That was some farm that uses feed waste ingredients, and you do open yourself up when you bring some of those waste ingredients in. They're usually cheaper, but your quality control is a little tougher," Pike said. "We don't do anything like that. Our quality control is good.

"We don't buy anything but straight ingredients and mix our own feed here. We do extensive testing and we feel confident about our feed supply."

Goldsboro Milling, which sells to Smithfield Foods, has farms in North Carolina and Indiana, producing nearly 1.2 million hogs a year.

Murphy-Brown, which Butler said is the largest pork producer in the world, has farms in nine states. It produces more than 15 million hogs worldwide, including seven million in North Carolina. It, too, supplies Smithfield Foods.

The contaminated pet food found in the hog supplies is suspected of being linked to the more than 100 brands of cat and dog food that have been recalled by pet food companies since animal deaths began to be reported about a month ago.

Investigators have found melamine in at least two imported Chinese vegetable proteins used to make pet foods. The chemical possibly was used to skew analyses that measured the protein content of the ingredients, wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate.

A second, related chemical called cyanuric acid also has been found to contaminate rice protein concentrate samples, Sundlof said.

FDA officials said the hogs were fed salvaged pet food made with the tainted rice protein concentrate. The food was given to the animals prior to the products' recalls, said Michael Rogers, who directs field investigations for the FDA.

There were no direct shipments of either of the two ingredients to firms that make food for humans or for animals used as food, Rogers said.

However, the FDA also said it planned to begin testing a wide variety of vegetable proteins at firms that imported the ingredients to make everything from pizza dough to infant formula, and protein shakes to energy bars. The ingredient list includes wheat gluten, corn gluten, corn meal, soy protein and rice bran.

The analyses, which the FDA plans to begin later this week, will look at producers of both food for humans and animal feed, said Dr. David Acheson, the chief medical officer within the agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Acheson stressed that there was no evidence that any of the other vegetable proteins had been contaminated, but that the FDA wanted to "get ahead of the curve" and raise awareness among manufacturers.

Adulterated food cannot be legally fed to either humans or animals, Sundlof said.

Meanwhile, the FDA is sampling for melamine and related compounds in all wheat gluten, rice protein and corn gluten coming into the United States from China.

Also Tuesday, the FDA said another pet food company, SmartPak, had recalled products made with tainted rice protein concentrate. The company said the recall covered a single production run of its LiveSmart Weight Management Chicken and Brown Rice Dog Food.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.