By Dan Shapley
By Dan Shapley News Editor
Pork from pigs that ate melamine-tainted feed will be sold to the public, federal investigators told reporters Tuesday afternoon. The Department of Agriculture had held 56,000 hogs from the market until federal agents finished testing meat for melamine and completed a human health risk assessment. Those hogs, on farms in seven states, had been fed feed that included tainted pet food. (Pork) is safe for human consumption. Therefore, it''s no longer necessary for these swine to be held on farms. They can be safely sent for further processing, said Kenneth Petersen, the assistant administrator for field operations at the USDA''s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The human health risk assessment found that a person who ate a diet made up entirely of tainted food would be exposed to an amount of melamine 250-times lower than the amount that would cause harm, according to David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration''s assistant commissioner for food protection. For a human to suffer health effects from exposure to melamine, a 132-pound person would have to eat 800 pounds of pork a day, Acheson said, clearly an unlikely situation. That risk is, however, 10-times higher than previously reported by federal investigators. The revised number comes in part from a calculation that includes exposure to cyuranic acid, which also contaminated some feed. About 80,000 chickens on an Indiana farm are still being quarantined, pending testing. The FDA is also holding fish at hatcheries and fish farms that were fed tainted feed. The investigation that started when Chinese melamine-tainted wheat flour, labeled as wheat gluten, was used to make pet food. It is believed to have killed perhaps thousands of pets, and also was added to some poultry, pig and fish feed. Some Chinese manufacturers added melamine and cyuranic acid to wheat flour to falsely boost its apparent protein content, so they could sell it for a higher price. The incident and investigation have highlighted the increasingly complex and international food distribution system. Critics have highlighted many gaps in the federal government's ability to ensure the safety of the food supply.