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FDA Says Health Risk to Humans Is Low

May 8, 2007 -- Add farmed fish to the list of animals that have been fed melamine-tainted food made from Chinese ingredients -- but pose little risk to humans, according to the FDA.

Melamine is a nitrogen-containing molecule that has several industrial uses. It has been used as a fertilizer in some parts of the world, but melamine isn't a registered fertilizer in the U.S.

"We have discovered melamine in fish [feed]," the FDA's David Acheson, MD, told reporters in a news conference today.

Acheson, who is the FDA's assistant commissioner for food protection, explains that the tainted ingredients came from the same two Chinese companies linked to melamine-tainted pet food and animal feed fed to U.S. hogs and poultry.

Those Chinese companies shipped the tainted ingredients to Canada, which produced fish feed that was then shipped to several U.S. fish farms.

Acheson said he doesn't know how many fish (or what types of fish) might have eaten the tainted fish feed.

"This is a new finding. It's a very active part of the investigation," Acheson says.

Low Risk to Humans

"At this point, based on the risk assessment and the levels that we know of in the fish [feed], as with the hogs and the poultry, we do not believe that this poses any significant human health threat," Acheson says.

"Even if these fish have been fed this fish [feed], we believe that the risk to humans is low," Acheson says.

"We know of a number of firms that received this fish [feed], and our investigators are getting out there to determine exactly what they are doing with the fish that have been fed this fish [feed].

"We have so far managed to get to one of these establishments, where we confirmed the positive finding," Acheson says. "That particular establishment is dealing with very small fish ... these are tiny fish that are not yet ready for human consumption."

Tainted Wheat Flour

At the news conference, Acheson also announced that FDA tests on melamine-tainted Chinese ingredients already under investigation were conducted on mislabeled products.

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