Last week, we were treated to news that malamine contaminated feed, once thought the domain of pet food with wheat gluten imported from China, had spread to animal feed for swine, thereby inching its way closer to human consumption, if only indirectly. (Hence the saying – you are what you eat.) Compensation was authorized for farmers who must euthanize their swine as a result.
This week, the FDA and the USDA have announced that the contamination has found its way into chickens in Indiana. Between this and avian flu, it has been a rough couple of years for chickens. The statement from the agencies, however, did not discuss compensation and in fact, did not state a need to kill the chickens. "Because there is no evidence of harm to humans associated with consumption of chicken fed the contaminated product, no recall of poultry products processed from these animals is being issued."
But this is what they said last week:
"Because the animal feed in question was adulterated, USDA cannot rule out the possibility that food produced from animals fed this product could also be adulterated. Therefore, USDA cannot place the mark of inspection on food produced from these animals…USDA is offering to compensate producers who euthanize swine that were fed the adulterated product. USDA is authorized to use Section 32 funds to restore farmers’ purchasing power."
It feels like a somewhat inconsistent message to me. Perhaps the closer we get to finding that humans have actually consumed animals who ate the feed, the less alarming the thought is.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Take the Food out of the Food and Drug Administration and put the regulatory authority into an agency that is focused solely on food safety. We will be safer both on the food front and the drug front if we do.
In the meantime, these agencies need to clarify their messaging on the human consumption of animals and animal products (eggs and milk) from animals that have eaten the contaminated feed.