20 Million Chickens on Hold

Washington Post writer, Rick Weiss, has reported that approximately 20 million chickens being raised for human consumption ate feed containing melamine and are being held to keep them from entering the food supply according to Agriculture Department officials.

The Agriculture Department called for this voluntary hold pending completion of a government risk analysis to determine whether or not the chickens are safe to eat.

Government officials previously found evidence that as many as 345 pigs and 3 million broiler chickens might have been sold for human food after eating contaminated feed.

Despite the frightening numbers, FDA officials have said that the health risks of eating meat from the animals fed the contaminated materials are very small.

The 20 million live chickens being held were raised for large brand name growers an FDA spokesman said. “These are names you would know.” The agency is not revealing the names at this time.

Since the chickens were being raised for well known brands that were being fed a high quality blend of feed this means that their food had a smaller percentage of pet food mixed in and therefore lower overall doses of melamine, the industrial chemical that was found in mixtures of Chinese wheat gluten and rice protein. These mixtures have been incorporated into more than 100 brands of pet food.

Thousands of pet deaths are currently being investigated for possible links to the contamination and 60 millions packages of pet food have been recalled since March. Initial tests have found no measurable traces of melamine in the chickens which are being held and the birds appear healthy.

The USDA, FDA and EPA are working on a joint risk assessment of eating the chickens. The assessment should be available soon.