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Release No. 0119.07
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Transcript of Tele-News Conference Regarding FDA-USDA Update on Recall of Pet Foods Washington D.C. April 26, 2007

MODERATOR: Thank you. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Julie Zawisza, assistant commissioner for Public Affairs with the Food and Drug Administration. And we're very happy that you could join us this afternoon for an update on the contaminated pet food investigation and the animal feed investigation.

I have with me several senior officials with the FDA and with the USDA. And I will introduce them in a moment to you.

The format for this afternoon will be some opening remarks from our speakers, and then we will take your questions.

Our speakers for today are Captain David Elder, director, Office of Enforcement with FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs. Our speaker from the USDA who we're delighted to have today is Mr. Kenneth Peterson, assistant administrator for Field Operations with the Food Safety and Inspection Service. We also have with us Dr. Daniel McChesney, DVM, the director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance with our Center for Veterinary Medicine here with FDA. And finally we have Dr. David Acheson, M.D., who is the chief medical officer in our Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

With that, I'd like to turn it over to Captain Elder for some opening remarks. David?

CAPTAIN DAVID ELDER: Thank you, Julie. Good afternoon. We're very pleased to provide you with this update this afternoon, and we'd like to welcome on the call Ken Peterson, deputy administrator for the Food Safety and Inspection Service with USDA.

We're working very closely with USDA on some agricultural aspects of the contaminated pet food as you may know. Today we notified state authorities that swine fed adulterated products will not be approved to enter the food supply. Based on information currently available, FDA and USDA believe the likelihood of illness after eating such pork is extremely low. However, the agencies also believe it's prudent to take this measure.

As you know, we determined that a shipment of rice protein imported from China was contaminated with melamine and melamine-related compounds. Product was off-loaded during the week of April 2, 2007, by Wilbur-Ellis, an importer and distributor of agricultural products in the Pacific Northwest. Rice protein was used in the production of pet food and a byproduct of pet food was used to produce animal feed. As was mentioned, the contaminants in question include melamine and melamine-related compounds including cyanuric acid, a combination of which is a potential source of concern in relation to human and animal health.

Scientific research indicates that melamine alone at detected levels is not a human health concern. However, no scientific data exists to ascertain the effects of combining melamine and melamine-related compounds. Therefore, the determination has not yet been made regarding the safety of the product.

I'd like to turn it over to Ken Peterson for some remarks now, please.

DR. KEN PETERSON (FSIS, USDA): Thank you. This is Dr. Peterson, assistant administrator with FSIS. As you just heard, 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, should these animals be presented for slaughter, USDA cannot place the mark of inspection on any food that's produced from these animals, these swine. USDA is offering to compensate producers who euthanize swine that were fed the adulterated feed. USDA is authorized to use Section 32 funds to restore these farmers' purchasing power.

USDA is also offering the expertise and assistance of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service personnel in carrying out any depopulation activities to ensure that animals are euthanized and disposed of in accordance with federal, state and local laws. And we'll turn it back to FDA.

CAPTAIN ELDER: Thank you, Dr. Peterson. FDA and FSIS are coordinating with state authorities in eight states where the adulterated feed is known to have been purchased, 8 pork producers in the states of California, Kansas, North Carolina, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah are known to have purchased the feed. These combined operations involve approximately 6,000 hogs, all of the animals are currently being held under state quarantine in California, North Carolina and New York. In Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah, producers agreed to hold the animals until further notice.

Authorities are also in contact with a feed mill in Missouri that might have received adulterated feed.

Dr. Peterson?

DR. PETERSON: The pork and pork products derived from these animals that were fed the adulterated feed will also be destroyed. In California and Utah pork from federally inspected plants is being retained at the federal plant under FSIS authority. In South Carolina, a state inspected plant is voluntarily holding swine that were fed the adulterated feed product. FSIS, FDA and state authorities are in the process of determining whether any meat from animals that were fed the adultered product has entered commerce. If this has occurred, FSIS will work with states and industry to initiate any appropriate follow-up action.

And we'll turn it back to FDA.

CAPTAIN ELDER: Thank you, and just a couple other comments before we open it for questions. We are very pleased and proud to be working so closely with FSIS. We are continuing our effort with FSIS to trace the adulterated feed. If any additional producers are identified who fed the adulterated product to animals, they too will be offered compensation by USDA for depopulation. And with that, Julie, I turn it back to you.

MODERATOR: Thank you, David. Thank you, Dr. Peterson. Ladies and gentlemen, at this time we'd like to open up the lines to your questions, and may I ask that you ask one question only because we have a lot of people on the line today with a lot of questions. And also please state your name and affiliation.

OPERATOR: If you'd like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. You will be prompted to record your name. To withdraw your question, press #2. Our first question comes from Marian Falco. Ma'am, your line is open.

REPORTER: Thank you. Can you clarify how many pork products have been consumed by humans, because some in California at least have been. And why the distinction between commercial food supply, and if people are asking have humans consumed this, what's the answer? And then what's the risk to the people who may have consumed product that came from where the pigs consumed some of this adultered pet food?

MODERATOR: Who should answer that question?

DR. PETERSON: Okay, this is Dr. Peterson. I'll start with the food products. Speaking for federal plants, we're not aware, but we're investigating as I said whether any products from animals have gone into commerce. I need to kind of back up a little bit. As was mentioned by FDA, as far as we know today, and they are toward the end of this investigation as I understand it, about 6,000 hogs were potentially fed the feed. And we have no reason to believe there's anywhere near that number that even may have gone to slaughter plants. The national slaughter number for swine is over 100 million, so that's the context.

For the California situation, that I'm aware of, it doesn't involve a federal plant. It involves some either custom producers or state plants, and any of those products didn't as I understand it go into what we call commerce, meaning anybody can buy them. They went back to the individual farmer who bought that product, who brought that animal to the custom process facility. That's the information we have.

But as far as federal slaughter and any of these animals coming to federal slaughter plants, again we're not aware of products that have gone into commerce, but we're working with FDA to find any of these farms where the animals consumed the feed, and did any of those swine actually go to slaughter.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Elizabeth Weiss. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Yes, hi. Thanks for taking my call. I had a question on the melamine and melamine-related chemicals. Can you be a little more specific the ways in which cyanuric acid is related to melamine? And was it only found in the rice protein concentrate? Has it turned up at all in the wheat gluten?

MODERATOR: Dr. McChesney will take that one.

DR. DANIEL McCHESNEY: It's in the family with melamine, and it's been detected in the rice protein concentrate, and our lab people have gone back and tested some of the wheat gluten samples, previously that had only been tested for melamine and found cyanuric acid in some of those samples also.

MODERATOR: :Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Andrew Bridges. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Hi. It's Andrew Bridges at AP. Is not approved to enter the food supply mean it is illegal to sell these hogs? Is that the same thing? And will these 6,000 hogs then be slaughtered and disposed of and not sold?

DR. PETERSON: They won't be slaughtered. They will be humanely euthanized on the farm and not allowed to enter any food channel.

REPORTER: It is indeed illegal to sell them then?

DR. PETERSON: Well, they are not eligible as I said from the USDA perspective then, from the Food Safety and Inspection Service. We're not in a position to apply the marks of inspection on these products. On any animals we know have consumed this feed, so if they bring them to the slaughter plant, they are not going to go anywhere. And so it's much more prudent to deal with them on the farm, and that's what the compensation provisions we mentioned are about.

REPORTER: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Next question, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Richard Reid. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Thank you. Rich Reid with the Oregonian. Could you explain a little more in detail what the interaction between the melamine and the cyanuric acid could actually do?

DR. MCCHESNEY: This is Dan McChesney with FDA. That's one of the things we're still working on trying to see how those interactions would go together and if they might increase the toxicity of the melamine. There is some indication that the crystals could be formed as a combination of these two compounds, but we're still examining the interactions.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next questions come from Linda Fucco (sp). Your line is open.

REPORTER: Thank you from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Reference was made to reimbursing was it farmers for the hogs? Is that the farmers, or would that be processors or packing plants? Number one and number two, does government have to reimburse the farmers? Can anyone then go back to the people who imported these products or are they liable to pay for any of this cost at all?

DR. PETERSON: Okay, it's Dr. Peterson with USDA. On the Section 32 provision that I mentioned, the authority is with the Secretary of Agriculture to compensate what we call restoring of farmers lost purchasing power. So it is the actual farmer raising these pigs. That's where the authority, that's the extent of authority as far as compensation. Now for example, in this case, these pigs cannot go into market, so we're offering up to replace the farmers' purchasing power, and that's the Section 32 funds. And we'll leave it at that.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from David Goldstein. Sir, your line is open.

REPORTER: Hi. David Goldstein from 710 Cairo in Seattle. The livestock feed was adulterated by salvaged pet food. Menu Foods has recalled product going back to November 8 of 2006. Is the FDA aware of whether Menu Foods actually sold salvaged pet food into the livestock feed industry during that time?

MODERATOR: Can you repeat that question?

REPORTER: The question is whether the FDA is aware whether Menu Foods sold salvaged pet food during, going back to November 8 during the time it was producing contaminated food. And whether that made it into livestock feed.

MODERATOR: Give us a second, please. Captain Elder.

CAPTAIN ELDER: We are tracking all manufacturers who produced pet food from ingredients that were contaminated with melamine or these melamine-related byproducts. And the practices differ by each manufacturing facility as to what if anything they sell as salvaged type products that may go into animal feeds. So just like we are doing with this rice protein concentrate from some of these manufacturers, we have been and continue to trace any other pet foods made by Menu or made by other processors with the wheat gluten to follow that trail to see if any may have entered the animal food supply.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Rick Weiss. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Thank you. I'm wondering on the basis of studies on sick or dead pets how certain you are at this point that these compounds you're talking about are the culprit compounds and what your late assessment is of the number of affected pets.

DR. MCCHESNEY: This is Dan McChesney with FDA. We're still working on the toxicity of these compounds and how they may interact, so we really have no additional information on that. We're continuing to look at that. And our estimate is still where it was, in the previous stage, in the upper teens for animals affected. As we've said in the past, we're focused mainly on making sure all product that's in commerce is removed from commerce, following up on things like the recent feeding to hogs. So our focus is on that.

REPORTER: But to be clear, these two compounds are the ones you're focusing on now to the exclusion of anything else? There are no second or third-tier suspect chemicals that you are looking into?

DR. MCCHESNEY: We are looking at these two and other metabolites that might, are associated with this family. But you are correct; those are the main two at this time.

REPORTER: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Gina Danron (sp). Your line is open.

REPORTER: Hi. Thank you. I was wondering, when you were going over the list of states that has the hog farms that were feeding the tainted feed, you mentioned California, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Utah, and I think you said Oklahoma. Is Ohio still listed in there as well? And also California, North Carolina and New York have quarantined the hogs. Have the other states not done that? And why haven't they done that?

MODERATOR: Can you please state your name and affiliation?

REPORTER: Oh, yes. Gina Danron, Detroit Free Press.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Dr. Peterson, would you like to take that question?

DR. PETERSON: Sure. What we know from the – yes, Oklahoma was added. As far as, and that was just information from today. Ohio as we understand it here and FDA can correct us if necessary, that farm given some subsequent investigation received feed before it was from that particular feed mill if you will, before that mill received the contaminated feed. So they received it from the same firm, but in investigation it predated any exposure, and so the concerns from that farm didn't pan out.

The quarantine and the holds--there's some official quarantines in certain states as you know. And FDA listed those states. In the other states, there's some holds on the animals, that's really a state and local issue as far as how to exercise control, but those animals are under control, and they are not proceeding into the slaughter chain until we get this information out on the compensation and this other information.

REPORTER: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question.

OPERATOR: Next question is from Alison Aubrey. Your line is open.

REPORTER: (no audible response)

MODERATOR: Let's go to the next questioner, and if she gets back in the queue, would you put her through, please?

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Abigail Goldman. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Good afternoon. Abigail Goldman with the LA Times. Can you update us on where you are as far as the investigation in China? The last press conference you talked about obtaining the warrants or letters that you needed. Have you gone to China; do you have people in those factories? And if so, what are they finding?

MODERATOR: We have Dr. Murray Lumpkin here who's the head of Office of International Programs, and I'm going to ask him to take this. But would you mind repeating it because we had a little technical interference here and didn't catch everything.

REPORTER: Yes. I said, basically where are you in the process? Do you have people in those factories? What are you finding? How many factories are you in versus how many you've requested to go in, etcetera? Just bring us up to date in general.

DR. MURRAY LUMPKIN: Hi. This is Murray Lumpkin. We have received from the Chinese government the documents that we need in order to get visas for our people to go over. Our people are at this point ready to go over. We are working with the Chinese authorities. They have been in the plants doing the inspections at this point in time that they wished to do. One of the things that we know is that our in-country colleagues have obviously in-country expertise on sales, marketing, business relationship, and often having the original inspections done they are bringing a tremendous amount of information that we can use when we go in. So we are expecting to have our people in China in the very near future, and we'll be working with our counterparts in China on what they have found and then doing our own inspections there also.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Dr. Lumpkin. Next question, please?

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Alex Pulaski. Sir, your line is open.

REPORTER: Hi. This is Alex Pulaski with the Oregonian. Dr. McChesney, you indicated that there was some indication the interaction of the two, there's some indication that crystals could be formed. Does that mean that potentially could lead to renal failure or something else? Then secondly, the question was asked of Mr. Peterson whether USDA or the government in some form would go after Wilbur-Ellis for reimbursement. And I didn't hear a precise answer to that question. I'd appreciate if we could hear an answer to that.

DR. MCCHESNEY: This is Dan McChesney with FDA. That's correct. The crystal formation in the kidneys could lead to mechanical damage of the kidney, resulting in kidney failure.

REPORTER: Okay, thank you.

DR. PETERSON: When I mentioned the Secretary's authority, we mentioned it was extended to compensating farmers, that the importer would not be in our view the farmers, so they'd not be eligible for compensation.

REPORTER: I'm sorry, sir. The question was, if the federal government is reimbursing farmers, and it tends to be the fault of some other party, whether it's Wilbur-Ellis or some importer, are you going to seek repayment of those funds from that importer of this contaminated feed?

DR. PETERSON: Okay. No, that's not our intention. These are separate funds, and this is the type of purpose that we would use them for.

REPORTER: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Mary Frugas (sp). Your line is open.

REPORTER: Hi, good afternoon. Thanks for taking my call. Do you have a sense of how much money might be spent on the compensation, on that process to the farmers?

DR. PETERSON: At this point, no. We need to get our arms around how many and then what's the value and all this stuff, but we don't have a dollar value at this point.

REPORTER: You don't know how many farmers there are that might be –

DR. PETERSON: We listed the 8 producers of interest.

REPORTER: Okay.

DR. PETERSON: It would be up to 6,000 hogs. And then of course we need to make sure that those hogs actually ate the contaminated feed so that they are eligible for compensation.

REPORTER: Okay.

MODERATOR: Next question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Jim Kirshner. Sir, your line is open.

REPORTER: Thank you. Jim Kirshner with WDIV-TV in Detroit. I think this was asked earlier, and I may have missed the answer or it didn't get answered. Do you have a total number of pets either killed or sustaining some sort of injury from the pet food contamination? What figures do you have confirmed at this point?

DR. MCCHESNEY: This is Dan McChesney from FDA. What I previously said I believe in response to the Washington Post question was that it's in the high teens, maybe 17 or 18 that we have confirmed. But again that's not our focus. Our focus is to remove product that was contaminated, contained either wheat gluten or rice concentrate from commerce so we don't involve other animals or get it into other parts of the supply system.

REPORTER: At some point will you make a count, take a count, of the number of dogs, cats involved?

DR. MCCHESNEY: I don't know. We've had multiple, many thousand calls from consumers, and we are looking at that, but I'm not sure we will ever come up with a final number here. It's just, I just don't think we can ever get there.

MODERATOR: Were you finished, caller?

REPORTER: Yes, thank you.

MODERATOR: Next caller, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Allen Gergus (sp) Your line is open.

REPORTER: Yes. Moving from the topic of what compensation could be or what companies might owe farmers, there's also the question of, you have these companies that after the product call, according to Steven Sundloft, these pet food companies salvaged the discarded pet food by turning it into hog feed. That's taking something that was unacceptable for the pet supply and possibly putting it in the human supply. I'm wondering if there's any criminal possibility to this, or what sort of regulations may have been broken that you may need to investigate?

CAPTAIN ELDER: That has not happened. Recalled pet food has not been put into animal feed for hogs or any other animal. What we're talking about in terms of salvaged food, it's basically what was produced at the time lots of pet food was produced that didn't quite meet standards to get into a pet food bag. It may have been crushed, may have been dust, may have been parts that fell on the floor during manufacturing production that didn't make it into pet food. That is the salvaged product that we're talking about that is gathered up by pet food manufacturers and sent to places like salvagers or farmers for use in animal feed. It is not recalled product that was salvaged and turned into animal feed.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question, please?

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Liz Osbey. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Hi. Thank you. This is Lee Osbey with the Greenville News. In South Carolina the officials here are saying that feed at the farm involved tested negative for melamine. The hog urine tested positive. I'm wondering if this means that the feed they have been eating had been contaminated longer than believed resulting in some of these swine already in the human food chain? Or is there some other explanation?

CAPTAIN ELDER: It's hard to speculate as to what some of the reasons behind that could be. The contamination certainly isn't homogeneous throughout the product, so a sample of feed could have tested negative, but a sample down the line a little bit could have tested positive. It's hard to speculate on that reason. We believe that the dates of the contamination are clear, and that the food produced in that time is adulterated, whether it was used in pet food or whether it was used in animal feed, and just can't really speculate on what you perceive as an inconsistency.

MODERATOR: Next question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Daniel Goldstein. You line is open.

REPORTER: Hi. It's Dan Goldstein with Bloomberg. I wonder if you can elaborate a little bit on the feed mill in Missouri which you mentioned may have also had some contaminated feed. What does that feed mill produce, and is there any chance the chemical might have gotten into the chicken and cattle feed as well?

CAPTAIN ELDER: We're still tracking that down, and that's preliminary at this point. I'm not prepared to talk about that, but maybe during the next call or we get information that confirms before the next call we can get it out.

REPORTER: So you can't rule that out that that chicken feed, cattle feed may have been adulterated?

DR. MCCHESNEY: This is Dan McChesney. I'm not sure we can rule out chicken feed because as David said we're still investigating. But all this, if this in fact was a pet food product and it had meat product in it, it could not go to cattle feed under the BSE regulations. We feel pretty confident that none of this has gone to cattle feed. It's just not a common practice in that industry.

REPORTER: Because of the ruminant to ruminant rule?

DR. MCCHESNEY: Yes.

REPORTER: Okay.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question?

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Debbie Turner. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Thank you. This is Debbie Turner with CBS News. As it relates to pets, are you confident that you have confiscated and contained all the melamine adulterated or contaminated, whether it be wheat gluten, rice protein concentrate, and should we expect any additional voluntary recalls among pet food in the coming days and weeks?

CAPTAIN ELDER: There was a recall announced today involving the rice protein concentrate. It was announced by Chenango Valley Foods. And in this announcement it covered the product Smart Pac, product produced, marketed by the firm Smart Pac that we mentioned during the last call on Tuesday of this week, and it includes additional products distributed by a firm called Foster and Smith. These again were associated with the contaminated rice protein concentrate. We aren't aware of any other potential recalls at this time involving either pet food produced from contaminated wheat gluten or from contaminated rice protein concentrate. As we say time and again, the investigation is open, we continue to follow the trail, but we don't have anything else that we expect to emerge. However, with the caveat, the inspection is ongoing and we are going to follow the trail until it ends, and if another recall emerges through that investigation that's what will be necessary to continue to protect animal health and we will make sure that we do that as expeditiously as we can.

MODERATOR: I would ask callers to speak very clearly and loudly into the microphone or into your phones or headsets. We're having just a little bit of trouble hearing you. Some of you are very soft. Next question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Deirdre Henderson. Ma'am, your line is open.

REPORTER: Hi. Thanks for doing this and thanks, Julie. Sometimes I get soft. I want to reask Rick's question about whether melamine truly is the cause for the harm for these animals in light of China's position that melamine, they have no firm evidence that shows that melamine was a direct cause of the poisoning and death of the pets.

DR. MCCHESNEY: This is Dan McChesney from FDA. I think what I'd say to that is that we know in the original fallibility trials back in early March, end of February and early March, that when we saw animals that died as a result of eating this food or that had become sick, there was melamine in the food, there was melamine in the urine and in some cases melamine was found in the kidney. So while I'm not sure you can say there's a direct link, there's surely a very strong association. Since that time, we've learned about other contaminates or byproducts of the melamine process that are in there such as cyanuric acid, and so I think that leads us to consider other possibilities besides melamine. But melamine is surely associated with the deaths of these pets.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Steve Kay. Sir, your line is open.

REPORTER: This is question I believe for Dr. Peterson. Has the USDA received any indication so far from any of its international trading partners that any of them might temporarily suspend U.S. pork imports as a result of these contaminations?

DR. PETERSON: No, we're not, don't have any information.

REPORTER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Chris Clayton. Sir, your line is open.

REPORTER: This is Chris Clayton with DTN in Omaha, and kind of following up on Steve Kay's question now, because part of the testing may appear to be positive, part might be negative, China doesn't seem to agree that this product was the cause, why hasn't there been any U.S. agency taking the stand of go ahead and putting a hold or a ban on some of these imports until the investigation moves a little further along?

CAPTAIN ELDER: I didn't hear the media affiliation. Could you repeat that?

REPORTER: I'm with DTN. We're an agricultural new service based in Omaha.

CAPTAIN ELDER: Okay, thank you. The actions that FDA has taken thus far involving Chinese imports is, we have two what we call detention without physical examination which is an import alert. The result of it essentially prohibits the importation of products that we have strong beliefs to be in violation of our laws. Those two import alerts relate to products that would be coming in from the firm Zujoo (sp) which was associated with the wheat gluten and Benjoo (sp) which is associated with the rice protein concentrate.

So no products from those firms will be coming into this country. Additionally we have set criteria to perform 100 percent sampling of other similar ingredients coming in from China that are intended for animal food, and I think at this point it would be a good idea for me to ask Dr. David Acheson from our Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition to discuss other proactive steps that we are taking in this area. Dr. Acheson?

DR. DAVID ACHESON: Sure, thanks. This is David Acheson from Center for Food Safety. We went over this briefly on the last conference call on Tuesday, but let me just reiterate. Because we know that the melamine and melamine-related compounds were in the wheat gluten and the rice protein concentrate, we're about to initiate a proactive surveillance assignment focused on two major features. Firstly, to raise awareness with manufacturers, be certain that their suppliers are safe and that they know all there is to know about their suppliers to try to minimize the likelihood of a supply problem.

Secondly, we will be obtaining samples from manufacturers and testing them for melamine and melamine-related compounds.

The focus of this assignment is on a number of protein concentrates including wheat gluten and corn gluten, cornmeal, soy protein, rice bran and rice protein concentrate, and again the focus is on imports from the country of China in relation to those ingredients.

We have no reason to believe that any of those are currently in the human food supply as direct ingredients. We have no reason to believe that anything other than the rice protein concentrate or the wheat gluten have been a problem in the United States recently. So this is a proactive plan. And it's the agency trying to get out ahead of the curve and do the right thing by public health to look for problems ahead of time.

MODERATOR: Dr. Acheson, thank you. Operator, how many callers do we still have on the line or in the queue?

OPERATOR: You have four questions.

MODERATOR: Okay. We're going to try to take all of them.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Ricardo Zaldibar. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Hi. Ricardo Alonzo Zaldibar with the LA Times. And I was wondering if you could explain a little bit more about cyanuric acid. Now the melamine I understand that's used in making plastics, and cyanuric acid I've seen that's used in treating swimming pool water. But now how would it have gotten into this pet food? Would it have been added separately, or is it somehow or another a byproduct of a processing or breakdown of melamine? And if you could explain that, please?

DR. MCCHESNEY: We'd love to be able to say we absolutely know how it got in because if we did we could all go home. But we don't know that. But we can say it is a nitrogen rich compound much like melamine, so presence of either of those compounds or both of those compounds in a protein product could serve to increase the apparent protein level if one was only looking at the nitrogen level. So why it's in there, we still don't know. We can only speculate on that.

REPORTER: But now you call it a melamine-related compound or chemical. That's what I'm trying to understand, why do you call cyanuric acid a melamine related product?

DR. MCCHESNEY: It's structurally similar.

MODERATOR: That was Dr. McChesney.

REPORTER: But now you're thinking that it's not in any way kind of like a product of the breakdown or digestion of melamine or anything like that? It probably would have been added separately for the same purposes, right?

DR. MCCHESNEY: We don't know. Probably so.

Q; Okay. That explains a little bit more. Thank you.

MODERATOR: You're welcome. Next question?

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Sandra Young. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Yes, thank you for taking my question. I wanted to know, what's the concentration of melamine that was found in the hogs? And what's the risk? I'm not clear on what the risk to humans is. You said the likelihood of illness is low, but so what level is dangerous for humans then?

DR. MCCHESNEY: Well, this is Dan McChesney. I'll try what was found in hogs, and we must emphasize this is not FDA data but it's state data that was reported to us, and hog urines have been reported in the parts per billion, 50 to maybe 300 or 400 parts per billion to the low parts per million; and some urines in other animals have been upwards of 50 or 60 parts per million.

What's the problem effect for human? I think maybe I might ask Dr. Acheson to comment on that one.

DR. ACHESON: Sure. Clearly there are no melamine-toxicity studies that have been undertaken in humans that we are aware of. The studies that we are working from are studies that have been done in rats, some have been done in other animals. Those studies would indicate that you need very high levels of pure melamine exposure to cause a problem in these animals significantly higher than we're seeing in this situation. However as has been mentioned on the call, our concern is not just melamine but melamine and the melamine-related compounds like the cyanuric acid and others. So the concern to humans is that some of these mixtures may be more toxic than the melamine alone. At the end of the day, despite that, at the levels that we're seeing, the likelihood of toxicity to humans is still extremely low. It's an extremely remote possibility. So obviously in the context of this call, the action that we're taking is really out of an abundance of caution, but overall we believe the risks to be extremely low to humans.

REPORTER: Could I follow up that question? The parts per billion that you found in the urine, is there an acceptable level? You told me what the level is. But how much higher is that than what's acceptable, or is there no acceptable level?

DR. MCCHESNEY: This is Dan McChesney. I'll try that one. Currently there's no tolerance for any of these compounds, either melamine or cyanuric acid. So because of that we really cannot, the likelihood of this leads from very low likelihood of any problems resulting in food that contained these as Dr. Acheson said is really extremely low. However, we just don't know when we get these mixtures together. So there is no acceptable level.

DR. PETERSON: We do know from some of our discussions with EPA and other agencies there is some low environmental level of melamine out in just at large. And so here we're talking an additional additive, in addition to the feed.

REPORTER: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Let's take the next question.

OPERATOR: Next question comes from Roxanna Hagmann. Your line is open.

REPORTER: Yes, thank you. Roxanna Hagmann with AP in Wichita. Is the depopulation mandatory, and if not, why not?

DR. PETERSON: No, it's not mandatory, but I think farmers of course are prudent people and they need to look at what their options are, and so their options are can they go to slaughter? And that's not going to be an avenue for those that we have, even we have strong reason to believe have eaten that feed. So this is a mechanism to provide them some valid compensation so that they make the right decision in a timely manner that serves everybody's interest. But is there some order for them to it? No.

REPORTER: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Linda Fucco (sp). Your line is open.

REPORTER: Yes, thank you, from the Post Gazette. Getting back to another recall announced today, what is the involvement of Foster and Smith which is a mail order catalog? They've gotten contaminated pet food products into their operation or are they part of the recall, or what's their involvement?

CAPTAIN ELDER: That was the recall I mentioned a little bit earlier. Their involvement is, they are the marketers of products that were contract manufactured for them that used contaminated rice protein concentrate.

REPORTER: Do you know how large? That's a large operation.

CAPTAIN ELDER: In the recall notice specific lots manufactured during a timeframe of about January through April are identified.

REPORTER: Thank you.

CAPTAIN ELDER: That's all the products they've produced, it only relates to the chicken and brown rice formula, dog food, chicken and brown rice adult lite cat food, and certain date codes within that. So I'll – if the press release is not immediately out, it will be out very shortly. Specific information will be in it.

MODERATOR: Operator, we have time for one more question.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Allen Jarga (sp). Your line is open, sir.

REPORTER: Yes. This is just a point of clarification on something earlier. The 6,000 hogs that are currently quarantined, it's expected that they are all going to be destroyed or is there some sort of testing for feed contamination, and if so how do you test?

MODERATOR: Dr. Peterson, are you taking that?

DR. PETERSON: Yes. Yes, it is our expectation that the best course of action would be for them to destroy them. Testing out of it and the provisions for tests and what is a test mean, that may come some day but it's not today. And we don't know when that, if it even happens when that will be. So for them to continue feeding these animals, that's part of the reason we're offering the compensation so they can look at their livestock and make a prompt decision.

REPORTER: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. At this time I'd like to conclude our briefing this afternoon and thank all our speakers. Captain Elder, Dr. Peterson from USDA, thank you once again for helping us out today. Dr. McChesney, Dr. Acheson, and Dr. Lumpkin. I'd like to thank all of you invited guests, members of the media for joining us, and I suspect we haven't answered all your questions yet, so we will intend to have regular updates as information is available. And if you have any follow-up questions tonight, please call FDA and/or the USDA. Our number is 301-827-6242. And USDA is 202-720-4623. You probably have our websites, but they are FDA.GOV and USDA.GOV.

And by now you should have received a joint press release from the two agencies. And we'll keep you posted, and we very much appreciate your participation today. Thank you, and have a pleasant evening.