The investigators are trying to learn just how much pet food tainted with an industrial chemical called melamine made its way into products consumed by pets as well as by hogs and chickens.
The pet food scare, as well as earlier discoveries of E. coli in spinach and salmonella in peanut butter, has led to concerns about the safety of the United States' food supply.
This week, investigators announced that byproducts from tainted pet food had been used in chicken feed on some farms in Indiana. A few days earlier, they said hog farms in six states may have received tainted pet food for use as feed.
The pet food could be to blame for a wave of dog and cat deaths in March due to kidney failure. However, Dr. David Acheson, an assistant commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, said the threat level to pets is greater than to livestock or humans.
"It was only a small portion of what the poultry was fed, and human consumers will only use poultry as a small portion of their diet," Acheson said.
By contrast, pets often eat the same product exclusively, he said.
"The dilution factors here are enormous," he said.
The FDA on Tuesday named Acheson as assistant commissioner for food protection. One of his first projects will be to develop a strategy that identifies potential gaps in the food safety system.
Officials said that as many as 3 million young chickens out of 9 billion slaughtered annually may have eaten feed that potentially included an ingredient containing the melamine. They have already been slaughtered for human consumption, 안양출장안마
but because there is no evidence that consumption is unsafe, no recall has been issued.
Overall, the FDA has received about 17,000 calls alleging illness or death of a pet as a result of contaminated food. Roughly half of those entered alleged an animal death.
The agency will investigate to determine whether the deaths are associated with the recalled products.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers announced plans Tuesday for addressing food safety. Two lawmakers introduced legislation that would give the FDA the power to order mandatory recalls of adulterated
food products, as well as establish fines for companies that do not promptly report contaminated products.
Three former commissioners testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill that the FDA needs more money for inspectors and more regulatory authority over producers and suppliers.
Dr. David Kessler, who served as FDA commissioner in the administrations of the first President Bush and President Bill Clinton, said the federal government has more authority
to halt the distribution of dangerous toys than it has over unsafe food products.