Tainted fish feed was used in Canada: B.C. minister

B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Bell has confirmed that melamine-contaminated fishmeal was sold to West Coast fish farms by a Vancouver company, which has now recalled the product.

Melamine-contaminated fishmeal was sold to fish farms in B.C. by a Vancouver company, which hasnow recalled the product, B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Bell has confirmed.

The fish food pellets contain the same contaminated Chinese wheat flour linked to recent poisonings of cats and dogs in Canada and the United States.

The wheat flour arrived in North Vancouver last July, and Skretting Canadaturned it into fish pellets, which it then sold to aquaculture operators.

Skrettingannounced a voluntary recall ofthe Bio-Oregon brand fish feed after the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationrevealed that farmed fish had been giventhe feed containing the industrial chemical melamine, which isfound in plastics and pesticides.

However, Bell said consumers here should not be worried about the chemical showing up at B.C. fish farms.

"The CFIA [Canadian Food Inspection Agency] has confirmed to us that in fact there are some B.C. farms that utilized the contaminated feed. Again, the advice that we have received from CFIA is there's no implications to human health."

Skretting said in a release that melamine is not believed to be toxic to fish and noted that no associated incidents of illness have been reported. The company also said they are working with CFIA and the FDA.

Can't take 'shotgun approach:' CFIA

TheCFIA says there's no question Canadians have eaten the fish that ate the contaminated pellets, but maintainsthere isno public health risk.

Jay Ritchlin of the David Suzuki Foundationsaid that's of little comfort to consumers.

"If we're going to eat these products, we need to have monitoring that can catch these things head of time, rather than going in after the fact," he said.

The CFIA's Paul Mayers defended the agency, saying it has limited resources.He added thatrealistically it can only test food after a risk has been determined.

"We cannot test for every possible contaminant in a product," he said. "Nor would it be fiscally prudent to employ resources in such a shotgun approach."

He said the food inspection agency is now targeting food imported from China. At the borders, all wheat and vegetable protein are seized and tested for melamine before being allowed into the country.

Call for new regulatory measures

B.C.'s deputy health officer, Dr. Eric Young, has called for regulatory measures to be introduced to better protect Canadians.

"Clearly this shows that living in a global economy I think we need to be very vigilant," Dr. Eric Young said. "My understanding is that most international agencies will be stepping up their surveillance of these types of incidents."

Melamine was also found in more than 100 brands of contaminated pet food that were recalled from the marketplace in Canada and the U.S. in mid-March.

FDAinvestigators said they have also learned that shipments of wheat gluten and rice protein concentrates from China were in fact lots of simple wheat flour spiked with melamine, which falsely boosted the nutrient content.

With files from the Associated Press