Dioxin investigation prompts US fish feed recall

Investigation of a dioxin finding in catfish late last year have led to the discovery of dioxin contamination in feeds shipped to 10 states and Canada
March 22, 2004

After being notified by FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) of a dioxin finding in a catfish late last year, the Center for Veterinary Medicine took samples of the feed fed the fish and found 2-3 parts per trillion (pptr TEQ) of dioxin. The agency has traced the source of dioxin to a premix containing a zinc oxide (inorganic form only) product from a smelter that contained 40,000-70,000 pptr, and a copper oxide product containing 850 pptr.

FDA is notifying feed control officials in California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington regarding shipments into these states containing these high dioxin level products and asking for recalls. Two shipments have been identified that went to Canada also.
AFIA urges firms to cooperate with any recall when contacted by either state or federal officials.

Dioxin is a class of compounds that persist in the environment at very low levels and are potential human carcinogens. FDA regularly samples for dioxin and similar compounds in both feed and food products. Although no tolerance has been established for feed, FDA has been taking recall actions when the levels of the feed or ingredients are relatively high. On July 1, 2002, the European Union established a maximum level of 1.0 pptr dioxins (not including PCBs) in feed mineral ingredients, and a level of 0.75 pptr in finished feed.

The CFSAN catfish sample was taken several months ago as part of a routine surveillance of dioxin food samples. It was reported to CVM late last year, and FDA immediately contacted the feed mill and the premix supplier to the feed mill. From the positive findings in the premix, FDA traced the dioxins to the zinc oxide. FDA noted this zinc oxide is a gray powder and contains some "fly ash." The industry was reminded to have some mineral sampling plans for dioxin in place to prevent these types of contamination. Currently, FDA does not contemplate any feed recalls, but the situation could change with other findings, as this is an ongoing investigation.

For more on dioxin, AFIA held a dioxin seminar last May, and proceedings are available in either video or written format from the AFIA website or by calling AFIA.

If you have any questions regarding the above dioxin incident, contact Richard Sellers at 703/524-0810 or by email