UPDATE – Dogs recently became sick (and some died) after eating dog food containing a toxic substance called melamine, which was imported from China. Now CNN reports that the Food and Drug Administration says that the same toxic substance may be in chicken and pork produced here in the US. The FDA has discovered that the contaminated wheat gluten, corn gluten, cornmeal, rice bran and other toxic ingredients, which ended up in the dog food and also in animal feed used for pigs and chickens, all came from the same distributor in China. UPDATE: In USA Today, Calum MacLeod writes: "Chinese authorities acknowledged for the first time that ingredients exported to make pet food contained a prohibited chemical, melamine, which is also used to make plastic."

So far, melamine has been found in pork from only twosmall pig farms in California, and the amounts are farsmaller than they would have been in the feed that theanimals were given. But the question of whether or not itcould be harmful to humans remains open. It was initiallythought that the small amounts of melamine in the pet foodwould also be harmless, but there is an apparent level of risk.

Melamine is, in part, converted into ammonia when ingested,and the pet symptoms so far reported are consistent withammonia poisoning.

Melamine is used in cleaning products and some fertilizers,and is not approved for human or animal consumption in theUS or most of the developed world.

The FDA is not recommending recall of any pork products atthis time, and all contaminated pork and chicken is believedto have been found. However, the investigation is onging.

The late anthropologist Marvin Harris postulated that pork was prohibited in some societies, such as among Muslims and Jews, because the pig is the only animal consumed by man that eats the same food we do. That means that, in a given society, if one person keeps a pig, someone at the bottom of the ladder may not have enough to eat.

In LiveScience.com, Heather Whipps writes that around 3,500 years ago, pigs came to remote islands in the Pacific, along with their owners. Since pigs can’t swim, researchers have used bones to trace these pig journeys, in order to understand how these islands were colonized. Whipps quotes geneticist Greger Larson as saying, "If you understand where the pigs are coming from, you know where people are coming from."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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