Stolen transgenic pigs become sausages
- 19:00 25 July 2001
- From New Scientist Print Edition
Meat from transgenic pigs destined for destruction was turned into sausage and eaten by at least nine people in Florida. It may be the first time people in the US have eaten genetically modified meat.
Florida prosecutors have launched an investigation into the incident, which began when a University of Florida employee stole three dead experimental pigs. Unaware of the meat's origin, a butcher made sausages from it. Helen Griffin, who ate about five pounds (2.25 kg) of the sausages with a friend, thought they "tasted real good".
No ill effects were reported, but officials at the National Institutes of Health are nevertheless trying to work out if the meat was a health risk.
The pigs had been genetically modified to carry a copy of the rhodopsin gene, which is involved in eye function. Philip Collis, a biosafety officer at the university, says it is unlikely the rhodopsin gene could have made the meat dangerous.
If there was any concern, says Collis, it's that the pigs had been injected with barbiturates before they were killed. The drug could have triggered an adverse reaction in those eating the meat.
However, the event seems to be an isolated one. "This is the only case of its kind we know of," says NIH spokesman Donald Ralbovsky.
Still, University of Florida officials are ensuring that in the future, GM animals are spray-painted after being killed, so it's clear they should not be eaten, says Collis.
Freak incidents aside, government agencies are beginning to look at the imminent introduction of GM animal products into the human food supply. A new committee at the National Academy of Sciences, formed at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, will meet later in 2001. The FDA is urging GM food researchers to cooperate with the agency.
Unbeknowst to the family, they ended up with one of these pigs. The pig roast was held, after all, and served after the funerals.
Tainted pigs show up in sausage at funeral
- Tainted pork from genetically altered pigs stolen from the University of Florida showed up in sausage served at a funeral in High Springs, university police said.
For months, university officials said they had recovered and incinerated all of the meat from the experimental pigs stolen in January.
But police said the meat from the pigs, which had been genetically altered and injected with enough barbiturates and chemicals to kill a 500-pound pig, was ground up and made into sausage by a butcher in High Springs, finally making its way to a funeral service there.
Kenny Atkins was fired from his position as an animal technician there after admitting to stealing three of six dead pigs that were to be incinerated.
Atkins gave two of the pigs to Norman Blake of Alachua and sold one for $65 to Joe Darling of High Springs. Dave Washington, the butcher who dressed Blake's pigs, told university police he made sausage from the meat, kept some and brought some to a funeral dinner. He said he and his brother sampled the sausage but threw it away because "it didn't taste right."
The stolen pigs were genetically engineered to develop a disorder similar to diabetic blindness in humans. University officials do not know what effect, if any, the treated meat could have on people who eat it.
The pig incident is one in a series of missteps at the university's Animal Resources department which oversees the treatment of biomedical research animals.
Last June, the director of Animal Resources, Jerry Davis, was fired after the unit was put on probation in the wake of an annual inspection that found problems with routine care of research animals and the oversight of the program.
Federal regulators are currently investigating complaints about the facility's animal care procedures. http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/apnews/stories/060301/D7CD7SBG1.html