Responses to Questions which may be posed by
Student Investigators

Fred Pucker, CEO of PuckerUp Poultry:

Q: How many farms do you have?
A: Approximately 7000 farms in 31 states across the country

Q: Where did you get your feed?
A: We buy more than 330 million bushels of corn per year and 2.7 million tons of soybean meal. We buy this from 39 different feed mills across the country. Feed the World runs several of them. If we were to try to grow our own grain, it would take a farm several million acres. So, we buy our feed.

Q: Where is chicken processed? Could that keep dioxin from getting to humans?
A: We have 83 processing plants in 20 states across the country. The USDA regularly inspects these facilities.

Q: How/Why did the chickens get sick? Why wouldn’t they go near their feed? Has this ever happened before?
A: This has never happened before. It is hard to say how it happened. I am sure it wasn’t any one of the 120,000 people who work for us. We have the highest employee standards. I do not know why the chickens did not go near their feed.

Q: What are you doing about this?
A: We’re cooperating with the investigation.

Q: Do you raise organic chickens? Why not?
A: We do not raise organic chickens. They are too expensive. There is not the demand for organic by our custumors. We are concerned with custumor satisfaction. Everything on the farm is designed with the quality of the final product in mind . There is nothing wrong with the way our chickens are raised.

Q: Is the part about two-headed chickens true?
A: No, that is a bunch of bologna. Some chickens just got sick.

Alabama DPH:

Q: Where does Dioxin come from?
A: It is an unintentional byproduct of some manufacturing processes that involve heating plastics and chlorinated compounds. It comes from waste incinerators, for example, where plastic is burned.

Q: How did it get in the chickens? How are you investigating this?
A: In our state laboratory we have tested the fat and the stomach contents of several chickens who appeared to be affected. They did have evidence of dioxin. We do suspect it came from the feed. We do not know how it got into the chicken feed and we are cooperating with the police to determine if this was a malicious act. The people who run Feed the World are being questioned as to how this may have happened during their manufacturing process.

Q: What are you going to tell the public?
A: Not to panic. We do not think that at the levels found in the chickens dioxin is a public health concern..

Q: Are you, personally, concerned about the human health implications of this episode?
A: No, I am not concerned. I eat chicken all the time. But, my job is to protect the public. We will look at what toxicological evidence exists, if any, to cause alarm for human health concerns.

Q: Are you worried other meat products might be contaminated (beef, pork, etc.)?
A: That is a good question. We are looking into whether other animals may have been fed the same feed products.

Q: Did any people get sick or report problems to DPH?
A: Many people have called and we are trying to discourage callers from blocking our phone lines… No one appears to be sick, just frightened.

Q: What will you do about protecting livestock in the future?
A: That is up to the federal government, we can only make recommendations, and it is too early for that.

US FDA:

Q: Who are you? And What is the FDA?
A: I work for the US Food and Drug Administration in our regional office in Massachusetts, but our headquarters are in Washington, DC. Our mission is to protect public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of our nation’s food supply as well as human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.

Q: Are you responsible for ensuring that our chicken is safe?
A: Well, actually, we don’t regulate meat and poultry, but we do work closely with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates meat and poultry. We do, however, regulate most food products and the pesticides and chemicals that may be found in/on those products. But we also share this responsibility with the USDA and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). We also have a bioterrorism initiative, which is another reason we are involved with the dioxin contamination.

Q: Do you regulate dioxin in food?
A: We try… we launched a multi-agency investigation a few years back to investigate possible sources of dioxin in the food supply, but that was at the federal level and I am not sure where that stands now.

Public Health Scientist w/expertise on Dioxin:

Q: What is dioxin?
A: Dioxin is a chemical, most often we think of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD. In addition to TCDD there are other compounds that have similar structures and act similarly in the environment.Together, these are often referred to as "dioxins".

Q: Where does dioxin come from?
A: Dioxins have no commercial usefulness by themselves. They are formed during combustion processes, such as waste incineration, forest fires and backyard trash burning, and during manufacturing processes such as in the production of herbicides for killing weeds and the manufacturing of bleached paper.

Q: How could it kill chickens?
A: In laboratory animals, dioxins are highly toxic, cause cancer, and alter reproductive, developmental and immune function. High doses of dioxins could kill chickens.

Q: What happens to humans who are exposed to dioxin?
A: In general the effects of dioxin on humans were only observed in populations that were highly exposed. Some studies have shown that chemical workers exposed to high levels of dioxin had increased cancer. Other studies in highly exposed people show that dioxin exposure can lead to reproductive and developmental problems, increased heart disease and increased diabetes. Many of them had what we call chloracne, as Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko had last year.

The effect of the long term low level exposure that is normally experienced by the general population is not known.

Q: If something causes cancer, why would chickens be born with two heads? What other problems might there be, other than cancer?
A: Two headed chickens would be the result of something disrupting the reproductive system. This is a different response from cancer, but something like dioxin could do both (i.e., cause cancer and have reproductive outcomes). The long-term effects of dioxin exposure on human immunity, reproduction and development, and other organs and systems remain focal points for ongoing research.

Q: Could people eating dioxin-contaminated chicken get sick?
A: Depending on the amount of dioxin ingested, and over what period of time, humans could get sick.

Q: How much dioxin do we need to eat to get sick?
A: We don’t know. The World Health Organization, a large, international organization, has recommended a Tolerable Daily Intake for dioxins. This is based on what they think is safe given the effects considered to be the most sensitive in experimental animals, namely endometriosis, developmental neurobehavioural effects, developmental reproductive effects and immunotoxicity.

Q: Should people in Massachusetts be concerned about this?
A: ????

 

 

Boston University Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Environmental Exposures and Health