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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 11:15 GMT
'Human meat' alert at pig farm
Police searching for bodies in Mission, British Columbia
Pickton is suspected of murdering more than a dozen women
Officials in western Canada have warned that meat from a pig farm owned by an accused serial killer may have been contaminated with human remains.

British Columbia health officials issued an alert urging anyone who may have meat from Robert Pickton's farm near Vancouver to contact police.

Mr Pickton, 54, has been charged with 15 murders of women, most of whom were linked to Vancouver's sex trade.

Police say they have found the remains of more than 20 women at the farm.

Police stress they have no proof that any remains were mixed in with meat from the farm, but they admit they are now investigating the possibility, the BBC's Ian Gunn in Vancouver reports.

It is the first time officials have confirmed what has been widely rumoured here, he adds.

Low risk

"Given the state of the farm, and what we know about the investigation, we cannot rule out the possibility that cross-contamination may have occurred," British Columbia Health Officer Perry Kendall said in Victoria.

"Cross-contamination could mean that human remains did get into or contaminate some of the pork meat," Mr Kendall added.

"The risk to human health for those who consumed the products is extremely remote, based on the fact most pork products are typically well-cooked, which is known to effectively destroy most infectious agents," local health authorities said in a statement.

Officials also stressed that the farm's pig slaughtering operation was not officially licensed and Mr Pickton did not sell processed meat to retail outlets.

"There is no evidence we are dealing with anything other than a very specific localised issue, with a specific number of local people," said Catherine Galliford of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Instead, police said the meat was sold directly from the farm until it was shut down in 2002.

Strict court order

Police raided Mr Pickton's farm in February 2002 and said they had found the remains of more than 20 women.

Mr Pickton was officially charged with 15 murders, but more charges are widely expected, our correspondent says.

The victims were among more than 60 prostitutes who have disappeared from the Vancouver area over the past two decades.

The latest development provides a rare glimpse into the grisly details of the case, which is covered by a strict court order that prevents details from being made public until Mr Pickton's trial begins later this year or in 2005, our correspondent says.

If found guilty, Mr Pickton would be Canada's worst serial killer.

Women's remains at Canada farm
28 Jan 04  |  Americas
Fresh 'pig farm killings' charges
15 Dec 03  |  Americas

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