Human remains may have been in meat processed for human consumption at the Pickton pig farm, B.C.'s provincial health officer confirmed Wednesday.
"What I know from the RCMP is we can't rule out the possibility of cross-contamination," Dr. Perry Kendall said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
When asked if cross-contamination meant human remains found their way into meat processed at the infamous farm, Dr. Kendall said:
"It's very disturbing to think about, but [there is]the possibility of some cross-contamination. But the degree of it or when or how much we really don't know.
"I think if we could rule it out, we definitely would like to."
Robert Pickton faces 15 counts of first-degree murder in the disappearance of women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Police have said they have found human remains and other DNA samples at the farm Mr. Pickton owned with his brother and sister just east of Vancouver.
The latest news was yet another devastating blow for relatives of the victims.
Lynn Frey, who was told earlier this year that her daughter Marnie's DNA had been found at the farm, was appalled.
"It's disgusting," she said. "It's absolutely insane. How many people have eaten something from that farm?
"Even if you did get a pig from that farm seven years ago, you think it's going to still be in your freezer?"
And Ms. Frey added, all the police have indicated they've found of her daughter is DNA.
"Where the heck's the rest of her body?"
She also questioned why there hasn't been a thorough Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigation of the case.
Marc Richard, a spokesman for the agency, was caught off guard by questions about the possible contamination. He said he was told an announcement was planned for release Thursday.
He wouldn't comment on the case because it is part of a criminal investigation.
Dr. Kendall said he was asked by Health Canada to do a "worst-case assessment" and to look into the health risk from consumption from that slaughterhouse.
"There's a very low risk of any human disease being transmitted in that fashion," Dr. Kendall said.
Mr. Pickton, 54, is not expected to go to trial until late this year or early in 2005.
Police executed a raid on the Pickton farm Feb. 6, 2002.
Investigators wrapped up a mass excavation and search of the property just east of Vancouver last November.
The charges against Mr. Pickton so far are four more than the number admitted to by Canada's most notorious serial killer, Clifford Robert Olson.
Corporal Catherine Galliford of the Missing Women's Task Force would not confirm or deny Dr. Kendall's information.
Police scheduled a news conference for later in the afternoon.
Mr. Pickton was not associated with the B.C. Hog Marketing Commission and B.C. Pork Producers Association, said general manager Clarence Jensen.
"None of the processors we sell farmers' hogs through have dealt with this individual," he said.
While Mr. Pickton may have bought pigs at auction, "we don't know what he did with it," Mr. Jensen said.
"Obviously they're trying to examine what they think is evidence and not giving a hoot about the industry."