updated 3/10/2004 11:23:09 PM ET 2004-03-11T04:23:09

Officials are investigating whether meat processed at a farm owned by a man suspected of serial murder might have been contaminated by human remains, authorities said Wednesday.

Robert William Pickton, 54, was arrested in February 2002 and has been charged with 15 counts of murder for killings spanning 20 years.

The remains of 22 women have been found at Pickton’s pig farm east of Vancouver, police investigators said. In all, Pickton is suspected in 31 killings, authorities said.

None of the pork from Pickton’s farm was sold in stores. But Dr. Perry Kendall, the health officer for British Columbia, said that Pickton often gave friends frozen pork products.

Kendall said Pickton’s unlicensed slaughter facility was very unsanitary.

“It’s very disturbing to think about, but [there is] the possibility of some cross-contamination,” he said. “But the degree of it or when or how much we really don’t know.”

“There’s a very low risk of any human disease being transmitted in that fashion,” Kendall said.

Later Wednesday, police Cpl. Cate Galliford said that the meat may have been contaminated with human DNA.

A formal investigation by Kendall, the CDC and officials at Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was launched last Friday.

Police said they would file more charges against Pickton, who is not expected to stand trial until late 2004 or early 2005.

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