January 15/CBC News -- A final risk assessment released Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found that meat and milk from cloned animals are safe to consume.

FDA approval is expected to be the final regulatory clearance needed before meat and milk from goats, cows and pigs can be sold in the U.S. marketplace.

However, analysts note it could be years before any products from cloned animals may be available in stores. Currently, it costs between $10,000 and $20,000 to produce a cloned animal.

FDA researchers collected data on more than 600 U.S. cloned animals and their offspring. Scientists examined a range of considerations, including size, health, blood characteristics and behavior of cloned animals, according to the report. The study also said nutrient levels in meat and milk from cloned animals with traditionally bred animals were comparable.

"The data show that healthy adult clones are virtually indistinguishable" from traditionally bred animals, the report said.

The FDA said it plans to build a database containing information on the health of new cloned animals.

Last week, the European Food Safety Authority approved meat from cloned animals for consumption.

Food from cloned animals is forbidden for sale in Canada, but Health Canada officials last year said they were waiting to evaluate the FDA's findings.

Consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, have argued that more precautions should be made to protect the safety of the food supply. They say food products made from cloned animals must be separated and labelled.

From the January 21, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash