Quantcast

FDA Admits Chicken Meat Contains Arsenic

Health + Wellness

Center for Food Safety

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Attorneys at Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit on behalf of CFS, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and seven other U.S. food safety, agriculture, public health and environmental groups to compel the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to respond to the groups’ three year-old petition which calls for immediate withdrawal of FDA’s approval of arsenic-containing compounds as feed additives for food animals. Filed the same day Consumer Reports released an alarming study on antibiotic resistance in turkey, the lawsuit highlights yet another gaping hole in FDA oversight of animal feed additives.

Arsenic is commonly added to poultry feed for the FDA-approved purposes of inducing faster weight gain on less feed, and creating the perceived appearance of a healthy color in meat from chickens, turkeys and hogs. Yet new studies increasingly link these practices to serious human health problems. The lawsuit filed last week seeks to force the FDA to fulfill its mandate to better protect the public from arsenic. The 2009 petition presented abundant science to FDA that organic arsenic compounds—like those added to animal feed—are directly toxic to animals and humans, but also that they convert to cancer-causing, inorganic arsenic inside of chickens, in manure-treated soil and in humans. Additional testing since submission of the 2009 petition demonstrates even greater cause for public concern and therefore greater urgency meriting FDA’s prompt attention.

“FDA could easily and immediately fix the problem,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior staff attorney with CFS, “but instead puts its head in the sand. We can only conclude the FDA is catering to the companies that continue to sell products containing arsenic that ends up in our food supply.”

“FDA leadership is asleep at the switch, if not turning a blind eye to public health,” said David Wallinga, MD, a physician with the IATP. “Seven years ago, IATP blew the whistle on FDA’s indifference to arsenic being needlessly fed to chickens and turkeys. More than a decade ago, we sounded the alarm on how FDA let the routine feeding of drugs to chickens and turkeys help ensure that Americans would eat meat often contaminated with bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics. We are filing suit because nothing much has changed.”

Read IATP’s 2006 full report, Playing Chicken: Avoiding Arsenic in Your Meat.

First approved as animal feed additives in the 1940s, arsenic-containing compounds remain legal for use in U.S. chicken, turkey and swine production. They were never approved as safe for animal feed in the European Union, Japan and many other countries.

Substantial evidence confirming the serious public health risks of using arsenic as a feed additive was provided as part of the 2009 petition to the FDA.

Since 2009, this evidence has continued to grow, yet the FDA still fails to respond to the 2009 petition:

  • In 2011, the FDA reported its own study concluding that organic arsenic could transform into the toxic carcinogen inorganic arsenic, and that levels of inorganic arsenic in chicken livers were substantially higher for chickens treated with the arsenical Roxarsone than for chickens not treated with Roxarsone.
  • Also in 2011, Alpharma (a division of Pfizer) announced it would voluntarily suspend—not revoke—sale of Roxarsone within 30 days following the release of FDA’s study. At this time, FDA commented that Roxarsone raised concerns of “completely avoidable exposure to a carcinogen.”
  • In 2012, Maryland’s Governor signed H.B. 167, banning use, sale, or distribution of Roxarsone or any other feed additive that contains arsenic, or histostat.

While these efforts are a step in the right direction, they are far from the comprehensive approach that is necessary under the law to protect public health. For example, without an FDA ban in place, Alpharma is free to begin marketing Roxarsone at any time.

Organizations participating in the lawsuit include: Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Food & Water Watch, Health Care Without Harm, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Visit EcoWatch’s FACTORY FARMING page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A man spreads pesticides on a plantation of vegetables in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. Ze Martinusso / Moment Open / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Pointing to the deaths of more than half a billion bees in Brazil over a period of just four months, beekeepers, experts and activists are raising concerns about the soaring number of new pesticides greenlighted for use by the Brazilian government since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January — and the threat that it poses to pollinators, people and the planet.

Read More Show Less
SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD

By Elliott Negin

On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The study looked at three groups of diverse lizards from South America. Daniel Pincheira-Donoso
  1. Cold-climate lizards that give live birth to their offspring are more likely to be driven to extinction than their egg-laying cousins as global temperatures continue to rise, new research suggests.
Read More Show Less
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Denmark isn't interested in selling Greenland to the U.S., so now President Trump doesn't want to visit.

Read More Show Less
A stock photo of fire in the Amazon; a record number of fires have burned there this year. Brasil2 / E+ / Getty Images

There are a record number of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil's space agency has said. Their smoke is visible from space and shrouded the city of São Paulo in darkness for about an hour Monday afternoon, CBS news reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.

Read More Show Less

gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images

By Nicole Greenfield

Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.

Read More Show Less
TeamDAF / Getty Images Plus

The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.

Read More Show Less