Suspension of Arsenic in Chicken Feed Good First Step, but Ban Needed
Statement from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch
Washington, D.C. – “Today the FDA announced that Alpharma, a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc., would voluntarily suspend U.S. sales of the animal drug 3-Nitro (Roxarsone). This is welcome news and a good first step, but industry should not be policing themselves when it comes to our food system; FDA needs to take the next step and enact a ban on arsenic-containing drugs in animal feed.
“Initially approved as an additive to chicken feed under FDR in the 1940s, use of this drug is a World War II-era approach that doesn’t have a place in modern poultry production. Despite the average American’s annual chicken consumption tripling from less than 20 pounds in the 1940s to nearly 60 pounds in 2008, the FDA hasn’t revised its allowed levels for arsenic residues in poultry since 1951. The USDA has also done an abysmal job screening chickens for residues of this drug before they reach consumers.
“A recent FDA study of 100 broiler chickens detected inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, at higher levels in the livers of chickens treated with 3-Nitro compared with untreated chickens. Chronic arsenic exposure increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological deficits and other health problems.
“It’s been banned in Europe, and it’s time for the U.S. to finally do the same. We will continue to call upon the FDA and state legislators in states like Maryland—where the chicken industry is concentrated—to ban this outmoded practice. The Obama Administration should also work to get funding for USDA to develop adequate screening programs for drug residues in the meat and poultry consumers feed their families. This additional step would safeguard us from exposure to arsenic in possible future poultry imports from countries like China. This is important because the USDA is currently revising its rules to allow for future Chinese poultry imports.”
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; drakestraw(at)fwwatch(dot)org