massproductionWhile many Americans are cutting down on the amount of red meat they eat in favor of poultry, a new study from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) found excess levels of arsenic in chicken. 

In 2010, the industries involved in the mass production of the 9,000,000,000 US chickens raised for food estimates that 88% of those chickens were fed arsenic-based food additives.

Center for Food Safety (CFS) attorneys recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of itself and 7 other US food safety and environmental groups to compel the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to respond to a petition the groups filed 3 years ago.

The petition calls for the immediate withdrawal of FDA’s approval of arsenic-containing compounds as feed additives for food animals.

The lawsuit was filed the same day Consumer Reports released an alarming study on antibiotic resistance in turkey.

Paige Tomaselli, senior staff attorney with CFS, has this to say about the JHU study: “So the Center for a Livable Future tested chicken muscle— that’s what people eat, mostly chicken breast, chicken thigh—and results show that there is an increased risk of bladder and lung cancer.  Additional people each year will get certain cancers if all chickens are fed arsenic-based feed additives.”

She explains that “. . . the amount of arsenic residue in the chickens is not going to directly cause cancer—what it does is it increases the overall arsenic burden that humans suffer from drinking water, eating rice and all the other exposure we have to arsenic.”

The FDA-approved purpose of introducing antimicrobial arsenic to animal feeds is to induce faster weight gain on less feed and to create the perceived appearance of a healthy color in meat from chickens, turkeys and hogs.

But the FDA didn’t consider the toxic effects on the animals themselves, on humans and on soil.  The original 2009 petition presented the FDA with abundant studies showing that organic arsenic compounds added to feed convert to cancer-causing, inorganic arsenic inside of chickens, in manure-treated soil and in humans.  It can also lead to heart disease, decreased intellectual function and other problems in humans.

“The FDA could easily and immediately fix the problem, but instead puts its head in the sand,” says Tomaselli.  “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.”

David Wallinga, MD, a physician with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), has this to say:  “FDA leadership is asleep at the switch, if not turning a blind eye to public health.  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.”

Among fast food chains selling chicken, Church and Popeyes rank first and second in serving chicken with the highest arsenic content per billion parts; KFC holds the lowest two rankings.

The European Union, Japan and many other countries have never approved arsenic as a safe addition to animal feed.

The presence of arsenic is much lower in turkeys and pork than it is in chicken.

SOURCE:   PRI Living on Earth, May 17, 2013   EcoWatch, May 7, 2013

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