By Tom Philpott
Sat Jun. 11, 2011
Earlier this week, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it would "voluntarily" stop selling a widely used arsenic-laced poultry feed additive, after FDA tests found traces of the poison in chicken meat.
So the system works, right? A federal regulatory agency conducts rigorous tests, detects a problem, and industry reacts by doing the right thing. Except, not so much. A closer look at the arsenic-lased feed saga reveals a tattered, industry-dominated regulatory regime that abuses public health and the environment alike.
The story goes like this. In the '40s, the pharmaceutical industry began marketing a nifty new poultry feed additive bearing the charming name of roxarsone. The chemical helped control parasitic ailment common to chickens called coccidiosis. But that was just part of its appeal. As the poultry-processing industry consolidated into the hands of just a few companies over the post-war decades, poultry farmers had to scale up and fatten their chickens as quickly as possible. Roxarsone helped with that, too—it's a growth enhancer. What's more, it contributes to that rosy-pink hue consumers have come to associated with fresh chicken meat.
Moreover, after poultry production transformed from far-flung, diversified farms to today's vast industrial operations, coccidiosis became ever-harder to control—making roxarsone ever more popular. As Food and Water Watch put it in a recent report (downloadable here):
Continue reading at: http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/06/arsenic-chicken-fda-roxarsone-pfizer
Pfizer Suspends Sales of Chicken Drug With Arsenic
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/09/business/09arsenic.html
Published: June 8, 2011
WASHINGTON — Farmers have for decades fed chickens an arsenic-containing drug that promotes growth, but after a government study found trace amounts of this poisonous carcinogen in chickens, its maker will suspend its sales.
For decades, farmers have fed chickens a drug that contains arsenic to promote their growth.
Officials at the Food and Drug Administration said the amounts found were so low that chickens treated with the drug, called 3-Nitro, do not pose a serious health risk and will continue to be sold. Perdue and organic chicken producers do not use the drug.
“The presence of that carcinogenic residue obviously raises concerns, and it’s completely avoidable,” said Michael R. Taylor, F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for foods. “It needed to be acted on.”
Pfizer, which makes 3-Nitro, also known as roxarsone, will suspend the drug’s sales in 30 days, giving producers time to find alternatives. The drug, first approved in 1944, kills intestinal parasites, promotes growth and makes meat look pinker. And since 3-Nitro contains organic arsenic, which is far less toxic than its inorganic counterpart, producers assumed that it would have no effect on people who ate the animals.
But there has been growing evidence that organic arsenic can change into its more toxic cousin. So F.D.A. researchers developed a way to measure inorganic arsenic in meat. They got 100 chickens, fed roxarsone to about half of them and measured levels of inorganic arsenic in their livers. Chickens fed roxarsone had consistently higher levels of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.
Continue reading at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/09/business/09arsenic.html