Woah. What is that?

This is a chemical called Roxarsone. It is also commonly known as arsenic-based chemical which is often used in chicken feed to prevent coccidiosis. But it can also be found in other live stock’s feed as well. Roxarsone is most commonly used in chicken feed to inhibit coccidiosis but also to promote growth and stimulate color in poultry meat.

” Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease that infects the intestinal tracts in poultry and can lead to death in poultry.”  –FDA (Product Safety Information)

On June 8, 2011, FDA issued a press release stating that “Pfizer will voluntarily suspend sale of animal drug 3-Nitro.”

“FDA study of 100 broiler chickens that detected inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, at higher levels in the livers of chickens treated with 3-Nitro compared with untreated chickens. FDA officials stress that the levels of inorganic arsenic detected were very low and that continuing to eat chicken as 3-Nitro is suspended from the market does not pose a health risk.” FDA Press Release (Stephanie Yao)

This was less than a year ago and now Maryland will be the first state to ban arsenic in chicken feed.

According to reporter Darryl Fears of the Washington Post, “Growers in Maryland, particularly on the Eastern Shore, continued to use stockpiles of the feed after Pfizer suspended it, feeding about 3 million chickens per year, according to Hucker and one of the bill’s supporters, Food & Water Watch.” 

FDA however assures the public that “…the levels of inorganic arsenic detected were very low and that continuing to eat chicken as 3-Nitro® is suspended from the market does not pose a health risk.”  –FDA

Arsenic is dangerous if it is consumed in an inorganic form, which is potentially cancerous. However, the approved 3-Nitro (Roxarsone) arsenic is in its organic compound. Both organic and inorganic arsenic are naturally-occurring chemicals. They can be found in water, soil, and air. Many argue that chemicals that we breathe in and even the water we drink could be potentially cancerous and dangerous to our health.

“Banning roxarsone in chicken feed would not eliminate all arsenic from chickens or the environment…But banning the additive in feed would eliminate a substantial portion of arsenic from the human food chain and some of the arsenic in drinking water.” –Chemical & Engineering News (April 9, 2007)

Check out these two different, opposing opinions. What do you think?

“What does all this mean for consumers? The study looked only at feathers, not meat, so we don’t know exactly what chemicals reach the plate, or at what levels…My take is that the business model of industrial agriculture has some stunning accomplishments, such as producing cheap food that saves us money at the grocery store. But we all may pay more in medical costs because of antibiotic-resistant infections.” – Arsenic In Our Chicken? by Nicholas D. Kristof

“So why all the hullabaloo? Most likely because arsenic, like the ammonia-infused pink slime recently exposed in school and grocery store hamburger meat, does not sound like something we’d like to eat…But every substance is poisonous in the right dose – even water.” – Arsenic In Chicken, or Just Feathers? by Paul Frysh