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Following the reports of multiple researches by various agencies, the FDA has finally acknowledged the presence of arsenic in chicken meat. However, it feels that the amount present is well below what could be considered dangerous

Pfizer Inc. Decides to Withdraw Its chicken Feed Additive, Roxarsone

Following the reports of multiple researches by various agencies, the Food and Drug Administration has finally acknowledged the presence of arsenic in chicken meat. However, it feels that the amount present is well below what could be considered dangerous for human beings. Taking cue from this announcement by the FDA, Pfizer Inc., which is responsible for the production of the chicken feed containing arsenic, has decided to withdraw the product from the market on its own.

It has been found that the chicken feed containing arsenic, known as Roxarsone, finally makes its way to the chicken meat. It was earlier believed that this arsenic was excreted with chicken waste.

As arsenic is a known carcinogenic, Pfizer Inc. found it prudent to withdraw the product before the FDA bans it. Alpharma LLC, a subsidiary of Pfizer, responsible for the production of Roxarsone will suspend its production from next month, giving a window period of one month to poultry farmers to transition their birds off the drug. Though only chicken meat has been tested positive for the presence of arsenic, the company will withdraw similar feeds available for swine and turkeys too. Pfizer is also deciding about the action to be taken in more than a dozen countries where the product is sold as well.

Roxarsone has been in use since the 1960s to produce bigger breasted birds

Every year, organic arsenic is added to the feed of around 70% of the 9 billion broiler chickens in the Unites States. It has been in use since the 1960s to produce healthier, bigger breasted chickens. This organic arsenic is soon converted into inorganic arsenic inside the chicken’s body. This organic arsenic is then excreted out along with the chicken waste and is used as a fertilizer.

Roxarsone, the arsenic feed additive is believed to control intestinal parasites, stimulate growth of the chicken while reducing the level of stress and improve the color of the meat. Every year, about 2.2 million pounds of roxarsone is used in the chicken feeds in the United States alone.

However, because of the effect of arsenic on the health of humans and on the environment, questions have always been raised about the use of roxarsone in poultry feeds. The members of the European Union have banned the use of roxarsone since 1999. Similarly, Tyson Foods, the second largest broiler producer in the US has stopped using arsenic compounds in the chicken feeds since July 2004. Scott Sechler, the biggest chicken farmer in Pennsylvania doesn’t believe in using arsenic products either.

According to FDA, the safe level of inorganic arsenic in chicken fit for human consumption is 2,000 ppb. The amount of arsenic measured in the chicken liver varies from 300 to 2,900 ppb. Though the amount of arsenic found is low, yet keeping in mind that it is a known carcinogen and produces many other ill effects on the health of human beings, FDA’s acknowledgement can have far reaching consequences on the public health.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Don Hopey. Chicken feed may present arsenic danger. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 08, 2007
  • Inorganic Arsenic: TEACH Chemical Summary. U.S. EPA, Toxicity and Exposure Assessment for Children’s Health. Last revised 8/1/2007
  • Photo courtesy of lij on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/lij/45417658/