United Poultry Concerns April 13, 2006

Chicken Products are Contaminated with Arsenic

This summary is derived from an article in Food Production Daily, April 13, 2006 http://www.foodproductiondaily.com and other identified sources (UPC editor)

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) reports that arsenic in chicken meat appears closely linked to the decades-old industry practice of putting arsenic into chicken feed to speed the birds’ growth artificially. At least 70 percent of US “broiler” chickens have been fed arsenic, according to IATP estimates.

Minneapolis, Minnesota-based IATP tested 155 samples from raw supermarket chicken products and found that 55 percent carried detectable arsenic. Arsenic was more than twice as prevalent in conventional brands of supermarket chicken as in certified organic and other “premium” brands. All 90 fast food chicken products tested by IATP also contained detectable arsenic.

Chicken products were purchased from supermarkets and fast food outlets in Minnesota and California and analyzed for arsenic by a private, independent commercial laboratory. Brand-name chicken products tested included Foster Farms, Trader Joe’s, Gold’n Plump, Perdue, Smart Chicken, and Tyson Foods. Fast food chains included McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Church’s, and Popeyes.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not test for arsenic in the chicken meat Americans eat. USDA typically tests for arsenic only in chicken livers. However, scientists have published articles warning that average arsenic levels in chicken meat may be higher than previously thought. The use of arsenic in chicken meat is banned in the European Union (EU).

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labels for most of the arsenic products added to chicken feed allow them to be used “for increased rate of weight gain, improved feed efficiency, and improved pigmentation.” Many of these same products are also labeled for use in preventing the parasitic infection, coccidiosis, in chicken flocks. Such broad and non-specific labeling means there is no way to know whether the arsenic is being used to color chicken meat, to make the birds grow faster, or to control disease in flocks of 30,000 birds being raised in close indoor confinement, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), which estimates that from 1.7 to 2.2 million pounds of a single arsenic feed additive, roxarsone, are given to chickens each year.

Arsenic feed additives, like Roxarsone (4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenyl arsenic acid), are in an organic form. While it used to be held that organic arsenics were not very toxic, scientific evidence now indicates that within the chicken, Roxarsone converts to the inorganic forms of arsenic believed to pose the greatest health risks to humans, according to IATP. The US Environmental Protection Agency considers 65 percent of the arsenic in chicken meat to be inorganic arsenic. In the process of converting and eliminating arsenic, the human body creates some organic arsenic types that are more toxic than their inorganic parent compounds. 



“High Levels of Arsenic Found in Chicken,” an article published by Environment News Service, Bethesda, Maryland, January 20, 2004, stated that arsenic concentrations in young chickens are three times greater than in other meat and poultry products, according to a US government science report in the January issue of “Environmental Health Perspectives.” At average levels of chicken consumption – 2 ounces a day, or the equivalent of a third to half of a boneless chicken breast – people ingest about 3.6 to 5.2 micrograms of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic. See “High Levels of Arsenic Found in Chicken”: http://www.upc-online.org/health/12104arsenic.htm


An article in Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 35, Issue 9, pp. 184A – 185 A.  Environmental News, May 1, 2001, begins by stating that “Chicken farmers on the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia peninsula along the eastern shore of the United States are introducing 20-50 metric tons of arsenic into the environment annually, and researchers are not sure where it is ending up. At some point, however, this arsenic could become mobilized and contaminate surface and groundwater.” 

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Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
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