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May 14, 2010

Let's get arsenic out of animal feed

Four years ago, IATP released test results of chicken bought in U.S. grocery stores and fast food restaurants. The results revealed detectable levels of arsenic in the majority of chicken tested. What in the world is arsenic doing in chicken?

It turns out that arsenic-containing compounds have been approved as additives to animal feed since the 1940s and continue to be used in chicken, turkey and swine production. These arsenic-containing feed additives are not used to treat sickness. Instead, they are generally approved for increased weight gain and improved pigmentation. In other words, the use of this known carcinogen in animal feed is entirely unnecessary.

In December, IATP and the Center for Food Safety petitioned the Food and Drug Administration, calling on the agency to immediately withdraw approvals for all animal drug applications for arsenic-containing compounds used in animal feed.

Now others are joining the call. Last week, nine food coops in Minnesota sent a letter to the FDA calling for the agency to act on the petition. The coops cited numerous suppliers to their stores who provide healthy meat and poultry, and do not use arsenic in their feed. "Although some chicken, turkey and swine producers use arsenical-containing compounds in their animal feed, they are not necessary to provide a wholesome product or to treat animal sicknesses," the coops wrote.

The European Union has never approved the use of arsenic as an animal feed additive. Time for the U.S. to get with the program.

Ben Lilliston


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