US poultry industry refutes arsenic claims

By Carina Perkins

- Last updated on GMT

US poultry industry refutes arsenic claims

Related tags: Meat, Us, Poultry

The US poultry industry has hit back over a New York Times article, which claimed that intensively reared chickens are being fed arsenic.

The article pointed to two recent studies, which analysed chicken feather meal and found that it contained traces of antibiotics, antihistamine, acetaminophen and arsenic. It claimed that poultry on intensive farms were routinely ingesting caffeine, active ingredients found in Tylenol and Benadryl, a banned class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones and arsenic through their feed.

In response, the National Chicken Council pointed out that the studies had only analysed feathers, not meat, and that the researchers themselves pointed out that they had not found anything which posed an immediate health concern.

It denied that chickens in the US are fed arsenic or the other compounds mentioned in the studies. “Some flocks used to be given feed that contained a product called Roxarsone, which included organic arsenic – not the inorganic form that is considered a poison,”​ it said. “This product, however, was removed from the market last year, it is no longer manufactured and it is no longer used in raising chickens in the US.”

Explaining the presense of fluoroquinolones, which have not been legal for use in poultry production since 2005, the NCC said: “Modern testing methodologies, like those used in this particular study, are extremely sensitive and can detect bioaccumulation of just about anything – even if the compound or antibiotic has not been used in years or was never used.”

It pointed out that traces of ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin and ofloxacin – which have never been used in US poultry production – were also found in low levels, questioning the scientific objectivity of the research. “The fact that they are evident in this study also poses the potential of cross-contamination with other products and calls into question the source of the feather meal that was tested,”​ it said.It concluded by pointing out that US meat is rigorously tested for chemical and antimicrobial residues by the US Department of Agriculture, and has the best record of any meat product.

Roxarsone was pulled from the market last year, after US Food and Drug Administration tests revealed that chickens fed the additive showed trace amounts of inorganic arsenic in their livers. Maryland looks set to become the first US state to formally ban the drug, with a Bill banning arsenic additives in chicken feed approved and waiting to be signed into law.

Related topics: Meat

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