Arsenic and Other Compounds Not Fed to Chickens

April 5, 2012

The National Chicken Council today released the following statement in response to a New York Times opinion piece, “Arsenic in our chicken,” and refuted the findings of recent studies that claim to have found certain chemical and antimicrobial residues in chicken feather meal:

“As the study’s authors point out, this study looked only at feathers, not meat.  If consumers were to take away one message from the findings, it should be from the researchers themselves: ‘We haven’t found anything that is an immediate health concern.’

“The top priority for America’s chicken farmers and processors is to raise healthy, top quality birds, because doing so is not only an ethical obligation, it is the foundation of a safe and wholesome chicken supply.

“Chickens in the United States produced for meat are NOT given ‘arsenic’ as an additive in chicken feed, or any of the other compounds mentioned in these 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.  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 United States.  Even though, as these studies’ own authors point out: ‘There’s no evidence that such low levels of arsenic harm either chickens or the people eating them.’

“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.

“This is one explanation for why fluoroquinolones, which were banned in 2005 by the FDA and not used today in poultry production, could have been detected in extremely low levels in this study.  But because ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin and ofloxacin were also found in low levels, one must question the scientific objectivity of the research because these antibiotics have never been used in U.S. chicken production. 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.

“Consumers should know that chicken is safe, wholesome and that all chicken produced in the United States is inspected by the USDA.  Inspectors test meat samples for chemical and antimicrobial residues; and all poultry must be in compliance with USDA standards before entering the marketplace.  Chicken consistently has the best record of any meat product tested for residues by USDA.”

For questions and answers about arsenic and chicken feed, click here

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