For years now, we’ve been brainwashed to believe that chicken is healthier for us than beef or other red meats. Leaving the nutritional debate aside for today…can you guess one thing that chicken has that beef doesn’t?
Oh…you were so close.
The correct answer is “arsenic.”
And we are just finding out that measurable amounts appear to have been in millions of tons of chicken consumed in the U.S. for decades!
FDA OK’d arsenic-laced roxarsone for chicken feed
Let me back up. The FDA approved the use of roxarsone (an arsenic-containing drug) as a chicken feed additive before the end of WW II.
Roxarsone was in wide use by the 60s. And then sometime after the TURN OF THE CENTURY someone at the FDA finally got around to asking the question: “Could this stuff be bad for the people we’re supposed to be protecting?”
The answer: Uh…YEAH!
I’ll cut the FDA a little slack (one inch — no more) due to this fact: The arsenic in roxarsone is organic, and it’s the inorganic form of arsenic that’s poisonous.
But the FDA study showed that chickens fed roxarsone contained consistently higher amounts of inorganic arsenic compared to chickens that were fed none of the drug.
So it appears that some amount of the organic arsenic could become inorganic in the chicken’s system.
And this is what millions of us have been consuming for decades because roxarsone is very popular with chicken producers. Besides killing parasites (the primary purpose of the drug) it happens to increase the weight of chickens while also giving the meat a pleasant pink color that consumers like.
But danger may lurk in that pink.
Roxarsone makes chicken meat pink by promoting the growth of blood vessels. I’ve mentioned this process, called angiogenesis, many times. It’s the method that cancer cells use to supply blood that’s needed to make tumors grow.
Three years ago, Duquesne University researchers showed that roxarsone prompted angiogenesis in human cell lines. Which is exactly the result nobody wanted to see because more than two million pounds of roxarsone are added to U.S. chicken feed each year. About seven of every 10 fryer chickens are raised eating roxarsone.
That’s several BILLION chickens every year.
And don’t imagine you’re off the hook if you’re vegetarian. Chicken waste, which contains very high roxarsone levels, is a common commercial fertilizer. So not only does it show up in plant foods, but it also finds its way into the water supply.
There appears to be no escaping the reach of roxarsone.
Pfizer temporarily suspended the drug’s production
Pfizer, the maker of roxarsone, has announced that roxarsone production will be suspended in about 30 days.
Notice that’s “suspended” — not “discontinued.”
A veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health told the New York Times that Pfizer’s own studies had found the drug to be safe. (Wow! Imagine that!) But now the company will mount a “full scientific assessment” of roxarsone.
Hmmm…wonder how THAT will turn out!?
In the meantime, the Times offers this note: “Pfizer has promised not to resume sales of the drug until it has resolved F.D.A. concerns about it.”
That’s an interesting way to put it. Apparently, Pfizer isn’t holding off on roxarsone sales until they get to the bottom of the huge safety issue. No, they’re focused on resolving FDA concerns.
It’s like Pfizer is saying, “Okay, everyone settle down. We’re going to go over to the FDA and smooth some feathers and make everything good again.”
Well…don’t be fooled. Given that we’re dealing with the biggest drug company in the world and the biggest drug company enabler in the world, I’ve got a hunch that roxarsone is here to stay.
As I already mentioned, you can avoid the primary source of roxarsone by eating organic chicken. Also, two major chicken producers — Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms — have both stopped using roxarsone in chicken feed — Tyson in 2004 and Perdue in 2007.
In a statement at that time, Purdue said, “We’ve found that, through improved flock health programs and housing environments, we are able to produce healthy chickens without it.”
Hmmm…I wonder what brand of chicken they serve in the Pfizer cafeteria…
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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