arsenicIt is apparent that the FDA only acts if pressured by a federal law suit. The Center for Food Safety on the 1st of May 2013 filed a federal lawsuit against the FDA citing the immediate public health risk of arsenic for human consumption. The complaint can be accessed here: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/files/2013-04-30-arsenic-complaint-with-exhibits-filed_65303.pdf

Arsenic is added to poultry feed as an artificial ingredient for the purposes of generating a faster weight gain on less feed, and creating the perceived appearance of a healthy color in meat from chickens, turkeys and hogs. The use of arsenic was first approved as an animal feed additive in the 1940s, and arsenic-containing compounds have remained legal for use in U.S. chicken, turkey and swine production. The same product has never been approved as safe for animal feed in the European Union, Japan and many other countries. A 2006 IATP report estimated that more than 70 percent of all U.S. chickens raised for meat are fed arsenic, and testing of supermarket bought and fast food chicken found that much of it contained some level of arsenic, which consumers ingest.

In October the FDA finally responded after a four year petition battle and called for the immediate withdrawal of the vast majority of arsenic-containing compounds used as feed additives for chickens, turkeys and hogs. The FDA will withdraw three of the four arsenicals and all drug approvals associated with them. Of the 101 drug approvals for arsenic-based animal drugs, 98 will be withdrawn.

The senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, Paige Tomaselli, commented on the FDA’s actions: “The withdrawal of these harmful feed additives is a major victory for consumers and the health of our food system. It is unfortunate that legal pressure from outside groups was necessary to spur action by FDA, yet in the end, we are pleased that FDA listened to our scientific objections and is now working to rid arsenic from our meat supply.”

“The actions by FDA and industry confirm what we’ve been saying for seven years, the use of arsenic in animal feed is not necessary and poses needless risk to public health,” said Ben Lilliston, vice president for program at IATP. “The FDA’s response is long overdue to reduce exposure to arsenic and should launch a more comprehensive evaluation of health risks associated with animal feed produced by the pharmaceutical industry.”

In addition the FDA has ordered the additive manufacturers to provide additional information related to whether inorganic arsenic can be detected in the edible tissues of animals administered their particular arsenic-based new animal drugs; whether organic arsenic converts to inorganic arsenic in vivo; and whether and to what extent the behavior of one arsenic-based animal drug is applicable to other arsenic-based animal drugs. After receiving FDA’s letter, Zoetis requested FDA withdraw approval of roxarsone and carbarsone on September 19, and Fleming Laboratories, Inc. requested that FDA withdrawal approval of arsanilic acid on September 26. The FDA will be issuing Federal Register Notices and initiating formal withdrawal.

In the FDA’s response to the petition, the agency acknowledged that recent scientific reports on arsenical compounds in animal feed challenged previous assumptions of safety. In particular, concern arose over the ability of organic arsenic (which is non-carcinogenic) to transform into inorganic arsenic (known to be carcinogenic) in the environment or animal tissue.


Center for Food Safety

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