fda chicken

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  has admitted that chicken feed contains a cancer-causing poison, arsenic, it has emerged.

 The FDA said that a study developed by the agency shows that an ingredient in chicken feed which contains arsenic, called Roxarsone, makes its way into parts of the bird that are eaten.

However, they also claimed that the levels of the toxin are in amounts too tiny to pose a danger to human health.

Until this new study, both the poultry industry and the FDA refuted that arsenic fed to chickens ended up in meat and instead claimed that the toxin was eliminated and ‘excreted in the faeces’.

But now it has emerged that Pfizer, the manufacturer of the chicken feed product known as Roxarsone, has decided to remove the product off the shelves in the US, following the results of the study.

Pfizer said in a statement that its subsidiary, Alpharma LLC, is suspending sales in response to the FDA findings. The company said it is not withdrawing the ingredient immediately, in order to give producers the time to wean their birds off the drug.

Although the product has been removed from shelves in America, it has not been removed from UK supermarkets.

Scott Brown of Pfizer Animal Health’s Veterinary Medicine Research and Development division said the company also sell the ingredient in about a dozen other countries. He added that Pfizer is reaching out to regulatory authorities in those countries and will decide whether to sell it on an individual basis.

According to information published on the FDA website: “FDA does not believe there is a need to stop eating chicken or to conduct a recall of chicken already in commerce.”

But Roxarsone is not the only FDA approved drug which contains the toxin. The FDA website revealed that the other arsenic-based drugs that are approved for use in food-producing animals (poultry and swine) include nitarsone, arsanilic acid, and carbarsone.

But they have insisted that the arsenic found in these drugs is “less toxic and not carcinogenic.”

Despite their claims that the other arsenic-containing drugs are not a cause of concern, the regulatory body have admitted that they are looking into one of those listed, Nitarsone, which is fed to chickens and turkeys, but is used much less frequently than Roxarsone. Officials said they are in talks with the company about that drug but do not have any data specific to it.

Nitarsone is also manufactured by Pfizer. The company later suspended the drug temporarily in the US, although it is not clear when if or when the suspension will be lifted.

The news follows on from a previous announcement by the American meat Association and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) which confirmed that the practice of feeding cows E.Coli tainted meat and chicken faeces was allowed under government regulations.

Caleb Weaver, press secretary for the USDA was reported as saying: “If the establishment finds a positive ground beef sample, they can implement steps to ensure the meat is safe to eat though proper cooking, and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) program personnel verify steps are taken to ensure that the meat is safe.

“These steps would include delivering a full lethality treatment to positive product, and verifying, as a critical control point, that this lethality is met. The product is then safe to eat.”

According to USDA regulations: “An E.Coli contaminated beef product must not be distributed until it has been processed into a ready-to-eat product.”

These regulations allow food manufacturers to produce or sell meat containing E.Coli despite a number of reported cases both in America and Europe where people have fallen ill or died from food poisoning after eating contaminated beef.

Recently, in the UK it has emerged that Spanghero, the firm at the centre of the horse meat scandal was previously at the centre of an E.Coli scare.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Agriculture in Paris confirmed that Spanghero had to withdraw the 12 tonnes of mince in June 2011 because of suspected contamination by the bacteria, which causes potentially fatal food poisoning.

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