Why Is the FDA Still Allowing Arsenic in Chicken and Swine Feed?

Food safety groups sue in federal court to get federal agency to do its job, and stop cancer-causing practice.

Photo Credit: Erena Wilson/Shutterstock.com

Eight food safety watchdog groups who are fed up with lax federal regulation of our food supply are suing Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in San Francisco Federal Court.

At issue is the use of cancer-causing, arsenic-based products being used in both chicken and swine feed.

As reported in CourthouseNews.com, the complaint states: "Petitioners are requesting immediate action because the use of arsenic-based feed additives in food-producing animals poses a serious yet completely avoidable health risk to humans." 

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It all dates back to the 1940s when the FDA approved the use of arsenic-based food additives. And, for some reason, that approval still stands more than 70 years later, despite the fact that inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. The arsenic additives being used now in the poulty and swine feed include Roxarsone, arsanilic acid, nitarsone, and carbarsone, and the residue of these have been found in most supermarket chicken, and all chicken sold in fast-food restaurants, according to a study conducted by one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The plaintiffs say the FDA failed to respond to their request to revoke approval for New Animal Drug Applications that use "arsenic-containing compounds" in feed for chicken, turkeys and swine.

In February 2011, the FDA itself reported findings that chickens fed Roxarsone had higher levels of inorganic arsenic in their livers than chickens not treated with the additive, the complaint states. But the complacent agency has failed to take Roxarsone off the market, nor has it studied the effects of treating animals with other arsenic-based compounds. 

The plaintiffs include: Center for Food Safety; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; Center for Environmental Health; Center for Biological Diversity; Food Animal Concerns Trust; Food and Water Watch; Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility; Health Care Without Harm; and San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility. 

h/t: CourthouseNews.com