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February 10, 2011

Lawmakers want arsenic removed from chicken feed

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today joined a group of Maryland lawmakers who are pushing to ban arsenic from chicken feed, saying the chemical poses a threat to public health and pollutes the environment.

The arsenic-related compound roxarsone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1944 as a way of preventing chickens from becoming ill. Opponents of the practice say the chemical is used because it makes chicken flesh appear pinker, and therefore more appealing, on the grocery shelves.

"It is hard to imagine who would be on the other side of this issue," Gansler said. "Who is saying: 'I do want arsenic in my chicken?" Gansler said the chemical is not healthy for human consumption and fouls Maryland's waters when poultry waste filters into rivers and streams.

Gansler said he is also lobbying the FDA to revise their opinion of the feed additive.

Del. Tom Hucker, a Montgomery County Democrat, is sponsoring legislation to ban the chemical and called arsenic "the king of poisons." Hucker said: "This is an issue that makes sense to ten out of ten people." Sen. Paul Pinsky is sponsoring the senate version of the bill.

Eastern Shore representatives disagree. Sen. E.J. Pipkin, a Republican from Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne's counties, called the bill another assault on the profitable poultry industry.

"We seem to be in a mode where the state policy is to drive these guys out of Maryland," Pipkin said.

He says that industry-funded studies support the FDA's contention that the feed additive is safe. "I guess we will have the battle of the scientists," Pipkin said.

Perdue, which employes thousands on the Eastern Shore, is one of several major chicken producing companies that does not use arsenic in feed, according to bill supporters.

** This post was updated after it was published.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:13 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: 2011 legislative session


OMG, I didn't know about the arsnic in chicken feed.. How low can you guys be to even think that even a minute amount can be alright... I always ate chicken because I thought it was healthy...Oh well, blew that all to H...ll . Yes I'm upset, as well as others are going to be...

Ironic that Sen. Pipkin would cite Perdue. Perdue stopped adding arsenic to their chicken feed, so they are not affected by the bill at all.

Everything contains tiny amounts of arsenic from seaweed and fish to mushrooms. The levels in chicken, like that of other foods, is nearly undetectable.

What is really unfortunate is that a knee-jerk legislature overreacts, driving jobs and industry from the state. people will still buy the chicken, it will still be fed with the same chicken feed, they will just raise the chickens in VA. Even a federal ban would not make you healthier... just poorer.

If you really want to get healthy, eat less - especially those fatty chips - and go to the damn gym.

This news solidifies the movement of raising your own backyard hens for eggs and meat rather than playing roulette with the myriad health risks associated with the current industrialized food complex. Eat locally, eat simply!

After reading Mr. Gansler's query as to who might oppose such the idea of removing arsenic from chicken, I was not surprised to see Mr. Pipkin's name appear later in the article. What does he NOT oppose? Funny, I usually don't want arsenic in my tea.

The science does not support removing this from the feed.

Great article, Annie. Well done. One proposed clarification: Perdue is the only poultry major poultry company that has stopped using arsenic (Roxarsone) in poultry feed. Tyson continues to use it, for example, as do most companies.

For more info, check out the article in today's Bay Daily

"industry-funded studies support the FDA's contention that the feed additive is safe"

This says it all concerning the "science" that supports adding poison to the feed.

Delegate Hucker,
A) this is just stupidity...I am on PUBLIC water and there is arsenic in my what do i care if chicken feed has a teeny tiny amount

b) get a grip-where in the article did Pipkin bring up about a specific company?

Well said!

Del. Hucker and someone in the Senate (can't remember who off the top of my head) tried to do this last year, too... and Perdue spoke up against the ban -- even though they didn't use it in their feed then, either.

The peer reviewed and published science that is available actually supports the ban of the use of Roxarsone in chicken feed.

The US Geological Survey and the US Department of Agriculture have each published studies that arsenic accumulates in soils where poultry litter is spread, and is found in very high levels in streams and ditches adjacent to poultry storage areas and fields where litter has been spread.

The arsenic found in seafood is a different form of arsenic that is not carcinogenic.

The industry claims that Roxarsone is safe are false. The form or arsenic fed to chickens is the is non-toxic. The science shows that after it's excreted, the poultry litter begins to compost (above 40 degrees) and the arsenic is converted to the carcinogenic form(Arsenate). Perdue has proven that they can produce chickens without this drug and still make a healthy profit.

It's time to make the move to protect eastern shore citizens and stop spreading 24,000 pounds of this carcinogen onto Maryland fields every year.

Drew Koslow, Choptank Riverkeeper

I guess the science does support this afterall. Despite the fact that the Maryland Legislature did not have the stomach for passing the legislation, the efforts of Del. Hucker, Attorney General Gansler, Dr. Keave Knachman, Food and Water Watch, Assateague Coastkeeper, and others provided the impetus for FDA to take another look at the issue.

It is heartening to know that despite industry claims to the contrary, we were right and all Americans who eat chicken will know that they are not eating arsenic with their chicken. Let's work on banning the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics next.

Drew Koslow, Choptank Riverkeeper

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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