Lawmakers want arsenic removed from chicken feed
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.