Some chicken may have small amount of arsenic but keep eating away


The Food and Drug Administration says some chicken meat may contain small amounts of arsenic, though the agency is stressing that the amount is too tiny to be dangerous to people who eat it.

The FDA said Wednesday that a new study developed by the agency shows that an ingredient in chicken feed that contains arsenic, called Roxarsone, may make its way into parts of the bird that are eaten. Previous studies have indicated that the arsenic was eliminated with chicken waste.

Pfizer Inc., which makes the feed ingredient, said Wednesday that it will pull it off the market in the United States. Scott Brown, of Pfizer Animal Health’s Veterinary Medicine Research and Development division, said the company also sells the ingredient in about a dozen other countries. He said Pfizer is reaching out to regulatory authorities in those countries and will decide whether to sell it on an individual basis. We will be looking to get a list of countries where this product is sold and update the post as soon as we can.

The FDA said that people should not stop eating chicken that may have been treated with the drug. Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, said the study raised “concerns of a very low but completely avoidable exposure to a carcinogen.”

Pfizer said in a statement that its subsidiary, Alpharma LLC, is suspending sales next month in response to the FDA findings. The company said it is not withdrawing the ingredient immediately so producers have time to transition their birds off the drug. Roxarsone has long been a concern for environmental groups worried about its presence in chicken waste and the resulting effects on human health in areas with high chicken production.

“Arsenic in chicken production poses a risk not only to human health, but to the environment,” said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports. “We need to get arsenic out of food production altogether.”

Consumers Union and other groups praised the FDA’s move but asked the agency to go further and encourage bans of other animal drugs that contain arsenic. The FDA said it is looking at another drug made by Pfizer, Nitarsone, which contains arsenic and 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.

What is 3-nitro drug used to treat in chickens?

3-Nitro® (Roxarsone) is an arsenic-based animal drug, manufactured by Alpharma LLC, a subordinate of Pfizer Inc. 3-nitro was initially approved on March 21 1944. There have been quite a few succeeding approvals for 3-Nitro® (Roxarsone) for combination use, the most recent being in 2009. It is approved to help prevent a disease called ‘coccidiosis’ when used in combination with certain animal drugs. Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease that infects the intestinal tracts in poultry and can lead to death in poultry. 3-Nitro® is also approved for weight gain, nourish effectiveness and enhanced pigmentation in chickens. 3-nitro destroys the intestinal parasites, encourages growth and makes meat look pink in color. Since 3-Nitro contains organic arsenic, which is far less toxic than its inorganic counterpart, producers assumed that it would have no effect on people who ate the animals.

What is the reaction of Pfizer Company to FDA’s predictions?

Pfizer is an enormous world wide producer of pharmaceuticals and other bio-chemical products. Based on the FDA’s counsel, Pfizer decided to voluntarily initiate a plan to suspend sale of the product and to facilitate an orderly process for suspending use of 3-Nitro® (Roxarsone). This plan provides for maintained sales of the product for 30 days (from date of this announcement) before suspension. Maintaining sales for this period will not create a risk to human health and will provide time for animal producers to recognize and changeover to other treatment strategies and will aid guarantee that animal health and welfare requirements are met. In conjunction with voluntary suspension of the product, the company is working with FDA to examine all relevant scientific data regarding the use of this product in animals. The veterinarian at Pfizer Animal Health, Scott Brown, announced that Pfizer’s own studies of 3-Nitro indicates that 3-nitro is safe. However, that the F.D.A.’s trial led the company to suspend sales of the drug although Pfizer did a “completer scientific evaluation” of 3-nitro. That evaluation will also include another smaller-selling arsenic-based feed medicine called ‘Histostat’, or ‘nitarsone’, that was not researched by the F.D.A. and whose sales have not been suspended yet. Pfizer has assured not to start the sales of the drug until it has resolved F.D.A. issues about it.

 

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