Heads Up, Parents: There’s Arsenic in Chicken

Ever wondered what your family consumes at the dinner table? Americans have long included chicken in their meals, never stopping to wonder if they were being poisoned rather than nourished. You may be surprised to learn that the FDA may have turned a blind eye to chicken coops across our nation for over three years, despite continued pressure from outside groups. The result? There’s arsenic in chicken.

The FDA Doesn’t Protect You From Arsenic In Chicken

A report surfacing from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found arsenic in chicken samples across America. Arsenic contributes to the palatable pink color of the chicken meat and plumpness of the bird, but at a horrific price: your health.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) felt so strongly about this issue that they issued a legal complaint against the FDA, alongside the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), and seven other advocacy groups, pushing for the FDA to ban arsenic-containing drugs in poultry feed. This lawsuit was drawn up after a lengthy three-year battle to persuade the FDA to terminate approval of these drugs.

The lawsuit cited the Johns Hopkins report as the basis for the claim. In this report, researchers studied conventional, organic, and antibiotic-free chicken samples between December 2010 and June 2011, when arsenic was present in the chicken feed supply. They found inorganic arsenic and residual traces of the drug, and the conventional samples that were contaminated had four times the amount of inorganic arsenic than organic chicken samples did.

The FDA has finally come clean and admitted that chicken feed sold in the U.S. was in fact laced with arsenic-based drugs. But are we supposed to rest easy now that they’ve ‘fessed up?

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly About Arsenic in Chicken

The Good: 98 of the 101 various arsenic-based drugs have been rescinded by the FDA for use in livestock feed. A definite victory for U.S. consumers.

The Bad: That leaves 3% of the arsenic-containing compounds on the market. This leaves room for arsenic to slip in.

The Ugly: Inorganic arsenic is poison. No way around that fact.

Is Arsenic in Chicken Really THAT Bad?

Simply put, yes. In its inorganic form, arsenic is a verified carcinogen to humans. When fed to chickens, it is in its organic form, but once it passes through their gut, it changes into its inorganic form. Even after the chicken has died, the inorganic arsenic is still present in the meat sold for human consumption. Besides increased risk of lung, skin, and bladder cancers, long-term arsenic poisoning can also cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurotoxicity. Sounds delicious, eh?

Other countries have taken such a strong stance against arsenic that they have banned it altogether. All member states of the EU have banned arsenic in livestock feed, as has Canada. Maryland became the first state to enact this law back in 2012. So, it’s about time the FDA followed suit and took decisive action.

It Might Be Time to Give Alternatives – Like Goat Meat – a Try

What are your alternatives if you’re completely turned off to the idea of chicken now? Going vegetarian is a good solution to this problem, but it’s not for everyone. Eating goat meat is a much cleaner option if you’re willing to try something different. Goat meat is very lean, and because goats are not factory farmed like chickens and cows are in the U.S., goat meat is not nearly as likely to contain antibiotics and/or hormones.

Otherwise, buy organic when possible, and by “when possible” we mean ALWAYS. Remember, the FDA has not banned every arsenic-containing drug – only 97% have been withdrawn. Although this is a drastic reduction, it still leaves some arsenic on your plate. Familiarize yourself with local organic farms, and inquire about their farming methods. This will also help ensure that the meat you eat was raised humanely.

Did this information about arsenic in chicken come as a complete shock to you? It certainly surprised us. Please share this article with the health-savvy people you know, and help spread the word about dirty birds.