Delegate Wants To Ban Arsenic In Chicken Feed

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A Maryland lawmaker said Wednesday that poultry feed containing a known carcinogen should be banned from Maryland farms even though its maker has already stopped selling it voluntarily.

Delegate Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery, told a panel of his colleagues Wednesday that even though Pfizer Inc. has voluntarily suspended the sale of roxarsone, a chemical often put in chicken feed to help the birds grow and fight parasites, he wants the chemical banned here.

Hucker said the chemical and other additives that contain arsenic contaminate chicken meat and waste, polluting soil and the Chesapeake Bay.

“We should look for alternatives, but without a ban, there will be far less market pressure to spend money on research for alternatives,” he said.

Pfizer stopped selling the drug in July after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration study found higher levels of inorganic arsenic in chicken treated with roxarsone than in those that were not fed the chemical.

Perdue Farms, the country’s third-largest chicken company, stopped using it in 2007.

Hucker’s proposal, which was rejected by House Environmental Matters Committee last year, was studied by the Harry R. Hughes Center for Argo-Ecology. The study found that the use of arsenic is unsustainable, Hucker said.

Chicken industry representatives said banning roxarsone and other chemicals with arsenic could hurt Maryland poultry farmers if Pfizer begins to sell the product again after further FDA analysis.

“It’s going to make it tougher for Maryland companies to stay in business,” said Bill Satterfield, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. “They’re going to say we cannot afford to have birds grown in Maryland because costs us more.”

Farmers could benefit from a ban if they begin using other products to treat chickens, said Drew Koslow, Choptank Riverkeeper for the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy. They would have a competitive edge if federal regulators decide to ban the chemical outright, he said.

“We have to figure out how to keep agriculture profitable and protect the Bay at the same time,” Koslow said. “This bill in my mind is a no-brainer. The scientific questions have been answered. We’re talking about a heavy metal, a known carcinogen that we’re spreading on the land.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • James

    Animal studies have not associated inorganic arsenic exposure via the oral route with cancer, and no cancer inhalation studies have been performed in animals for inorganic arsenic

  • Drew Koslow

    FDA found low levels of arsenic in the livers of broiler chickens fed Roxarsone that were higher than those that were not fed the drug. Other studies have found levels as high as 5 times the EPA drinking water standard in chicken meat. Inorganic Arsenic has been a known carcinogen for some time and as such it’s use in insecticides has been stopped.

    It is sound public policy to eliminate the risk of exposure to known carcinogens whenever possible.

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