The US Food and Drug Administration allows Roxarsone to be used in chicken feed, although arsenic-based food additives are banned inEurope.
Roxarsone is used in feed to keep chickens from getting parasitic diseases and says it is safe because the arsenic is the organic variety. However, arsenic-based compound fed to chickens may be more dangerous than previously thought. A researcher atDuquesne University has found evidence that the arsenic converts to the inorganic kind when it combines with bacteria in chicken manure. That manure is used for fertilizer and can leak into waterways.
“It’s very disturbing to me that people are being exposed to this arsenic, but we don’t have a choice — we have to feed the chickens what the company gives us,” said Carole Morison, a contract grower for Perdue on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. “Farmers spread manure with arsenic in it all over their land as fertilizer, and we don’t know what the risks are.”
Although Perdue still uses Roxarsone in chicken feed, Tyson, the largest US chicken producer, announced last year it was abandoning arsenic additives.