Israel: Ag Ministry allows tainted poultry

13-05-2009 | | |

From 2003-2006, an arsenic-containing growth stimulant was fed to chickens and pigs raised in Israel, according to a report issued by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

This happened with the knowledge of the Agriculture Ministry, reports Haaretz. The report criticized the Israeli Agriculture Ministry and other authorities, including the health and education systems, police and transportation authorities.

Health and environmental hazzard

The arsenic residue, which can accumulate in the liver and fatty tissue, was found in 2005 and 2006 in Israeli chickens raised as meat to be sold to consumers. Even in small quantities, arsenic can cause cardiac and circulatory problems in addition to cancer, digestive problems and a decline in mental function, says the report. Arsenic can also pose major environmental hazards if arsenic dust washes into water reservoirs.

Agriculture Ministry turns blind eye

According to the comptroller’s report, at the end of 2003, the Agriculture Ministry permitted chicken and pork farmers to use the growth stimulant that contains arsenic, despite a ban on arsenic-containing chemicals and hormones in Israel since 1959.

In October 2006, when it became clear to the Agriculture Ministry that chicken farmers were using the additive, it failed to act immediately to ban the substance, it is reported.

“The ministry favoured the position of the farmers, who had economic considerations in mind, and did not consider the environmental damage and the public interest,” the comptroller wrote.

The additive was only banned in April 2007, meaning that for at least four years, some people consumed chicken containing arsenic.

Natalie Berkhout Freelance journalist