Maryland, USA, a signature away from banning arsenic in chicken feed

12-04-2012 | | |

The state of Maryland, USA, is set to follow the EU and Canada in banning the use of feed additives containing aresenic.

Maryland is about to become the first state of the union to ban the use of additives containing arsenic in chicken feed, a practice already prohibited by Canada and the European Union.

Arsenic, though naturally occurring (~8 ppb in human, for example) can be a toxic carcinogen at higher doses, leading to diabetes and heart disease. Roxarsone, an arsenic based drug used to fight animal parasites, lead to inorganic arsenic accumulation, an experiment by the FDA on 100 chickens fed with the additive showed. Half of the chickens showed trace amounts of inorganic arsenic.

Pfizer, upon news of the test, promptly suspended sales of roxarsone. The drug is also sometimes used to encourage the growth of chicken blood vessels, with plumper and pinker meat as a result.

Maryland ranks 10th in the United States in broiler chicken production, with 300 million per annum; accounting for 40 % of the state’s revenue from agriculture.

The chickens produced about a billion pounds of waste, often spread as fertilizer. There exists a potential danger of arsenic in feed contributing to a rise in background environmental levels, to levels that could represent a hazard to public health.