Four years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a report condemning the use of arsenic drugs in conventionally farmed chickens and pigs.
Yes, you read that right. Drugs, made from arsenic, in food.
The drug is called 3-Nitro©, or roxarsone, and it’s a known carcinogen to humans. It’s used to treat chicken feed, which in turn treats intestinal parasites in chickens and gives their flesh a pinkish color. How appetizing – arsenic turns chickens pink just like people do when they suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning.
It took the manufacturer, then Alpharma-now-Zoetis, Inc. (a subsidiary of Pfizer) roughly three years to make its final farewell to the marketplace.
However, even though roxarsone no longer threatens chickens, inorganic arsenic still does. Studies show that conventionally farmed chickens contain incredibly high amounts of the toxic element, suggesting that farmers are intentionally treating them with it. It’s highly likely that inorganic arsenic is being used to prevent parasites and help chickens grow fatter and faster. The health implications on humans, however, are devastating.
Nitarsone is the only FDA-approved arsenic-based drug for chickens still on the market. Zoetis, Inc. promised to stop marketing it this year, pending the FDA’s withdrawal of its approval.
However, it might take another three years (or more) for arsenic chicken to no longer be sold in our markets, unfortunately.