Feeding Chickens Arsenic Allowed by FDA

FDA Permits Feeding Chicken Arsenic Adding More Toxins into Our Food Supply

Ask any mom who is about to feed her toddler some chicken strips, if she would like that chicken to have been fed arsenic. It's very, very likely that the answer would be no, she would not. In fact, you'd probably be hard-pressed to find a mom who would be willing to feed her children arsenic-contaminated chicken.

But moms and dads have unwittingly been doing exactly that for many years. It turns out that the Food and Drug Administration permits the feeding of arsenicals, arsenic-containing ingredients, to chicken to improve the rate of weight gain and prevent intestinal infestation by parasites.

A study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) recently found that out of 8.7 billion broiler chickens produced in the United States each year, 70 percent of those on starter rations (for young chickens) and 74 percent of those on grower rations are being fed arsenicals such as roxarsone.

Arsenic is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) that also bioaccumulates - which means when you are exposed to this element, it can build up in your body. It is also known to be a hormone disruptor, something that is very good to keep away from young, growing bodies. So when arsenic is included in chicken food, does it wind up in our food? Well, of course. Some is eliminated in their manure (more on this later) but some lodges in the meat and organs of the chickens.

The IATP tested many of the best known brands of uncooked chicken available in stores and several types of cooked chicken products available from fast food stores. Fifty-five percent of the chicken samples contained detectable amounts of arsenic. While you can get the entire report at, here are a couple of highlights.

All fast food products tested contained arsenic, but Jack in the Box's sandwiches measured five times the arsenic of a chicken sandwich from Subway. Purdue/Roundy's chicken pieces averaged 20 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic while Tyson's products measured between 0 and 4 ppb. Three-quarters of conventionally-grown chicken tested positive for arsenic, and even one in three organic products showed signs of arsenic. So on average, organic chicken products are a safer bet for your family.

Naturally enough, arsenic shows up in chicken litter as well. So what happens to this litter? Some of it is scooped up and fed to cows. While the FDA considered banning this practice in 2004, as of yet, it is still the norm in the industry.

To find the healthiest chicken for your family, check the report from the IATP and encourage your meat provider to carry chicken products that have not been fed arsenicals!

Source: Playing Chicken, Avoiding Arsenic in Your Meat, April 2006,

Source: Wikipedia article, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, March 28, 2010,

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