FDA says chicken can contain small amounts of arsenic

AP Graphics
FDA says chicken contains small amounts of arsenic
AP Graphics

(CBS/AP) Will poultry lovers pluck chickens from their plates over a new warning from the FDA? The agency said Wednesday that the meat of chickens fed a growth-promoting ingredient called Roxarsone can contain arsenic.

The ingredient's manufacturer, Pfizer, said Wednesday that it would pull feed containing Roxarsone off U.S. shelves. The ingredient has been used since the 1940s to kill parasites as well as promote growth.

Should chicken connoisseurs change their dinner plans? No need for that, the FDA says. But Michael Taylor, the agency's deputy commissioner for foods, said there were "concerns of a very low but completely avoidable exposure to a carcinogen."

Pfizer said in a statement that a subsidiary, Alpharma, would suspend sales of the ingredient next month to give chicken farmers time to transition their birds off the ingredient.

The Roxarsone flap began after a new study showed that chickens that ate the Roxarsone-laced feed had higher levels of inorganic arsenic in their livers than control chickens. Arsenic can cause vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, heart rhythm problems, altered mental status, and organ failure as well as cancer.

The National Chicken Council said in a statement that the ingredient has been used to maintain good health in chickens for many years, and that it is used in "many, but not all" flocks, adding "Chicken is safe to eat."