The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers that some chicken meat may contain small amounts of arsenic. That's arsenic -- as known as a carcinogen, which can cause vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, heart rhythm problems, altered mental status, organ failure, and cancer.
To the average chicken consumer, that news is absolutely frightening! But the FDA is telling consumers they shouldn't stop eating chicken. As far as the agency is concerned, a little arsenic in your chicken is no big deal.
Here's how arsenic is getting into the poultry we eat: Some birds are being fed chicken feed with a growth-promoting ingredient called Roxarsone that contains arsenic. The ingredient -- made by Pfizer Inc. -- has actually been fed to chickens since the 1940s. It was thought to be safe because studies indicated that the arsenic was eliminated with chicken waste (and, ahem, directly into ground, water, and air, but that's another story). But now a new study shows that it can make its way into parts of the bird that are eaten.
And then it makes its way into us.
Now, Pfizer has said it will suspend sales of the ingredient next month to give chicken farmers time to transition their birds off the ingredient. But we could still be eating chicken that's been fed the drug from now until then! The FDA has said that the amount of arsenic in chicken is too tiny to be dangerous to people who eat it. But that's doing little to allay consumers' fears.
Sadly, that's not the only drug given to factory farmed animals that contains arsenic (and other dangerous chemicals). In fact, Consumers Union and other groups have been working for years to get arsenic out of food production because it poses a risk to human health as well as the environment.
Of course, we can avoid these dangers by buying organic meat or not eating it altogether -- but, really, is eliminating something as dangerous as arsenic in our food supply too much to ask?
Will this warning about arsenic scare you away from chicken?]
Image via Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr