Where Does the Arsenic in Chicken Come From?

Where Does the Arsenic in Chicken Come From?
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What was the National Chicken Council’s response to public health authorities calling for the industry to stop feeding arsenic-based drugs to poultry?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Dietary practices influence [our] exposure to pesticides, [toxic heavy] metals,…and industrial pollutants… A diet high in fish and [other] animal products, for example, results in greater exposure to [these pollutants] than does a [more] plant-based diet, because these compounds [may] …accumulate up the food chain.” Researchers at UC Davis analyzed the diets of children and adults in California to see just how bad things have gotten.

“Cancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all children (100% [of children tested]) for arsenic, [the banned pesticides] dieldrin [and DDT metabolite] DDE, [as well as] dioxins”—and not just by a little. More than a hundred times the acceptable daily exposure for arsenic in preschoolers, school-age children, parents, and older adults. About ten times the acceptable levels for these various pesticides, and up to a thousand times the daily dose for dioxins. Where are all these toxins coming from?

The #1 source of dioxins in the diets of Californian preschoolers, kids, parents, and grandparents appears to be dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy; followed by meat, then white potatoes, refined grains, mushrooms, poultry, fish.

Our DDT legacy these days is also mostly from dairy. Dieldrin was created as a safer alternative to DDT, but was banned two years later, in 1974, though it’s still found in our bodies—mostly thanks to dairy, meat, and, evidently, cucumbers.

Chlordane made it into the 80s before being banned, though we’re still exposed through dairy (and cukes). Lead is also, foodwise, mostly from dairy and mercury—not surprisingly, mostly from tuna and other seafood. But arsenic in children was surprising—mostly from chicken, in children. Why?

Let me tell you “a tale of” arsenic in chicken. Arsenic “is well known as a poison by anyone who reads mysteries or the history of the Borgias.” “[W]ith its long and colorful history, arsenic is not something that people want in their food.” So, when a biostats student went to the USDA 17 years ago “in search of a project” for his master’s degree, he decided to look into it. What he found was this “startling difference…” Arsenic levels in chicken were like three times that of other meats. His veterinary colleagues were like, “Duh,” though. I mean, don’t you know we feed four different types of arsenic-containing antibiotic drugs to poultry? Since, you know, like 1944.

So, “[w]hile arsenic-based drugs have been fed to poultry since the…40s, recognition of this source of exposure for humans only occurred after [this student churned through] the data.” It was published in 2004, expanded upon in 2006. The National Chicken Council was none too pleased, saying lots of foods are contaminated with arsenic. “By focusing specifically on chicken, the [Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy] makes it clear that” their true objective is to force chicken “producers to stop using these safe and effective products”—by which they mean these arsenic-containing drugs, which they admit to using, but say, don’t worry they use organic arsenic, “not the inorganic form made infamous in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace'”—that is, apparently, until you cook it. When you cook chicken, it appears some of the arsenic drug in the meat turns into the Arsenic and Old Lace variety.

So, the ‘‘Poison-Free Poultry Act of 2009’’ was introduced into Congress. You can tell how well that did, based on the subsequent introduction of the ‘‘Poison-Free Poultry Act of 2011,” to which they said poison-poor poultry? Pish posh. And so, in 2013, a coalition of nine groups got together and sued the FDA, and by December 31, 2015, all arsenic-containing poultry drugs were withdrawn. So, as of 2016, arsenic will no longer be fed to chickens. The bad news is that without the arsenic-containing drug roxarsone, chicken may lose some of its “appealing pink color.”

In the end, the poultry industry only got away with exposing the American public to arsenic for 72 years. “It should be noted that the European Union [had] never approved [such] drugs” in the first place, saying hmm, feed our animals arsenic? No thanks; nein danke; no grazie; non merci.

Europe also long since banned the “urgent threat to human health” posed by feeding farm animals millions of pounds of human antibiotics—a problem that gets worse every year, instead of better, feeding chickens en masse literally tons of drugs like tetracyclines and penicillins to fatten them faster, dating back to 1951, when drug companies whipped out the ALL CAPS to promise big PROFITS—a dangerous practice the poultry industry has gotten away with for 66 years, and counting.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Lebensmittelfotos via Pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Dietary practices influence [our] exposure to pesticides, [toxic heavy] metals,…and industrial pollutants… A diet high in fish and [other] animal products, for example, results in greater exposure to [these pollutants] than does a [more] plant-based diet, because these compounds [may] …accumulate up the food chain.” Researchers at UC Davis analyzed the diets of children and adults in California to see just how bad things have gotten.

“Cancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all children (100% [of children tested]) for arsenic, [the banned pesticides] dieldrin [and DDT metabolite] DDE, [as well as] dioxins”—and not just by a little. More than a hundred times the acceptable daily exposure for arsenic in preschoolers, school-age children, parents, and older adults. About ten times the acceptable levels for these various pesticides, and up to a thousand times the daily dose for dioxins. Where are all these toxins coming from?

The #1 source of dioxins in the diets of Californian preschoolers, kids, parents, and grandparents appears to be dairy, dairy, dairy, dairy; followed by meat, then white potatoes, refined grains, mushrooms, poultry, fish.

Our DDT legacy these days is also mostly from dairy. Dieldrin was created as a safer alternative to DDT, but was banned two years later, in 1974, though it’s still found in our bodies—mostly thanks to dairy, meat, and, evidently, cucumbers.

Chlordane made it into the 80s before being banned, though we’re still exposed through dairy (and cukes). Lead is also, foodwise, mostly from dairy and mercury—not surprisingly, mostly from tuna and other seafood. But arsenic in children was surprising—mostly from chicken, in children. Why?

Let me tell you “a tale of” arsenic in chicken. Arsenic “is well known as a poison by anyone who reads mysteries or the history of the Borgias.” “[W]ith its long and colorful history, arsenic is not something that people want in their food.” So, when a biostats student went to the USDA 17 years ago “in search of a project” for his master’s degree, he decided to look into it. What he found was this “startling difference…” Arsenic levels in chicken were like three times that of other meats. His veterinary colleagues were like, “Duh,” though. I mean, don’t you know we feed four different types of arsenic-containing antibiotic drugs to poultry? Since, you know, like 1944.

So, “[w]hile arsenic-based drugs have been fed to poultry since the…40s, recognition of this source of exposure for humans only occurred after [this student churned through] the data.” It was published in 2004, expanded upon in 2006. The National Chicken Council was none too pleased, saying lots of foods are contaminated with arsenic. “By focusing specifically on chicken, the [Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy] makes it clear that” their true objective is to force chicken “producers to stop using these safe and effective products”—by which they mean these arsenic-containing drugs, which they admit to using, but say, don’t worry they use organic arsenic, “not the inorganic form made infamous in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace'”—that is, apparently, until you cook it. When you cook chicken, it appears some of the arsenic drug in the meat turns into the Arsenic and Old Lace variety.

So, the ‘‘Poison-Free Poultry Act of 2009’’ was introduced into Congress. You can tell how well that did, based on the subsequent introduction of the ‘‘Poison-Free Poultry Act of 2011,” to which they said poison-poor poultry? Pish posh. And so, in 2013, a coalition of nine groups got together and sued the FDA, and by December 31, 2015, all arsenic-containing poultry drugs were withdrawn. So, as of 2016, arsenic will no longer be fed to chickens. The bad news is that without the arsenic-containing drug roxarsone, chicken may lose some of its “appealing pink color.”

In the end, the poultry industry only got away with exposing the American public to arsenic for 72 years. “It should be noted that the European Union [had] never approved [such] drugs” in the first place, saying hmm, feed our animals arsenic? No thanks; nein danke; no grazie; non merci.

Europe also long since banned the “urgent threat to human health” posed by feeding farm animals millions of pounds of human antibiotics—a problem that gets worse every year, instead of better, feeding chickens en masse literally tons of drugs like tetracyclines and penicillins to fatten them faster, dating back to 1951, when drug companies whipped out the ALL CAPS to promise big PROFITS—a dangerous practice the poultry industry has gotten away with for 66 years, and counting.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Lebensmittelfotos via Pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

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