Inorganic Arsenic Found in Animal Drug

FDA Says Eating Chicken is Still Safe

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today a drug used by poultry producers since the 1940s will be suspended from the market after the discovery of inorganic arsenic, but stressed that continuing to eat chicken poses no health threat.

FDA officials said Alpharma, a subsidiary of major drug company Pfizer, is voluntarily stopping sales of animal drug 3-Nitro, also called Roxarsone, after a study of 100 broiler chickens found inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen, in higher levels in the livers of chickens treated with 3-Nitro versus untreated chickens.

"Chicken is still safe to eat, the FDA says."

FDA officials say the amount of inorganic arsenic found remains very low and that it poses no health risk to the public.

The animal drug became the first product approved by the FDA that contained arsenic upon receiving the green light in 1944. It is primarily used in broiler chickens to help control coccidiosis, a parasitic disease that affects the intestinal tracts of animals, though it is also used for weight gain, feed efficiency and improved pigmentation.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment and can be found in water, soil, food and air. Research, however, has indicated that organic arsenic, the less toxic variety and the kind found in 3-Nitro, can change into the more dangerous inorganic arsenic.

The recall is voluntary, but will not be immediate. Alpharma plans to continue selling the drug for an additional 30 days to give animal producers time to switch to other treatments, and because the company said it will help ensure animal health and welfare needs.

The company is working with the FDA throughout the process, including the examination of additional research. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also is assisting the company to ensure a minimal impact on the animal agriculture industry.

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Review Date: 
June 8, 2011
Last Updated:
June 10, 2011