Category Archives: Lecture Responses

“Arsenical Drugs in Food Animal Production”



  • Arsenical drugs in animal production
  • Human exposures and risks
  • Regulatory and legislative efforts
  • Successes, failures and progress

Arsenical Drugs

  • Roxarsone – Also p-arsanilic acid, nitarsone, carbarson, arsanilate sodium
  • Additive in poultry and swine feed since the mid-1940s
  • Approved for growth promotion, improved pigmentation, coccidiostat, treatment of swine dysentery
  • In poultry production: 88% raised using roxarsone
  • In swine/turkey production: unknown %
  • Single domestic producer


  • 1944 — FDA new animal drug (NADA) 7-891 approval for roxarsone
  • 1951 — Tolerance levels set by FDA for arsenic residues in meat products (2ppm in liver, 0.5 ppm in uncooked meat)
  • 1981 — Enviromental impact analysis (for FDA), “The only probable adverse effect on the human population arising from the use of 3-nitro premixes (roxarsone) in poultry and swine feeds is the residues of the compound which may be present in the food of man.”
  • 1983 — NRC develops approach to chemical-risk assessment

Inorganic Arsenic-Related Health Effects

  • Arsenic is a well-characterized human carcinogen — lung, bladder, skin, transplacental carcinogen
  • Noncancer health effects — cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, dermal effects, neurological effects/deficits, immunologic effects, fertility effects, birth defects, respiratory effects, renal effects
  • Acute toxicity — irritation of lungs, throat, stomach, intestines, and skin

Gaps in Knowledge/Remaining Questions

  • Chicken meat — Arsenic type?
  • Environmental impact — Approximately 11 tons per year, but where does it go?

Roxarsone Story: 2011 and Beyond

  • June 8 — FDA announcement and Pfizer suspension also announced (Press/stakeholder calls)
  • July 8 — Pfizer suspends marketing of roxarsone in the US
  • August 29 — Poultry industry trade groups send letter to Margaret Hamburg/FDA
  • October 13 — Zhejiang Rongyao Chemical Co. files lawsuit ($20 million) against Pfizer over roxarsone (January 2011 contract)

Regulatory Agencies/Mechanisms

  • Use of roxarsone creates environmental public health issues that extend beyond the jurisdiction of any single federal agency (Drugs, environmental exposures, food production, food safety, occupational exposures)
  • Existing regulatory mechanisms that may address some of these issues are often inadequate
  • No existing standards addressing arsenic in animal waste
  • No indication of further FDA action based on re-evaluation of arsenicals

Federal and State Legislative Incentives

  • Federal bill (introduced by Rep. Steve Israel) – “Poison-free Poultry Act”
  • Maryland bills (2010/2011)

Why Was This Year Different?

  • This state of knowledge has changed (FDA study, Harry Hughes Center for Agroecology’s December 2011 report
  • State of public knowledge and intensity of advocacy coalition/organizing


  • A lack of meaningful regulatory action
  • Maryland
  • Other states could follow through
  • Eventual momentum for federal initiative


I am shocked to realize how harmful arsenic really is. I knew that it was, but not to the extent that was described in the lecture. Arsenic is extremely toxic in its unnatural and organic form. With arsenic being heavily present within food production and irrigation, it can result in many negative effects for the consumers. Skin cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological deficits, fertility and birth defects, respiratory effects and even toxicity are all health effects from arsenic exposure. Drinking contaminated water or even  consuming certain types of meat and dairy are main sources of contact. Since arsenic is related to food consumption and production, substitutions or preventative measures need to be taken in order to decrease the amount exposure.

“Introduction to Industrialization of Food Systems.”

Industrialization Notes

  • The rationale for industrialization was to free americans from farming and join the labor force, fueling the economy, make food and farming cheaper, etc.
  • First of any industry to exemplify industrial model was the Union Stock Yards meat packing plant in Chicago. Inspired the Ford assembly line model.
  • Industrialism is a mindset or approach.
  • Themes of Industrial Food System:
  1. Specialization – operations function more efficiently by focusing on fewer tasks
  2. Mechanization – the replacement of human and animal labor with machines
  3. Standardization – specialized facilities; uniform ways of doing things
  4. Technology – new technologies and increasing production and making it more efficient
  5. Economies of Scale – mass production and buying in bulk; process larger economies of scale
  6. Consolidation – larger and fewer facilities; smaller farms can not compete with larger factories
  7. Concentration – the extent to which a small number of corporations control most of the sales; raises concerns for monopolization
  • US is good at producing a lot of food with minimal labor, being most efficient in the world.
  • Concerns that come with industrialization:
  1. Exposure to pesticides
  2. Synthetic Fertilizers 
  3. Resource Depletion
  4. Loss of Domestic Biodiversity (Irish potato famine)
  5. Climate Change (Greenhouse gas emissions)


Lecture Response

The issue that most surprised me in the video lecture was industrialization’s effect on the depletion of our planet’s organic matter. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers deplete soil organic matter over the long term, by entering nearby waterways affecting aquatic ecosystems. This creates an excess of nutrients resulting in algal blooms and aquatic ‘dead zones’. The pictures of these dead zones the video displayed look like green goo. The freshwater was no longer blue but green, looking toxic and bad for the environment. This is very disturbing to see and makes me wonder how prevalent this damage is related to industrialization. Just looking at the picture below of a dead fish in an affected area makes me feel like it’s not right messing with our planet’s natural processes, and that in the future this could very well be a major problem.

Lake Erie algal blooms, August 2011