“Arsenical Drugs in Food Animal Production.”


Arsenic Based Drugs

  • Roxarsone
  • Additive in poultry and swine feed
  • Approved for growth promotion, improved pigmentation, treatment, etc.
  • 88 percent of poultry is raised with roxarsone

History of Arsenics

  • FDA new animal drug in 1994 (approval for roxarsone)
  • Tolerance levels set by FDA for arsenic residues in meat products 1951
  • Environmental impact analysis (for FDA) in 1981
  • NRC develops approach to chemical-risk assessment

Arsenic Health Effects

  • Human carcinogen
  • Harmful to lung, bladder, skin
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Dermal effects
  • Neurological effects
  • Fertility effects
  • Immunologic effects
  • Birth defects
  • Respiratory and renal effects
  • Irritation to skin, throat, stomach, intestines, etc.

Questions remain about arsenic…

  • Amount in chicken meat is unknown
  • Environmental impact


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

Regulatory Agencies

  • 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 State and 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


Lecture Response

I’m shocked by the amount of effects arsenic drugs has on health. The list seems to go on and on ranging from cancers to skin and lung irritation. To know that arsenic residue is possibly in the food we eat day in and day out, make me think no wonder so many people are affected my disease with no apparent cause. We are unknowingly consuming deadly chemicals in the food we eat. Personally I rather eat a little pig than one that is growth induced with roxarsone and other harmful arsenics that could potentially poison my body.

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