Chicken Arsenic Levels May Pose Health Risk for Consumers: Study

Additional concerns are being raised about the levels of arsenic found in the nation’s food supply, after new research indicates that high levels of the carcinogen were found in samples of chicken.

According to a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, random samples of chicken from grocery stores in 10 different metropolitan cities across the country were found to contain levels of inorganic arsenic (iAs). The samples were also tested for the poultry antibiotic drug roxarsone.

Samples of conventional chicken, antibiotic-free chicken and organic chicken were taken from December 2010 through June 2011. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found arsenic levels were higher in the conventional chicken samples than the samples of antibiotic-free chicken, with the chicken containing 2 parts per billion and half a part per billion of inorganic arsenic, respectively. No traces of arsenic were found in the organic chicken samples at all.

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The amounts of arsenic found were higher than levels of arsenic which occur naturally in the environment, however they were lower than current federal standards. The federal standards dictate arsenic must be less than 500 parts per billion, a standard first set in the 1940s and which many argue is outdated.

The authors of the study suggested that the chicken arsenic levels chicken could lead to a higher risk of cancer for consumers over a lifetime. Higher arsenic levels were detected in chicken samples which were positive for roxarsone, compared to the chicken samples which were roxarsone-negative. If roxarsone was fed to all chickens, this risk would translate into 124 additional deaths from lung and bladder cancer each year researchers estimate.

Antibiotic Removed from U.S. Market

Arsenic based drugs are permitted for use in poultry production. This study was conducted before the FDA approved drug roxarsone, also known by its brand name 3-Nitro, was suspended from the market. Researchers hoped to determine if the drug would lead to increased levels of arsenic.

Roxarsone is used to kill intestinal parasites, promotes growth in poultry and makes meat look more pink. The drug also contains levels of organic arsenic.

While roxarsone has been suspended for sale in the U.S. market, it has not been banned by the FDA completely and is still sold abroad. Other drugs similar to roxarsone also pose a similar risk, such as nitarsone, and are still being used in chicken and turkey.

A similar study also conducted at Johns Hopkins last year found a class of antibiotics known to cause Campylobacteriosis, were still being fed to poultry despite a ban on their use by the FDA.

Concerns regarding arsenic in other products has come to the forefront of concern over the last few years.

Last year a study of more than 200 products conducted by researchers from Consumer Reports found high levels of arsenic in rice and rice products, such as crackers and cereals. The study found people who ate rice had arsenic levels 44 percent higher than those who had not.

Another report conducted by Consumer Reports in 2011 found high levels of arsenic in apple juice. Approximately 10 percent of the juices tested contained higher levels than what is legally allowed in drinking water. The study prompted the FDA to launch their own study to examine the levels of arsenic in more than 90 samples of apple juice products.

Arsenic is a known carcinogen. Inorganic arsenic is toxic to humans and is associated with various forms of cancer, heart disease and death.


  • woodyMay 27, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    morgellons disease. it took over 5 years to find the smokeing gun,arsenic and roarsone in chicken. 7 months in recovery about 90% back to 100%. arsenic and roasone are without any question the trigger.

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