Recently, a friend posted an article from November, 2011 by the online alternative newspaper,, entitled “FDA Finally Admits Chicken Meat Contains Cancer-Causing Arsenic”.  

The article revealed how arsenic is added to chicken feed to spur growth and fend off disease, and that until recently the FDA and the poultry industry maintained that none of the arsenic remained in the meat, as it was expelled in the chicken’s feces.  The author also wasn’t convinced of the FDA’s stance that the trace amounts of arsenic in the meat were safe for consumers.  The article was quite inflammatory, and as I’m a big chicken consumer, downright scary to read! 

Given the sensational nature and age of the article, I decided to do a little digging.  What I found was even scarier.  In a nutshell (organic, of course) here are a few facts to make you scratch your head as to why on earth the FDA is dragging its feet by not enforcing a full ban on any and all arsenic in agriculture, including feed, pesticides and fertilization.  After all, it’s been banned in the European Union for years.

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Chicken poop is used for fertilizer.  A 2011 report, co-written by the National Resources Defense Council and the National Disease Clusters Alliance, was featured at a Senate environmental committee hearing.   “Cancer Clusters, Disease, and the need to Protect People from Toxic Chemicals,” identifies at least 42 disease clusters in 13 states reported since 1976.  In 2012, Maryland became the first state to ban arsenic in chicken feed, as it ends up in the litter at toxic levels and runs off into streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

Chicken poop is fed to cows.  That means the arsenic from the chickens is also in your beef.   Not to mention that feeding cows chicken manure can lead to mad cow disease, and (if not properly heated) expose you to campylobacter and salmonella bacteria, which can make humans sick. Intestinal parasites, veterinary drug residues and other toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury are also often present in the waste.

Arsenic is popping up in both our water and food supply, like apple juice and rice.  Rice is grown in fields where cotton was raised, a crop heavily dosed with arsenic pesticide in the past.  It grows in water flooded conditions, and absorbs water more efficiently than other crops.  And to make matters worse, rice farms used chicken poop fertilizer!

So what conclusion do I draw from my research?  While the article which originally sparked my interest may have seemed over the top, the issue is worth the hyperbole.  The list of agencies, watchdog organizations and consumer groups calling for an arsenic ban is long and impressive. 

For me, from now on, I’ll eat only organic chicken and pasture feed beef and keep my eye out for how I can use my dollars, my vote and my practice to influence positive environmental change.

If you and your family would like some assistance with navigating the scary world of food, please call me at 908-913-0508 for a free consultation.