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Consumers Beware: Dangerous Levels of Arsenic Found in Non-Organic Chicken



Press contactBen Lilliston(612) 870-3416 or

Minneapolis ­- Brand name chicken products sold in American supermarkets andfast food restaurants are widely contaminated with arsenic, according toindependent test results released today by the Institute for Agriculture andTrade Policy (IATP).

Testing of 155 samples from uncooked supermarket chicken products found 55percent carried detectable arsenic. Arsenic was more than twice as prevalentin conventional brands of supermarket chicken as in certified organic andother "premium" brands. All 90 fast food chicken products tested by IATPalso contained detectable arsenic. The full report can be read

Arsenic in chicken meat appears closely linked to the decades-old practiceof intentionally and routinely putting arsenic into chicken feed. At least70 percent of U.S. broiler chickens have been fed arsenic, according toestimates.

"Adding arsenic to chicken feed is a needless and ultimately avoidablepractice that only exposes more people to more of this ancient poison," saidDr. David Wallinga, a physician, author of Playing Chicken: Avoiding Arsenicin Your Meat, and director of IATP's Food and Health program.

"There is good news. Consumers can limit or eliminate their arsenic intakein chicken by making smart choices about which chicken to buy," saidWallinga. "Our testing found plenty of supermarket chicken without anydetectable arsenic. Birds sold under organic labels can't legally be givenarsenic. For other chicken, your best bet is to directly ask for someassurance from the producer, supermarket or restaurant that's selling it."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture fails to test for arsenic in the chickenbreasts or thighs that Americans mostly eat, and does not make publicresults of its testing of individual brands.

Brand name chicken products tested by IATP included Foster Farms, TraderJoe's, Gold'n Plump, Perdue, Smart Chicken, and Tyson Foods. Fast foodchains that had chicken products tested included McDonald's, Wendy's,Arby's, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Church's and Popeyes. Chickenproducts were purchased from supermarkets and fast food outlets in Minnesotaand California and were analyzed for arsenic by a private, independentcommercial laboratory.

Some specific findings from the report:

* Arsenic levels vary significantly. The most contaminated brands ofuncooked chicken breasts and thighs on average had arsenic levels aroundten-fold higher than did the brands found to be least contaminated witharsenic;

* Plenty of the raw chicken tested had no or nearly no detectablearsenic, including that from some organic companies and most chicken testedfrom the world's largest chicken producer, Tyson Foods;

* Five packages of Gold'n Plump livers contained an average of nearly 222ppb arsenic, the highest of all the chicken samples;

* Prepared chicken thighs from Church's on average had 20 times thearsenic levels of thighs from KFC. The chicken in sandwiches from Jack InThe Box on average had more than five times the arsenic than in Subwaysandwiches.

* An estimated 1.7 to 2.2 million pounds of roxarsone, a single arsenicfeed additive, are given each year to chickens. Much of this ends up inchicken litter and the broader environment.

Arsenic causes cancer and contributes to other diseases including heartdisease, diabetes and declines in intellectual function. While none of the chicken products tested had arsenic levels above federal standards, much has changed since those standards were set. For one thing, Americans eat at least two and a half times more chicken than they did 40 years ago.Additionally, the latest science reports that some forms of arsenic are moretoxic than previously thought, and cumulative human exposures to arsenic,including in chicken meat, are likely higher than previously thought.

"Smarter poultry companies, from the world's largest to some of thesmallest, no longer use routine arsenic," says Dr. Wallinga. "Europe hasbanned the practice. It's long past the time to take arsenic out of U.S.poultry feed."

The report made several recommendations:

* Consumers should seek out chicken raised without arsenic in its feed,including that sold as USDA-certified organic chicken, under which thepractice is prohibited;

* Poultry companies should voluntarily avoid the use of arsenic andinform consumers of such;

* Restaurants, hospitals and schools should ask their poultry suppliersto stop using arsenic in feed;

* Federal and state regulators should withdraw approval for meat andpoultry producers to add arsenic to our food chain and environment.The full report can be found at:

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy works globally to promote resilient family farms, communities and ecosystems through research andeducation, science and technology, and advocacy.

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