FDA Sued Over Arsenic in Chicken Feed

chickenFood safety watchdogs sued federal regulators this week for allowing arsenic-based food additives in chicken, turkey and hog feed.

Arsenic is added to poultry feed to produce faster weight gain on less food and to create the healthy color in meat.  Studies have found organic arsenic compounds, used in feed, are toxic to humans and can convert to cancer-causing inorganic arsenic, according to the lawsuit.

The Center for Food Safety, joined by eight other groups, has asked a federal judge in San Francisco to declare the Food and Drug Administration violated the law by ignoring a 2009 petition to eliminate arsenic in feed and calls from immediate withdrawal of the FDA’s approval of arsenic-containing compounds as feed additives for animal foods.

“FDA could easily and immediately fix the problem,” according to Paige Tomaselli, a senior staff attorney with the Center, “but instead puts its head in the sand.”

The use of arsenic-containing compounds was approved in the 1940s and is legal today.  They were never approved as safe for animal feed in the European Union, Japan or many other countries, according to the Center.

In 2009, the Center presented evidence to the FDA that inorganic arsenic is a human carcinogen and can contribute to heart disease, diabetes and declines in intellectual function, the suit states.

The Center claims the FDA issued a report in 2011 on a study of chicken treated with Roxarsone, an additive by Alpharma, a division of Pfizer.  It concluded inorganic arsenic in check treated with Roxarsone was significantly higher than those that were not.

The company announced at the time it would voluntarily suspend sale of Roxarsone.  Although it is not sold, other companies continue to sell arsenic-containing additives and Roxarsone could be reintroduced, the suit argues.

“Not only has FDA failed to act under the [Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act], the agency has not meaningfully responded to the 2009 petition and is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act,” the suit states.

The case was randomly assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu in Oakland.

Case:  Center for Food Safety v. Sebelius, No. Cv-13-1975DMR