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Chicken Called Safe, but Arsenic Study Raises Questions continued...

Only a tiny portion of this arsenic appears to be the cancer-causing inorganic form. But the FDA study was not able to detect all of the most harmful forms of arsenic. The study raises -- but does not answer -- the question of whether the chickens' digestive processes form toxic compounds "potentially more toxic than the parent compound."

In a statement, Pfizer notes that the FDA finds no imminent public health risk from eating chicken treated with 3-Nitro.

Pfizer also notes that the "extremely low level" of inorganic arsenic the FDA detected in the liver of a 3-Nitro-treated chicken "is equivalent to the amount of inorganic arsenic found in an eight-ounce glass of drinking water."

The National Chicken Council issued a statement saying, "Chicken is safe to eat. The Food & Drug Administration says it is NOT raising any alarms about consumption of chicken."

Chickens excrete arsenic compounds in their feces. Environmental groups have raised concern that runoff from chicken farms, as well as fertilizer made from chicken waste, may be polluting groundwater.

"Arsenic in chicken production poses a risk not only to human health, but to the environment," Consumer's Union senior scientist Michael Hansen, PhD, says in a news release. "Arsenic can end up in the manure from chicken coops and this is spread on agricultural land as fertilizer. Chicken coop floor waste is also routinely swept up and recycled as feed to cows on large-scale feedlots. We need to get arsenic out of food production altogether."

Some 90% of 3-Nitro is fed to chickens, although the drug is also approved for use in turkeys and in pigs.

Chickens sold as "antibiotic free" have not been fed arsenic-containing drugs.

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