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Lawsuit Seeks to Eliminate Arsenic in Animal Feed

PHOTO: Three years after filing a petition to get the FDA to pull the approval of animal feed containing arsenic, several advocacy groups have now filed suit. They say the arsenic is not needed to raise animals and poses a public health risk. CREDIT: Norman Ack
PHOTO: Three years after filing a petition to get the FDA to pull the approval of animal feed containing arsenic, several advocacy groups have now filed suit. They say the arsenic is not needed to raise animals and poses a public health risk. CREDIT: Norman Ack
May 7, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is facing a lawsuit because it continues to allow arsenic in animal feed given to chickens, turkeys and hogs. The suit was filed on behalf of a handful of advocacy groups, including the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

According to Institute senior advisor in science, food and health Dr. David Wallinga, the suit stems from a petition on the matter that was filed against the FDA three years ago.

"Basically saying this is arsenic. We don't need it to raise these animals for meat and, in fact, it's a public health hazard so let's do something about it," he urged. "And we think that FDA did not respond to the petition, so we're filing suit to force their hand and protect public health."

The arsenic that's used in animal feed is known as organic. It had been considered somewhat benign, but Wallinga stated that in reality arsenic is arsenic.

"Whether you're talking about a chicken that's eating this arsenic in their feed or whether it's a human being who's taking it in somehow in the meat they eat, the body can convert that organic form of arsenic into the other forms that are actually closely tied with risk of cancer," he warned.

The arsenic in the feed is supposed to help with animal growth and meat coloring, but Wallinga said that when it is mixed in with all the other drugs and ingredients in the feed, it's not clear that arsenic helps at all.

"Long before we fed arsenic to animals, we were raising them just fine without arsenic," he remarked. "And in fact, countries around the world including the European Union never approved these arsenic chemicals as being safe to put into animal feed."

The suit seeks to yank FDA approval of the four different animal-feed arsenic products that are currently on the market.

More information on the suit is at bit.ly/13dwusD.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN