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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 20, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is facing a lawsuit because it continues to allow a form of arsenic to be used 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 the Institute's senior advisor in science, food and health, David Wallinga, the suit stems from a petition 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.' And we think that FDA did not respond to the petition, so we're filing suit to force their hand and protect public health," Wallinga said.

The arsenic that's used in animal feed is known as organic. It had been considered somewhat benign, but Wallinga declared 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's mixed in with all the other drugs and ingredients, it isn't clear that arsenic helps at all.

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

Agriculture is Indiana's largest industry. The suit seeks to cancel FDA approval of the four different animal-feed products including arsenic that are currently on the market.

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

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN