Pfizer will stop selling poultry-pumping drug

Do you ever wonder what they’re really putting into the food supply?

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer will voluntarily suspend US sales of a poultry-pumping additive after studies showed it can leave traces of arsenic in chickens’ livers, the US government announced on Wednesday.

“Alpharma, a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc., will voluntarily suspend US sales of the animal drug 3-Nitro (Roxarsone), a product used by poultry producers since the 1940s,” the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

The FDA said a recent study of 100 broiler chickens found that those treated with Roxarsone, which makes their skins more yellow and boosts their growth, had higher levels of inorganic arsenic in their livers than untreated chickens.

The levels detected were “very low” and do not pose a health risk, the FDA said.

“FDA detected increased levels of inorganic arsenic in the livers of chickens treated with 3-Nitro, raising concerns of a very low but completely avoidable exposure to a carcinogen,” said Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods.

“We are pleased to announce that the company is cooperating with us to protect the public health.”

The order will take effect in 30 days.

The FDA approved 3-Nitro in 1944, when it became the first arsenic-containing new animal drug product approved by the US regulatory agency.

Some poultry farmers use it to ward off coccidiosis, a parasitic disease that attacks an animal’s intestines. It also helps chickens gain weight and gives a golden color to their skin.

Alpharma said on its website that Roxarsone is a “non-antibiotic feed additive that helps increase the rate of weight gain and improve feed efficiency of pigs by promoting a healthy gut.”

The arsenic in Roxarsone is organic, according to Alpharma.

However the chickens were found to have inorganic arsenic, the poisonous kind, in their organs, according to FDA research.

“Published scientific reports have indicated that organic arsenic, a less toxic form of arsenic and the form present in 3-Nitro, could transform into inorganic arsenic,” the FDA statement said.

A coalition of consumer groups filed a federal lawsuit last month against the FDA over the use of human antibiotics in animal feed, saying it creates dangerous superbugs.

The suit alleges that the regulatory agency concluded in 1977 that the practice of feeding healthy animals low doses of penicillin and tetracycline could lead to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in people, but continues to allow it anyway.

Roxarsone was not included in the suit because it is not an antibiotic.


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