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Posts tagged ‘arsenic’

How Much Arsenic in Rice Came From Chickens Just to Pinken Their Flesh?

The reason arsenic levels in rice are highest in states like Arkansas may be due to the arsenic-containing drugs fed to chickens to pinken their flesh. The arsenic ends up in feather and manure fertilizer that is spread on both conventional and organic crops. Check out today’s breaking news blog:

How Much Arsenic In Rice Came From Chickens?

It may be no coincidence that the rice found most contaminated with arsenic originated from some of the top poultry producing states such as Akansas, Texas, and Missouri. Earlier this year, researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found levels of arsenic in chicken feather meal up to 100 times that found in apple juice by Dr. Oz last year and 10 times that justfound in rice. Feather meal is made from the billionpounds of feathers plucked from chicken carcasses annually (sometimes with heads, guts, manure, and feet thrown in to increase protein and mineral content) and is fed to farmed fish, pigs, poultry, and cattle as well as used to fertilize both conventional and organic crops. Chicken manure is also used directly as feed and fertilizer and has been found to significantly increase arsenic levels in the soil.

Some of the arsenic in apple juice and rice may from the use of arsenic-containing pesticides, but how did arsenic get into the chickens? The poultry industry fed it to them.

Two million pounds of arsenic-containing chemicals have been fed to chickens annually in the United States. Why would the industry do such a thing? When tens of thousands of birds are crammed into filthy football field-sized sheds to lie beak-to-beak in their own waste they can become so heavily infested with internal parasites that adding arsenic to the feed to poison the bugs can result in a dramatic increase in growth rates. Arsenic can also give the carcass a pinkish tinge, which consumers prefer.

Though arsenic-based feed additives have been banned in Europe for over a decade, they continue to be legal in the United States. One drug company did announce last summer, that it has suspended sales to domestic poultry companies after the FDA found concerning levels of a particularly toxic form of arsenic in edible tissues of chickens eating feed laced with their arsenic-containing drug. Unfortunately, the drug company continues to manufacture and export the feed additive and another arsenic-containing poultry drug remains on the U.S. market.

Based on the USDA estimates of arsenic levels in the U.S. chicken supply, the prestigious Medical Letter on the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration concluded, “Chicken consumption may contribute significant amounts of arsenic to total arsenic exposure of the U.S. population….Levels of arsenic in chicken are so high that other sources may have to be monitored carefully to prevent undue toxic exposure among the population.”  For more, see my videos Arsenic in Rice and Arsenic in Chicken.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: Flickr / tsuihin – TimoStudios http://www.flickr.com/photos/timothytsuihin/

http://nutritionfacts.org/2012/09/20/how-much-arsenic-in-rice-came-from-chickens/

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Eat Rice? 4 Ways to Avoid Arsenic

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Arsenic, a known cancer causing agent, is showing up in our rice.  A new report shows that it is turning up in brown rice, white rice, rice milk and even in baby foods.

A known carcinogen that increases the risk of skin, lung and bladder cancer, a growing number of us are asking: what’s an eater to do?  Especially in light of the fact that the American Cancer Society now reports that 41% of Americans are expected to get cancer in their lifetimes.

Thankfully, there is a lot.  And this infographic from the Consumers Reports offers insight and suggestions.

Their top four suggestions:

  • Introduce other grains into your diet
  • Limit your family’s intake of rice and rice products (or opt out of rice altogether if you can)
  • Rinse your rice thoroughly before cooking
  • Use extra water when cooking rice and then drain it
When it comes to protecting the health of our families and country, knowledge is power.  And so is love.  So share this with those you love, knowing that together, we can create the changes we want to see in the health of our food system.

Elevated Levels of Arsenic Found in Rice Products

Jeff Rossen Reports on Consumer Reports Findings.

 

Watch video here:  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/49084471#49084471

Live From The Cutting Room Floor Mark Bittman

April 9, 2012, 3:55 PM

Live From the Cutting Room Floor

By MARK BITTMAN
The author discussing pink slime with Chris Hayes and company on April 7.MSNBCThe author discussing pink slime with Chris Hayes and company on April 7.

I was a guest on “Up w/Chris Hayes” Saturday, talking, it seemed, about everything: a bit of an ambitious agenda. When I go back, the conversation will continue.

Meanwhile, since the initial topic was “pink slime,” about which I wrote last week, I used my pre-air time in the studio to outline the issues I thought were worth mentioning. We didn’t get to a tenth of this, so I thought it worth posting.

(I was taught never to apologize for a story submission, but these are close to stream-of-consciousness. But hey: that’s why god invented blogging.)

Perhaps you’ll find some things of interest:

1. Democracy. Are we entitled to know what goes in our food? The answer’s easy, but Big Food thinks it’s “no.” It’s not just ammonia in beef, it’s arsenic and antibiotics – banned antibiotics at that, and Prozac and all kinds of drugs – in chicken and pork. It’s growth hormones in milk, it’s genetically engineered ingredients in just about everything. And we’re told about none of this unless some concerned and often courageous citizen or journalist starts making noise about it.

Just Label It!

That’s what’s been encouraging about this pink slime business (and that’s what’s encouraging about ag-gag laws) – how hard it’s being fought. Not that we’re going to get rid of it, not because it’s a major issue in the great scheme of things — it matters, of course, but there are many other, greater problems — but that public pressure is causing changes, like improved labeling. (Almost everyone polled wants to know whether there are genetically engineered products in their foods, and whether ultimately that’s important or not doesn’t really matter, if it’s something everyone wants.) Public pressure can also reduce our reliance on factory farms and industrial agriculture in general, public pressure can make our food supply safer and better, and in turn make us a healthier country.

That’s why the pink slime campaign is important: it’s a victory for public pressure over corporate power and therefore one for democracy. Note, too, that this happened nationally, which shows once again that noisemaking and protests are good for more than local issues.

2. Why is this happening in the first place? Pink slime and E.coli/salmonella; the chicken arsenic and inspection issues about which Nick Kristof wrote last week, cuts in funding at the U.S.D.A., F.D.A., E.P.A., and so on … what we’re seeing are budget cuts as a form of deregulation, and that deregulation is geared toward allowing producers to raise the animals in our food supply any damn way they please, in the most profitable way possible.

As anyone who’s been following these issues knows, cattle are meant to eat grass, not grain. Yet most cattle are fed grain, almost exclusively, and grain messes with their digestive systems. Those cows’ messed-up stomachs become breeding grounds for E.coli — which can cause kidney failure and death — and salmonella, which is rarely deadly but can be extremely unpleasant. (You know how when you have the flu you want to die? Like that.) To combat this, producers must use boatloads of antibiotics — 80 percent of all antibiotics used in this country are given to animals, and the vast majority of those are given prophylactically — and resort to techniques like treating meat with ammonia or (perhaps a shade less distastefully) irradiation.

Pink slime, or "lean finely textured beef," as it's referred to in polite company.Jamieoliver.comPink slime, or “lean finely textured beef,” as it’s referred to in polite company.

You might argue that these are public health measures, and in a perverse way they are — they’re making an unsafe product less so — but why do we need them in the first place? Because our production methods create problems. And Big Food, which finds these methods enormously profitable, wants us to deal with the symptoms of the problems (wash tainted meat in ammonia) rather than the problems themselves (raise healthy cattle). To defund programs that attempt to bring those production methods — the real problem — under control, to make them safer, better and healthier, is the equivalent of defunding sewage systems because we’re able to wash down our streets with ammonia. If you get my drift. It ain’t pretty.

3. The jobs issue: I am really annoyed about the “this costs jobs” nonsense, which is simply a line Republicans dredge up when they don’t like something. They’re not complaining about Apple doing all its manufacturing in China, and they don’t make noise when auto workers are laid off, and they certainlydon’t care when budget cuts reduce the number of ag inspectors or administrators in the SNAP program. They only kvetch about job losses when it suits them politically.

We need to push Democrats to have more spine to support intelligent measures even if they “cost jobs.” The extreme example is tobacco: I’m sorry if tobacco farmers can’t sell their crop, but their crop breeds death; I’ll be sorry, too, when Americans stop eating so much meat and people in that industry start losing jobs. I’d be sorry for people on the automatic weapons assembly line if gun control ever develops any teeth. (I’ll be sorry for the unemployed grief counselors, too.)

But if a product means death for you or your neighbor or the environment, we simply shouldn’t be producing it. If people lose their jobs as a result, I’m sympathetic, but we can’t be supporting a process that poisons our citizenry. The extreme example would be to complain about health care workers losing their jobs if we were to eat less industrially processed food and get healthier as a result. If the only way to keep unemployment “down” is to employ people creating deadly products or dealing with their consequences, maybe that’s worth looking at.

If you want to create jobs in the food supply, let’s have real farmers raise real animals, and let’s double the number of inspectors, so we can create jobs that protect people, not jobs that kill them. Sheesh.

Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the F.D.A.U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationMichael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the F.D.A.

4. Finally, a word about Michael Taylor, the so-called food safety czar who is a former Monsanto lobbyist. At the moment we have little room for hope that the food system will be fundamentally changed, but it’s not precisely Taylor’s fault. The changes we need to see are not forthcoming because a) they’re not priorities for the Obama administration and b) even if they were, the administration would be fought to death on them.

I do want to remind everyone, however, that candidate Obama thought G.M.O. labeling was a great idea; President Obama, evidently, doesn’t care so much. Yet a million people signed a petition asking the F.D.A. to mandate labeling of G.M.O. foods and in polls, something like 80 or 90 percent of Americans want that to happen. The fact that it hasn’t happened is not Taylor’s fault, but because Monsanto still has a disproportionate amount of influence, which it would no matter who was in charge of this stuff. Margaret Hamburg, ostensibly Taylor’s boss, is one of the good guys.

Not that I’m in favor of Taylor, and not that I think he’s going to be helpful in getting G.M.O.s labeled. But once again, he’s a symptom — not the disease.

reprinted from:  http://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/live-from-the-cutting-room-floor/

The New York Times: Arsenic in our Chicken?

Arsenic in Our Chicken?

By 
Published: April 4, 2012

Let’s hope you’re not reading this column while munching on a chicken sandwich.

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

On the Ground

Nicholas Kristof addresses reader feedback and posts short takes from his travels.

That’s because my topic today is a pair of new scientific studies suggesting that poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic.

“We were kind of floored,” said Keeve E. Nachman, a co-author of both studies and a scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future.  “It’s unbelievable what we found.”

He said that the researchers had intended to test only for antibiotics. But assays for other chemicals and pharmaceuticals didn’t cost extra, so researchers asked for those results as well.

“We haven’t found anything that is an immediate health concern,” Nachman added. “But it makes me question how comfortable we are feeding a number of these things to animals that we’re eating. It bewilders me.”

Likewise, I grew up on a farm, and thought I knew what to expect in my food. But Benadryl? Arsenic? These studies don’t mean that you should dump the contents of your refrigerator, but they do raise serious questions about the food we eat and how we should shop.

It turns out that arsenic has routinely been fed to poultry (and sometimes hogs) because it reduces infections and makes flesh an appetizing shade of pink. There’s no evidence that such low levels of arsenic harm either chickens or the people eating them, but still…

Big Ag doesn’t advertise the chemicals it stuffs into animals, so the scientists conducting these studies figured out a clever way to detect them. Bird feathers, like human fingernails, accumulate chemicals and drugs that an animal is exposed to. So scientists from Johns Hopkins University and Arizona State University examined feather meal — a poultry byproduct made of feathers.

One study, just published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Environmental Science & Technology, found that feather meal routinely contained a banned class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. These antibiotics (such as Cipro), are illegal in poultry productionbecause they can breed antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that harm humans. Already, antibiotic-resistant infections kill more Americans annually than AIDS, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

The same study also found that one-third of feather-meal samples contained an antihistamine that is the active ingredient of Benadryl. The great majority of feather meal contained acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. And feather-meal samples from China contained an antidepressant that is the active ingredient in Prozac.

Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. Tylenol and Prozac presumably serve the same purpose.

Researchers found that most feather-meal samples contained caffeine. It turns out that chickens are sometimes fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so that they can spend more time eating. (Is that why they need the Benadryl, to calm them down?)

The other peer-reviewed study, reported in a journal called Science of the Total Environment, found arsenic in every sample of feather meal tested. Almost 9 in 10 broiler chickens in the United States had been fed arsenic, according to a 2011 industry estimate.

These findings will surprise some poultry farmers because even they often don’t know what chemicals they feed their birds. Huge food companies require farmers to use a proprietary food mix, and the farmer typically doesn’t know exactly what is in it. I askedthe United States Poultry and Egg Association for comment, but it said that it had not seen the studies and had nothing more to say.

What does all this mean for consumers? The study looked only at feathers, not meat, so we don’t know exactly what chemicals reach the plate, or at what levels. The uncertainties are enormous, but I asked Nachman about the food he buys for his own family. “I’ve been studying food-animal production for some time, and the more I study, the more I’m drawn to organic,” he said. “We buy organic.”

I’m the same. I used to be skeptical of organic, but the more reporting I do on our food supply, the more I want my own family eating organic — just to be safe.

To me, this underscores the pitfalls of industrial farming. When I was growing up on our hopelessly inefficient family farm, we didn’t routinely drug animals. If our chickens grew anxious, the reason was perhaps a fox — and we never tried to resolve the problem with Benadryl.

My take is that the business model of industrial agriculture has some stunning accomplishments, such as producing cheap food that saves us money at the grocery store. But we all may pay more in medical costs because of antibiotic-resistant infections.

Frankly, after reading these studies, I’m so depressed about what has happened to farming that I wonder: Could a Prozac-laced chicken nugget help?

I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook andGoogle+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on April 5, 2012, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: Arsenic In Our Chicken?.

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