Issue Date: May 14, 2007
Arsenic in Feed
I read the article on arsenic in chicken production with much interest (C&EN, April 9, page 34). As a chemist and part-time chicken farmer, I did not know that an arsenic additive was even part of commercial chicken production. The story made me feel better in two ways. First, it appears more is being done to eliminate or reduce the amount of anaerobic arsenic in chicken, and second, I raise my own birds. With the big names such as Tyson and McDonald's on board, it should be easy to get the other commercial producers and the federal government to tighten up the industry.
As someone who raises layer hens, I don't really need to worry about my birds as I know what goes into them. I have found a small, loyal market of individuals who continually purchase my organic, free-range feed eggs. They tell me they taste better and look better than the eggs that are sitting on the grocer's shelf. Now maybe I can even list them as "arsenic free."
Leo V. Carr
We have arsenic data for all manner of animals, from whales to bears to eagles to rats to snakes to fish, and so forth. The real question isn't really how much arsenic is present, so much as what flavor of arsenic is present, or what form it is in. Lots of labs are capable of measuring arsenic in tissue, feed, water, or sediment, as we do every day at the Texas A&M University Trace Element Research Lab. But very few labs are set up to determine whether the arsenic is As(III), As(V), ethylated, methylated, arsenobetaine, or some other organic complex of arsenic, and fewer still have the budget for this type of research.
Bryan L. Brattin
College Station, Texas
Most everything, including arsenic, elicits opposite results when taken in large and small doses. As seen in the International Journal of Hormesis, this is a major topic for current toxicology. Considerable evidence shows that arsenic will prevent cancer in small doses as well as induce cancer in high doses. Both carcinogenic and anticarcinogenic actions of arsenic are discussed in "Metal Toxicity in Animals, Vol. I," by T. D. Luckey and B. Venugopal, (Plenum Press, 1977) and also in, "Arsenicals in biology-retrospect and prospect," by D. Frost (Fed. Proc. 1967, 26, 194).
Thomas Donnell Luckey
Thank you for the interesting article on arsenic in chicken. I agree that we should take the arsenic out of chicken. However, the statement that the Food & Drug Administration has not analyzed chicken meat for arsenic is not true.
FDA has been analyzing chicken since 1991 as part of the Total Diet Study. Results can be found online at www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/tds-res.html or www.cfsan.fda.gov/~acrobat/tds1byel.pdf. The results contain data on arsenic and other metals in chicken and many other foods.
Robert E. Smith
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