When I first heard health food advocates warning of arsenic in chicken, I thought it was a crazy claim. Surely no sane person can believe that the chicken industry actually injects arsenic into chicken to help them grow bigger, which is what I heard from a relative into nutrition and health food. But a quick check on the Internet revealed some disturbing information.
As reported this year in the New York Times (see “Chicken With Arsenic? Is That O.K.?“), it has long been a common practice to inject chicken with small amounts of arsenic compounds to help ward of parasites. Some brands are arsenic free, but when you get chicken in fast food, you may be ingesting a small amount of arsenic. Granted, trace amounts of arsenic are everywhere, but I object to deliberately adding this cumulative poison to food.
Here is an excerpt from the story:
Those at greatest risk from arsenic are small children and people who consume chicken at a higher rate than what is considered average: two ounces per day for a 154-pound person. The good news for consumers is that arsenic-free chicken is more readily available than it has been in the past, as more processors eliminate its use.
Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest chicken producer, has stopped using arsenic in its chicken feed. In addition, Bell & Evans and Eberly chickens are arsenic-free. There is a growing market in organic chicken and birds labeled “antibiotic-free”: neither contains arsenic.
Dr. Paul Mushak, a toxicologist and arsenic expert, said that the fact that Tyson stopped using arsenic in 2004 is encouraging. “What that tells me as a toxicologist and health-risk assessor is that if a vertically integrated company like Tyson can do that then presumably anyone can get away from using arsenic.”
But there are still plenty of chickens out there with arsenic.