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Antibiotics in Eggs and Chicken Meat.

One in five chickens and one in 10 eggs contain traces of potentially harmful chemicals, some of which have been linked to birth defects in animals, according to a report published this week by the Soil Association.

Too Hard to Swallow, the Truth About Drugs and Poultry which calls for chickens to be organically reared, claims that intensive farming methods may be placing human health at risk from cancer, birth deformities, drug cross-reactions, and heart failure. The Food Standards Agency in Great Britain has announced that it is investigating the claims.

Of most concern are drugs used to control tiny intestinal parasites that can cause severe losses to farmers of poultry and game birds. These drugs include nicarbazin, lascalocid, and dimetridazole (DMZ), none of which have been evaluated for safety in humans, claims the report.

Maximum-limit residues of nicarbazin were found in more than 17 percent of chicken livers and two percent of eggs during tests in 1999. Studies have shown that nicarbazin can cause both birth defects and hormonal problems in animals. One in every 12 eggs and 12 percent of chicken flesh were found to contain lascalocid, and 0.5 percent of eggs contained DMZ, which has been linked to cancer and birth defects in humans.

The Soil Association has condemned the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD), the agency responsible for monitoring residues, for "misleading" the public about the overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming.

"Despite repeated assertions by regulators that nearly all poultry products are free from detectable residues, tests show clearly that about 20 percent of chicken meat and 10 percent of eggs contain residues of drugs deemed too dangerous in human medicine," said Richard Young, the Soil Association's policy adviser.

Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Meat and Poultry Federation, said the industry and VMD were investigating why residues were occurring. But he warned that there is no evidence that the drugs used are harmful to human health. "The licensing arrangements for these products mean that they have to be safe for the bird, they have to be effective, and they have to be safe for the consumer," he said.

(Adopted with permission from "Dangerous Drug-Use in Hens Putting Human Health at Risk," Environmental Health News, Vol. 16, No. 21, 8 June 2001.)
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Spear, Stuart
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2001
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