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Maryland hospitals urge state legislature to ban arsenic additives from poultry feed.

Maryland's Carroll Hospital Center and Union Hospital of Cecil County are calling on state legislators to pass a measure that that would eliminate the use of arsenic-based feed additives in Maryland poultry production. If lawmakers pass this legislation, Maryland would be the first state in the country to do so.

According to Union Hospital Chief Operating Officer Dave Gipson, "There are large-scale poultry producers that are not using these arsenic-based additives in Maryland and throughout the United States, so we know that it can be done successfully. Maryland has the opportunity to lead the country by becoming the first state to pass this much-needed legislation. Other states and even the federal government could then follow suit."

Large-scale poultry producers have been using arsenic compounds in chicken and turkey feed since the 1940s when these additives were first approved by the Food and Drug Administration to combat certain infections, according to a statement by the two hospitals. Since then, arsenic has been used for growth promotion and meat pigmentation. Now at least 70 percent of the broiler chickens in the United States are fed arsenic-based additives, primarily a drug called roxarsone.

They point out that arsenic is a known carcinogen, even at the low levels currently found in the environment, and chronic exposure to arsenic is also linked to birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, declines in intellectual function, and neurological problems in children.

While independent studies have found arsenic residues in grocery store and fast food chicken, higher concentrations of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic, have been measured in the soil and water in regions where broiler chicken production is high, and where chicken litter is spread on fields as fertilizer. According to the two hospitals, on Maryland's Eastern Shore where most of the state's poultry industry is located, groundwater tests revealed arsenic concentrations of up to 13 times the limit established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dieticians at both institutions have begun to specify poultry raised by local farmers without arsenic compounds when they purchase for their hospitals' needs. They believe that banning arsenic additives will result in healthier food for their patients.
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Publication:The Food & Fiber Letter
Date:Mar 28, 2011
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