Chicken Meat Contains Cancer-Causing Arsenic – Fact Check

Picture Warning Chicken Meat Contains Cancer-Causing Arsenic
Chicken Meat Contains Cancer-Causing Arsenic


Nearly all conventional chicken meat is contaminated with Cancer-Causing Arsenic.

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Study Finds an Increase in Arsenic Levels in Chicken.

Fact Check:

Circulating messages talk about studies raising serious concerns over Arsenic levels found in Chicken Meat, that it could cause Cancer in the consumers. It is said that the Arsenic added to the chicken feed ends up in the chicken meat and is a health concern for the humans who consume it. Yes, it is a fact!

Use of Arsenic

Arsenic is a known carcinogen, especially in its inorganic form. Arsenic is used as an ingredient in feed to the poultry which began back in 1940s, and it became a standard since then. The Arsenic in feed was intended to kill parasites and other diseases, promote growth and improve the meat pigmentation. According to industry estimates, by 2010, 88 percent of all chickens  for human consumption in the United States were given the popular Arsenic-based drug called Roxarsone.

Initially it was believed that the Arsenic would be eliminated with the chicken waste and does not stay in its body. However, recent studies say otherwise.

Present Studies

As explained above, for decades, it was believed that the animals fed with Arsenic simply excreted it and so it could not reach humans who consume it. However, on 11 May 2013, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future published a study in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which provided further evidence of the risks associated with the use of arsenicals in animal agriculture.

The study basically involved analysis of chicken breast samples purchased at grocery stores in 10 cities across the United States. The study revealed that chickens likely rose with arsenic-based drugs yield meat that has higher levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a known carcinogen. It is also associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cognitive deficits and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

It should be noted that the study was the first to show concentrations of specific forms of arsenic (e.g., inorganic arsenic versus other forms) in retail chicken meat, and also the first one to compare those concentrations according to whether or not the poultry was raised with arsenical drugs. Some crucial findings of the study are mentioned below:

  • Some portion of the Arsenic fed to poultry also ends up in the meat that U.S. consumers eat every day.
  • The conventional samples had higher inorganic arsenic levels than antibiotic-free and organic samples.
  • In meat samples containing Roxarsone, the levels of inorganic arsenic were four times higher than levels in organic chicken.
  • When Roxarsone was present in raw meat, cooking decreased the levels of roxarsone, but increased the levels of inorganic arsenic.

All these findings provide evidence that arsenical use in chickens poses public health risks, and also indicates that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should ban arsenicals.

FDA Take on Arsenic in Chicken Meat

In 2011, a study conducted by FDA did raise concerns over an ingredient in chicken feed that contains Arsenic, called Roxarsone – that it may make its way into parts of the bird that are eaten. However, FDA maintained people should not stop eating chicken that may have been fed with the drug. FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, Michael Taylor said the study raised “concerns of a very low but completely avoidable exposure to a carcinogen.

About Roxarsone

Roxarsone is the animal feed ingredient containing Arsenic, produced by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. After rising concerns over cancer fears, Pfizer voluntarily pulled off Roxarsone from the U.S. market by 2011. However, the company can still sell the drug abroad, where there are no proper regulations. Moreover, Pfizer still sells Nitarsone, which again, is another arsenical drug similar to Roxarsone.

In Other Countries

Animal feed with arsenic-containing compounds was never approved in the EU, UK, Japan and few other countries around the world. But Roxarsone is still approved for use in chickens and swine in countries like Canada, India and Australia. In India and most certainly many other countries, there are few reports of more than permissible levels of Arsenic found in poultry products and meat.

More Concerns

The concerns about Arsenic is not only with chicken meat. Arsenic eliminated from these animals can accumulate quickly, eventually contaminating soil, groundwater and surface waters. In fact the issue of arsenic in food has drawn more public attention since a research found substantial arsenic levels even in rice. This happens mostly because of the Arsenic contaminated water used in farming. Even FDA tests lately have found little cause for concern over levels of arsenic in rice and rice products.

To conclude, Arsenic in chicken meat and food in general is a serious cause of concern, and it is the duty of FDA and other organizations around the world to lay down strict regulations against its use in agriculture. This again signifies the necessity of organic farming.

Hoax or Fact:



Some Chicken May Contain Arsenic, FDA Says
The Arsenic in Your Chicken
Poultry Drug Increases Levels of Toxic Arsenic in Chicken Meat
FDA tests find very low levels of arsenic in rice
Study finds increased levels of arsenic in chicken
You May Be Consuming Arsenic Daily
Pfizer Suspends Sales of Chicken Drug With Arsenic

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Prashanth Damarla