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What's REALLY in Chicken Products? You Don't Want To Know.

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"What Was Arsenic Doing in Our Chicken, Anyway?" asks a Bloomberg article after the FDA reported the end of all but one poultry arsenic product this month, four years after the Center for Food Safety filed a petition. The agency announced that the Center's petition to have the approvals of arsenic-containing poultry feed revoked had become "moot" after the "sponsors of those drugs requested that FDA withdraw the approvals for those products." One of the four compounds, nitarsone, is still on the market while the FDA reviews its safety.

 

Why are birds fed arsenic? It has been approved in poultry feed for years to control parasites, promote weight gain and improve feed efficiency and "pigmentation." A 2013 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspective s found detectable levels of arsenic in chicken from grocery stores in 10 American cities, including organic chickens. If the drug were fed to all chickens, over 100 US deaths would result from arsenic-related lung and bladder cancers, wrote the authors. Nor is arsenic the only unwanted chemical guest. Looking at feathers of factory farmed birds, researchers have also found evidence of caffeine and the active ingredients in Tylenol, Benadryl, Prozac reports the New York Times Nick Kristof. The caffeine is supposed to keep chickens awake so they eat more, while the Benadryl, Tylenol and Prozac are supposed to reduce their anxiety so their meat doesn't get tough says Kristof.

 

Antibiotics

 

Where do antibiotic-resistant salmonella and E.coli in chicken come from? Is that a trick question? More than 70 percent of US antibiotics go to livestock --more than 29 million pounds of antibiotics a year--which of course creates antibiotic resistance. The antibiotic resistant pathogens aren't just a risk to food--they're a risk to farm workers. Dr. Ellen Silbergeld, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, found 63 percent of the chicken workers at one plant had been colonized by Campylobacter jejuni, a germ that is the second leading cause of gastrointestinal disease in the US. One hundred percent of people living near the plant but not working there who were tested had Campylobacter jejuni too.

 

In 2008, the USDA caught chicken giant Tyson Foods claiming "no antibiotics" in its ads and labels but brazenly using the human antibiotic gentamicin as "standard practice" in its chickens. Tyson has been charged with other scourges affecting Big Chicken too such as cruelty to animals, paying smugglers to transport illegal workers, and violating the Clean Water Act. It was investigated for bribing veterinarians in Mexico but never charged.

 

Chicken Yuckets

 

No one has ever thought chicken nuggets were actually good for you. Last year, the Daily Mail reported a girl who lived on only McDonald's Chicken McNuggets collapsed and was diagnosed with anemia and inflamed veins on her tongue. (Who remembers the movie Super Size Me?) But now, some researchers writing in the American Journal of Medicine have revealed some new facts about the mystery meat just in time for Halloween. Some nuggets that were examined were a mix of fat, blood vessels and nerve s including cells that line the skin and internal organs. Other nuggets were mostly fat, cartilage and bone with only 40 percent muscle meat. A few years ago, CNN revealed that US Chicken McNuggets contain an anti-foaming agent called dimethylpolysiloxane found in Silly Putty and the petroleum-based preservative tBHQ also called tertiary butylhydroquinone. After the American Journal of Medicine article Mother Jones' Tom Philpott asked Tyson about the wholesomeness of its Fun Nuggets and they referred him to the National Chicken Council which said, "Chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein, especially for kids who might be picky eaters."

 

Chicken From China

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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