February 24, 2004
by Brad Kloza
Mad cow disease has some consumers worried about what might be in their beef-- but what about a harmful substance we know is inside chicken?
Small amounts of the poison arsenic are commonly added to chicken feed as a supplement that controls intestinal parasites. While the amount passed on to people who eat chicken is not high enough to be harmful, a report in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives shows that arsenic exposure from chicken is much higher than previously thought.
Tamar Lasky, epidemiologist: "When we looked at the arsenic levels, we noticed that the levels were three or four times higher in chickens than in other poultry and meats."
Lasky's data came from seven years worth of samples collected by the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service. It shows that the average person ingests three-and-a-half to five micrograms of inorganic arsenic per day from chicken.
Adverse health effects like some cancers have been seen at exposures of ten to forty micrograms per day. "I don't think anyone needs to be frightened or worried about them in any particular kind of danger. But I think it warrants some kind of scientific or public health discussion," said Lasky.
Like whether officials might rethink the allowable levels of arsenic from other sources. Lasky doesn't think her study should cause anyone to change his or her eating habits.
But those who are concerned can switch to organic chicken, which is not fed arsenic. The average person eats two ounces of chicken per day, which is well within tolerable levels set by the World Health Organization.
Learn more at Sciencentral.
posted at 4:35PM by firstname.lastname@example.org
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