You need only to look as far as Facebook and Twitter to see an excessive amount of misinformation regarding farming and food production. Just recently, I stumbled across a post that inferred that farmers were pumping their chickens with fluid to make them bigger. The person who posted it on her timeline concluded that she couldn’t trust anyone as a result of this discovery. The source of the article was a health food blog.
Similarly, earlier this year a blog post resurfaced via MSN on January 15, 2015 and began cycling its way through Facebook post shares and eventually landed in my news feed. The heading read “Finally! The FDA Admits That Nearly Over 70% of U.S. Chickens Contain Cancer-Causing Arsenic,” giving the impression that the FDA had been hiding the test results from the public. The article also gives the impression that the drug is primarily used to unnecessarily enhance the appearance of chickens sold at your local grocers.
Sure…reading information like this is enough to make you want to purge, but before allowing paranoia and fear to set in I decided to do a little fact checking. I went to the FDA website and typed in the drug in question and voila! The drug in question, 3-Nitro (Roxarsone), had indeed been removed from circulation in 2011 (around the time the above article was originally posted). After further research, I uncovered that the drug was approved back in 1944. Its main use was to prevent Coccidiosis, a parasitic disease that affects the intestinal tract of poultry and can lead to its death. In addition, it does improve the pigmentation and size of the animal.
But why would the FDA approve an arsenic compound in the first place you ask?
Well according to the FDA “until recently, scientific evidence indicated that animals exposed to organic arsenic rapidly excrete the compound in its original form–as organic arsenic. FDA approved the product at doses and withdrawal times that, based on this available information, allowed for the safe and effective use of the product when used according to the label directions.”
So essentially not adhering to the appropriate dosage and withdrawal times can lead to the large amounts of arsenic compound found in the poultry livers.
Which lead me to further investigate its use on the farm…
I reached out to a veterinarian in the field to ask questions about the product and how it is used and she confirmed much of what was disclosed on the FDA website. It’s important to note that veterinarians work very closely with farmers to ensure the health and safety of animals. They help to diagnose illnesses, provide medicine (as needed) and monitor the animals progress. This vets response to the above was as follows:
My suspicion is that [the amount of the drug added to feed] is minuscule and safe, as long as it was used at approved dosages. Perhaps the recalled meats are from animals where an unapproved dosage was given?? There seems to be a lot we don’t know about the details of this situation. I am not aware of anyone that has ever gotten sick from eating this amount of arsenic in meat; if that did happen I’m sure the media would jump all over it and we would know about it!
While it may seem that at every turn there is something new to be concerned about, it is comforting to know that the FDA is operating on the consumers behalf when research presents itself, and that there are farmers and veterinarians working together to ensure the safe handling of the food that comes to market.
So before you panic and share the next piece of farming/ food production information that pops up on your newsfeed do a little digging to confirm or disprove the findings by using these 3 easy steps:
1. Read with a discerning eye– How much of the article is fact based and how much of it is opinion? For example, the author of the aforementioned article stated that the chicken she’s been eating tasted “weird and stringy” as if she knew it was a side-effect of the drug in question. This acknowledgement is definitely more opinion than fact.
2. Check out the FDA website– It’s as easy as googling your favorite actress! Type in the drug in question and watch the screen populate with answers. In fact, click here to get the FDA’s run-down on the 3-Nitro (Roxarsone) drug.
3. Talk to an expert in the field– It has become even easier to access professionals in the farming industry. Contact your local farm bureau or better yet, find a farmer or veterinarian on Facebook. The farmers I’ve met have all accepted my friend requests…just be friendly.
Are you taking the time to educate or frighten yourself when it comes to farming and food issues?
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