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Source: Times Beacon Record Newspapers

Israel: Turkey toxin? No thanks


Posted: November 25, 2009
Originally Published: November 19, 2009

After indulging in a traditional Thanksgiving feast, Americans might be more than a little disconcerted to learn that along with stuffing and gravy, they ate some poison with their turkey.

At least Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) is. He announced new legislation to ban the commonplace addition of arsenic-based roxarsone to food products at a press conference Monday at his Hauppauge office.

Roxarsone is an arsenic-containing antimicrobial drug widely used in the nonorganic livestock industry to speed the growth, improve the coloring of and combat intestinal parasites in poultry and sometimes pigs as well, according to Dr. Keeve Nachman, science director at The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Studies show that some of the poison remains in edible portions of poultry, as well as in its waste, which can also enter the human food supply when used as agricultural fertilizer, Nachman stated in a release issued at the Monday event.

Research has correlated arsenic exposure with increased risk for a number of diseases, including several types of cancer, according to Tammy Philie, executive director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Long Island. Israel’s ban “could be something that should be brought to the attention of the general population [to inform them] about the risks we are taking,” she said.

It’s important to warn of the dangers even as science continues to build up the links between arsenic additives and disease, said Karen Joy Miller, president of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition. Her organization emphasizes the need to fight cancer before it’s contracted. “We are trying to expand the road map for prevention from bench to bedside,” she said.

While the Food and Drug Administration regulates the amount of roxarsone allowed in food, FDA tolerance levels for arsenic in edible animal tissue are over 30 years old and predate recent research on cancer and arsenic exposure, according to the Israel release.

“Roxarsone is an unnecessary and dangerous arsenical that we don’t need in our food and that we don’t want in our food,” Israel stated. “It’s time we stop big factory farms from trying to make their chicken pink by exposing us all to a toxin.”

The roxarsone ban is endorsed by Union of Concerned Scientists, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, The Humane Society of the United States, The Clean Water Network, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Food & Water Watch, The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Waterkeeper Alliance, Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water, The Organic Consumers Association, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Ohio Environmental Council, Friends of the Earth, The Center for Food Safety, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Sierra Club, The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Family Farmers and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, according to Israel.

Environmental advocates have criticized the use of roxarsone-containing manure in the agricultural industry, where it enters crops to be consumed as well as leaching into the surrounding natural environment and groundwater. “It’s not only our exposure when we eat the turkey, but poultry manure is then used in farmlands throughout the nation,” said Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito. It amounts to “an ongoing contamination effect” that is “poisoning America,” she added.

Until the proposed ban is implemented, consumers can avoid arsenic-containing meat by purchasing that labeled USDA Organic, the congressman said. “We are not trying to scare people out of their Thanksgiving Day turkeys; all we are doing is recognizing their right to know” what their food contains, Israel said.