Consumer Reports arsenic study misleads: Industry

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON — A Consumer Reports investigation into arsenic levels in rice released on Sept. 19 also attacks the poultry industry and leaves the false impression that feed additives containing arsenic are fed to chickens, according to the National Chicken Council (NCC).

Meanwhile, despite concerns about arsenic levels in rice and rice products, so far the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not found enough scientific data to recommend changes to consumers in regard to consumption of such products.

The NCC strongly condemned Consumer Reports' allegations.

“Chickens in the United States produced for meat are not given arsenic as an additive in chicken feed,” said Tom Super, NCC vice president of communications. “Some flocks used to be given feed that contained a product called Roxarsone, which included safe levels of organic arsenic.

“Even though the science shows that such low levels of arsenic do not harm chickens or the people eating them, this product was removed from the market last year, it is no longer manufactured and it is no longer used in raising chickens in the United States," he added. "No other products containing any amount of arsenic are used in chicken production.”

The USA Rice Federation also said the Consumer Reports article is incomplete and inaccurate and says it offers consumption advice without addressing all of the relevant health issues.

“Rice is a nutritious food and an important part of a healthy diet,” the USA Rice Federation said. “Rice contains more than 15 vitamins and minerals that help protect against disease and ensure healthy growth during pregnancy and childhood. We are aware of concerns about the level of arsenic in food, but are not aware of any established studies directly connecting rice consumption and adverse health effects. In fact, populations with high rice consumption are associated with less overall disease rates and with better health, and scientific studies show that people who eat rice have healthier diets.”

There are two types of arsenic compounds — organic and inorganic. The FDA’s findings show average levels of inorganic arsenic for rice and rice products to be 3.5 to 6.7 micrograms per serving.

“It’s critical to not get ahead of the science,” said Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner. “The FDA’s ongoing data collection and other assessments will give us a solid scientific basis for determining what action levels and/or steps are needed to reduce exposure to arsenic in rice and rice products.”

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