STUTTGART, Ark. – Three Arkansas rice producers have filed suit against five poultry producers and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, alleging that arsenic found in rice came from poultry litter the farmers used for fertilizer.

The lawsuit names as defendants: Tyson Foods, Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Simmons Foods, Inc., Peterson Farms, Inc., George’s Farms, Inc. and its subsidiaries and Alpharma, LLC. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status for their lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Pfizer manufactured feed additives containing arsenic, and sold those additives for use in chicken feed. The suit states that the chicken litter was then sold to rice farmers as fertilizer, and the litter contaminated the soil and, ultimately, the rice crops.

“The defendants knew that excessive arsenic in chicken litter used as fertilizer on many rice farms in Arkansas would contaminate the entire US rice crop and infiltrate the general US rice supply, and that public news about such arsenic contamination would result in devastating financial losses to US and Arkansas rice producers because the rice-consuming public would substantially reduce their purchase and consumption of rice and rice-containing products,” the lawsuit said.

Consumer Reports reported in September that it had found high levels of inorganic arsenic — a carcinogenic agent — in rice and some rice products. The consumer group called for federal standards for arsenic levels and recommended that consumers limit rice consumption.

However, the National Chicken Council strongly condemned Consumer Reports’ allegations. NCC said the report attacked the poultry industry and gave the false impression that feed additives containing arsenic are fed to chickens.