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For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Steve Ruckman, 410-576-7035
sruckman@oag.state.md.us

Attorney General Gansler Applauds FDA Announcement Suspending Sale of Arsenic Additive in Poultry Feed

Gansler Had Brought Issue to the Attention of FDA Years Ago

BALTIMORE, MD ( June 8, 2011) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is calling today's U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement that the sale of the arsenic additive 3-Nitro (roxarsone) will be suspended “a victory for public health and environmental protection.”  “I have been fighting to bring this issue to the attention of state and federal regulators for years,” Attorney General Gansler said, “and I am deeply gratified that the FDA has now found a way to work with industry to take arsenic additives in poultry feed off the market.”           

Roxarsone is an arsenic additive that is broadly used in poultry feed here in the United States, even though its use has been discontinued by many other developed countries since 1999 due to its risks.  Once consumed by poultry, some of the arsenic passes into their manure, which - when then used as fertilizer for crops and lawns - has the potential to contaminate our waterways.  Since becoming the Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Energy & Environment Committee in 2007, Attorney General Gansler has been working to remove roxarsone from poultry feed, bringing the issue to the attention of both regulators and the public.  In 2008, 30 state attorneys general joined Attorney General Gansler in calling upon the FDA to ban the use of roxarsone and other arsenic additives in poultry feed.  (A copy of Attorney General Gansler's subsequent 2009 Washington Post opinion piece on this issue can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/25/AR2009062503381.html.)

In 2009, the Attorney General met with FDA administrators to urge their agency to study the risks posed by roxarsone in poultry feed.  In response, the FDA initiated a study of the effect arsenic additives have on broiler chickens, and found that chickens treated with the additive had higher levels of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, in their livers as compared with the livers of untreated chickens.  When the agency brought these findings to Alpharma, the Pfizer subsidiary that sells roxarsone, the company agreed to voluntarily suspend U.S. sales of the drug, prompting today's announcement.  (Details of the announced suspension can be found here: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm258342.htm.)            

As Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, stated, “FDA detected increased levels of inorganic arsenic in the livers of chickens treated with 3-Nitro, raising concerns of a very low but completely avoidable exposure to a carcinogen.”  Attorney General Gansler applauds the FDA's cooperative move with Pfizer to remove this avoidable carcinogen from the market.

   

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