Maryland is set to ban the arsenic-containing drug Roxarsone in chicken feed. Maryland is a major chicken producer, and that puts it ahead of most other states as well as the federal government. It is all the more remarkable, given that 'Big Chicken' is a major force in Maryland politics.
"At his family farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Lee Richardson raises thousands of chickens from fuzzy hatchlings to the juicy broilers stacked at grocery stores far and wide. Like a lot of farmwork, this seems simple, but it's not.
Within each bird, a war is being waged. Parasites called coccidia threaten to eat through their guts, one veterinarian said, 'like that thing in the 'Aliens' movie.' To fight the bug, Richardson was one of many growers who relied on a controversial remedy, Roxarsone, a drug containing arsenic. 'We haven't used it for a while now,' Richardson said recently, because Perdue Farms, which pays him to grow chickens, decided they should be arsenic-free.
For more than 60 years, poultry growers, drug companies and the Food and Drug Administration said Roxarsone, sold under the brand 3-Nitro, contained a harmless form of organic arsenic that is present in almost everything in nature, including a glass of drinking water.
That thinking was firmly contradicted last year by an FDA study that found trace amounts of inorganic arsenic in the livers of chickens that were fed Roxarsone and then slaughtered for tests. Hundreds of growers in the United States continue to use Roxarsone."