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Opinion
James Greiff

What Was Arsenic Doing in Our Chicken, Anyway?

The FDA has finally decided to ban most of the arsenic-based drugs fed to animals for meat production, though it dragged its feet for years

It might seem like cause for cheer that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasordered the withdrawal of most drugs containing arsenic fed to chickens, turkeys and hogs. After all, getting a well-known poison out of the food chain seems like just the sort of thing the agency should be doing.

Temper your enthusiasm: First, one of the four drugs banned will stay on the market and continue to be fed to turkeys. Equally disturbing, the FDA acted only after food-safety groups threatened to sue, and almost four years after the agency was presented with a petition asking that arsenic-based drugs be withdrawn right away. The makers of the drugs were actually ahead of the FDA: They had voluntarily pulled three of them from the U.S. market a couple of years ago.