There are plenty of reasons to switch to organically grown food. Inorganically grown vegetables are doused with toxic pesticides while conventionally farmed animals are pumped full of antibiotics and other chemicals. Not to mention the impact that conventional farming has on the environment.
However, the FDA has admitted that there is a whole new reason to avoid inorganic foods, specifically chicken. This is because it has recently been discovered that commercially farmed chicken is full of cancer-causing arsenic.
What Is Arsenic ?
Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical element that comes in two different forms: organic and inorganic. Although organic arsenic isn’t good for you, it’s inorganic arsenic that is the most toxic for people.
The most common way people are exposed to inorganic arsenic is through contaminated drinking water sources and food products such as fish, shellfish, meat, dairy products, and now, most significantly, poultry.
Immediate effects of arsenic poisoning include vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, numbness, muscle cramping, and in extreme cases, death.
Arsenic can also cause health problems due to long term exposure. These can include skin lesions and changes in pigmentation, neurotoxicity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
The most significant health risk associated with long term exposure to arsenic is cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified arsenic and compounds found in arsenic as a human carcinogen, including the arsenic found in food and drinking water. The most common form of cancer arsenic is know to cause is skin cancer, however it has also been found to cause bladder and lung cancer.
Symptoms of long term arsenic toxicity and precursors to cancer can be found after just five years of chronic exposure to arsenic.
Chicken Contain Arsenic
It has been discovered that the supposedly less harmful organic arsenic found in a variety of chicken feed additives and other drugs actually transforms into cancer-causing inorganic arsenic.
As a result of this information, researchers from the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition analyzed arsenic levels in chicken. What they found were traces of inorganic arsenic left in the edible parts of chicken meat.
Since this study, many of the additives containing arsenic have been removed from use on chickens. These include 3-Nitro, which is used to increase weight gain, carbarsone, which is used to prevent infection, and arsanilic acid, another weight gainer.
Although many arsenic-based additives have been removed, commercial chicken farmers still use Histostat, a weight gainer that contains arsenic.
How To Avoid Arsenic In Chicken
Although many forms of chicken, both organic and conventionally farmed, can still contain traces of arsenic, you can significantly reduce your exposure by switching to organic.
One survey conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy found that almost three quarters of all breasts, thighs and livers from conventionally farmed chicken had detectable levels of arsenic. This is compared to only one third of organic chicken products containing traces of arsenic.
This survey shows that, although you can’t completely avoid arsenic in chicken (and many other foods, most likely), you can significantly reduce your exposure by switching to organic.