In a press release sent out by Health Care Without Harm yesterday, two Maryland hospitals have asked their lawmakers to pass a bill that would eliminate arsenic additives from poultry feed used or sold in this state. Citing health and environmental concerns, the hospitals urge the legislature to pass the bill without delay or further study. Read the full press release below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 21, 2011
Contact: Louise Mitchell, 443-257-3209, Lmitc001@son.umaryland.edu
Hospitals Ask Maryland Lawmakers to Eliminate Arsenic Additives
in Poultry Feed
Baltimore, Md.–Carroll Hospital Center and Union Hospital of Cecil County, two signatories of Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, are encouraging Maryland legislators to avoid further study and pass SB 417/HB 754, a bill that would eliminate the use of arsenic-based feed additives in Maryland poultry production. If lawmakers pass this legislation, Maryland would be the first state in the country to do so.
Robert White, vice president of professional and support services and executive chair of the environmental leadership council at Carroll Hospital Center, said, “As part of our hospital’s commitment to purchase environmentally responsible products, we have let our legislators know that we would like to see this legislation passed into law. We see it as our responsibility as a health care provider to voice our concerns to lawmakers in order to bring an end to this unnecessary practice and protect the health of Maryland residents and the environment.”
Chief Operating Officer Dave Gipson at Union Hospital of Cecil County added “There are large-scale poultry producers that are not using these arsenic-based additives in Maryland and throughout the U.S., so we know that it can be done successfully. Maryland has the opportunity to lead the country by becoming the first state to pass this much-needed legislation. Other states and even the federal government could then follow suit.”
Large-scale poultry producers have been using arsenic compounds in chicken and turkey feed since the 1940s when these additives were first approved by the FDA to combat certain infections. Since then, arsenic has been used for growth promotion and meat pigmentation. Now at least 70 percent of the broiler chickens in the U.S. are fed arsenic-based additives, primarily a drug called roxarsone.
“When we became aware that arsenic additives were commonly used in large-scale poultry production, we started to look for suppliers that use more sustainable agricultural practices,” said Holly Emmons, RD, LD, MPA, food and nutrition services manager at Union Hospital of Cecil County in Elkton, Md. “We found a few local producers that meet our criteria and we’re now switching to purchase more of their poultry products,” noted Emmons.
Anders Grant, clinical dietitian at Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster, Md., added “Our hospital is purchasing more poultry raised by local farmers without arsenic compounds, but to see real change across the health care industry, this kind of poultry needs to be much more economical and widely available.”
Arsenic is a known carcinogen, even at the low levels currently found in the environment, and chronic exposure to arsenic is also linked to birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, declines in intellectual function, and neurological problems in children. While independent studies have found arsenic residues in grocery store and fast food chicken, higher concentrations of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic, have been measured in the soil and water in regions where broiler chicken production is high, and where chicken litter is spread on fields as fertilizer. On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the 7th-largest poultry-producing state in the country, groundwater tests revealed arsenic concentrations of up to 13 times the EPA limit. Furthermore, the European Union has never approved the use of arsenic additives in animal feed, acknowledging the lack of science to support health or safety standards for such use.
Carroll Hospital Center and Union Hospital of Cecil County are two of twenty hospitals in Maryland, and over 300 around the country, that have signed the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge by Health Care Without Harm http://noharm.org/us_canada/issues/food/pledge.php, a commitment to buy more local sustainable foods for their patients, employees, visitors and surrounding community members.
Emmons and Grant are also active members of the Food Leadership Council of Maryland & DC, a local group of food service professionals from hospitals, nursing homes, universities, and other institutions who talk monthly to share strategies about how to overcome the barriers to purchasing more local sustainable meat and poultry.
For more information:
Citizen Petition Seeking Withdrawal of Approval of Roxarsone and Certain Other Arsenical Additives in Animal Feed.
Submitted by the Center for Food Safety and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to the FDA on December 8, 2009.
Feeding Arsenic to Poultry: Is this Good Medicine?
By Health Care Without Harm, written by David Wallinga, MD, Director, Food and Health Program, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Poison-Free Poultry in Maryland – Factsheet.
By Food & Water Watch.
Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) is an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. The Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge was developed as part of the broader Healthy Food in Health Care program.
For more information on HCWH and the Healthy Food in Health Care program, see www.noharm.org and www.healthyfoodinhealthcare.org.