Maryland is about to become the first state to ban the use of additives containing arsenic in chicken feed, a practice already prohibited by Canada and the European Union.
The state’s House of Delegates and Senate approved the legislation last week and placed it before Gov. Martin O’Malley on Monday. The governor could sign it soon, said Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the House legislation.
“He congratulated me. He likes the bill. And he’s communicated with his staff about the bill,” Hucker said.
Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment but can also be a toxic carcinogen that contributes to diabetes and heart disease. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration tested 100 chickens by giving them feed that contained the additive roxarsone, an arsenic-based drug used to fight parasites in animals. Half the chickens later showed trace amounts of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen, in their livers.
The finding prompted Pfizer to suspend sales of roxarsone, which also makes the meat appear pinker and more plump by promoting growth in chickens’ blood vessels. Perdue Farms stopped using the additive years ago, and McDonald’s does not allow its suppliers to use it.