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Channel 7 Today Tonight claims poison in chicken meat

The Today Tonight show on 8 May 2012 had a segment about chicken meat that unnecessarily alarmed viewers.

We would like to reassure consumers that all chicken meat, both conventional and free-range and wherever sold, does not pose a food safety concern as suggested by the segment on Today Tonight last night.  The relevant veterinary medicine (3-Nitro or Roxarsone) is not used currently nor has it been used in recent months. Furthermore, the level of residue found in chicken liver of birds in the US treated with 3-Nitro  is less than a fifth of the allowable limit in Australian drinking water.  There is absolutely no basis for any concern.  For more details, please read on.

Our inquiries with relevant organisations have established that while 3-Nitro is registered for use in poultry in Australia, very little if any is actually sold.  3-Nitro (or Roxarsone) is an animal medicine approved for use in poultry in Australia.  However of the three companies which have their 3-Nitrate product registered in Australia, two have never sold any 3-Nitro.  We were not able to ascertain how much product may have been sold by the third registrant.  Direct inquiries with industry members did not identify anybody who has used 3-Nitro over the past 10 months or is using it at present. 

The level of inorganic arsenic found in the US FDA study last year which prompted suspension of sales of 3-Nitro by Pfizer in the US and Australia was 1.4 parts per billion in chicken liver.  This is a minute amount when compared to for example the guidelines for drinking water  issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) which recommends that the concentration of arsenic in drinking water be no more than 10 parts per billion (click here to access the guidelines, or you can access the specific factsheet on arsenic from these guidelines by clicking here).  This type of comparison puts the finding in perspective and this is no doubt why it was assessed as safe and approved for use by APVMA in Australia in the first place.  The science does not support the suspension of 3-Nitro.

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