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Alison Fairbrother's Posts

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Maryland blazes the trail to get arsenic out of chicken feed

If you saw "Arsenic in Our Chicken?," Nick Kristof’s much-read New York Times column from earlier this month, you’ve heard about the widespread use of some unexpected additives in chicken farming.

Studies released this year detected caffeine, acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), fluoxetine (the active ingredient in Prozac), various antibiotics, arsenic, and more in feather meal, a substance made from ground poultry feathers and used in animal feed. The findings were the results of studies by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and Arizona State University.

“I grew up on a farm, and I thought I knew what to expect in my food. But Benadryl? Arsenic?” Kristof wrote. The studies, he added, “raise serious questions about the food we eat and how we should shop.”

Where arsenic is concerned, his alarm is not unfounded. For decades, chicken producers have used arsenic as a way to boost the birds’ growth and cut down on production costs. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tested 100 chickens that had been raised on a popular arsenic-based additive called Roxarsone, and found that half the chickens had inorganic arsenic in their livers -- a known carcinogen that can cause cancer even at the low levels found naturally in our environment.

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The most important fish in the sea

Cross-posted from Gilt Taste. On a bright morning in May, a calm Chesapeake Bay glitters in the sun, an expanse of blue, the nation's largest and once most productive estuary. A sudden commotion shatters the serenity: Dozens of gulls swoop toward the 135-foot ship Reedville, and the water beneath the boat begins to churn and froth. With two smaller boats at its side, the Reedville encloses a school of fish in a stiff black purse seine net. With practiced efficiency, workers onboard hoist a vacuum pump into the net and suck tens of thousands of small silvery fish out of …

Read more: Animals, Food