Dr. Oz and Chickens: What Are The Facts?

If you saw the “Doctor Oz” show on October 7, 2010, you may be wondering about the chicken you buy in the supermarket. Here’s the key point:

Fresh chicken is a wholesome, safe, nutritious food that is produced and processed under government regulations. Nothing is given to chickens that is not approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Like all fresh (raw) meat and poultry, chicken may have bacteria on it, but these are easily killed by the heat of normal cooking.

The Dr. Oz show raised some questions but provided incomplete answers. Here is some additional information:

Why are antibiotics sometimes given to chickens?

Like all living creatures, chickens are potentially subject to a wide variety of ailments. Antibiotics are sometimes used to control or prevent health problems in the birds. Antibiotics are not used in all flocks. When used in poultry, antibiotics are used in a safe and responsible manner in keeping with principles of judicious use and regulations of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

A withdrawal period is observed to ensure that no antibiotic residues are present when the birds go to processing. The FDA-mandated withdrawal period is included in the directions for every product.

Statements about the amount of antibiotics used in poultry production are greatly exaggerated since they include certain animal health products that are used only in animals and are not used in humans at all. These products have no effect on antibiotic resistance in humans.

Chicken is safe. Any bacteria that may be on raw chicken are easily killed by the heat of normal cooking.

Does giving antibiotics to chickens result in antibiotic resistance in humans?

The fact is that that no scientific study has ever shown that a treatment failure in humans has resulted from the use of antibiotics in chickens. Antibiotics such as tetracycline that are sometimes (although not often) used in chickens are still highly effective and widely used in humans.

On the Dr. Oz show, one of the guests talked about bacteria that are resistant to certain antibiotics. However, this is a natural phenomenon. Ciprofloxacin and amoxicillin were mentioned, but these are not used in chickens at all, so obviously any resistance that occurs to them cannot be connected to chickens. The very extensive use of ciprofloxacin and amoxicillin in human medicine is the likely cause of bacterial resistance to them.

Is arsenic given to chicken?

Some flocks of chickens – not all – are given products that contain roxarsone. As noted on the Dr. Oz show, roxarsone contains organic arsenic – not the inorganic form of arsenic. Roxarsone is used to control microscopic parasites that can otherwise cause illness in the birds. A withdrawal period is provided to ensure that the roxarsone is gone before the birds are processed.

Roxarsone gives the birds a gastrointestinal tract with fewer potentially pathogenic bacteria. Use of roxarsone may also result in improved skin pigmentation because it promotes better gut health, which allows the naturally occurring yellow pigments in the grains and other feedstuffs to be absorbed more efficiently and deposited in the skin by the bird. However, it has no impact on the color of the meat.

The use of roxarsone in poultry has been approved by the FDA for many years.

Are chickens bigger than they used to be?

The typical chicken today is larger than it was many years ago, but this results from better nutrition, better animal husbandry, and selective breeding that is achieved in the normal and traditional manner. There is no genetic modification or bioengineering in poultry.

For more information, see http://www.nationalchickencouncil.com

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