All this talk lately about the withdrawal of some arsenic drugs from the lineup of conventional animal feed additives has made quite an impression on the conscious public. It might seem, upon first glance, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is finally inching towards common sense rather than business as usual by ordering that these harmful chemicals be removed or that industrial farms are starting to clean up their acts and employ more sustainable animal-rearing methods of their own accord.
But the truth of the matter is that the FDA was reluctant about adopting new policies concerning arsenic drugs, having only been established after considerable outcry from public advocacy groups that threatened to sue the agency for failing to enforce its own guidelines. The FDA has been intentionally dragging its feet on the arsenic issue for decades, and it was only after the agency was threatened with legal action that it finally took a stand, some four years after it was presented with a science-backed petition showing that arsenic-based drugs threatened both animal and human health.
Arsenical drug manufacturers voluntarily pulled some drugs long before FDA took action.
Then there is the issue of drug manufacturers voluntarily withdrawing these arsenic drugs from animal feed, which we reported on recently. The Pfizer-owned roxarsone drug, as you may recall, was voluntarily withdrawn by the company back in 2011 after it was determined that inorganic arsenic (iAs) was turning up in meat consumed by humans. And more recently, the Phibro Animal Health Corporation actually petitioned the FDA on its own to withdraw approval for several of its combination arsenic drugs, citing similar problems.
At no time during any of this did the FDA ever mandate that these companies remove their arsenic drugs from the food chain, despite the agency having made weak recommendations against them in the past. And this is exactly what James Greiff, writing for Bloomberg, has a major beef with — the FDA has demonstrated absolute complacency in protecting public health by failing to take formative regulatory action against toxic arsenical drugs used in animal feed.
“[T]he FDA acted only after food-safety groups threatened to sue, and almost four years after the agency was presented with a petition asking that arsenic-based drugs be withdrawn right away,” writes Greiff. “The makers of the drugs were actually ahead of the FDA: They had voluntarily pulled three of them from the U.S. market a couple of years ago … The real mystery here is why the FDA just can’t bring itself to do what is deemed necessary more than a generation ago.”
Federal shutdown a good thing for FDA; the agency has proven it can’t even do its job!
These are valid thoughts, particularly in light of the current federal government shutdown. The public is currently being bombarded with nonstop media propaganda about how the lack of funding approval will disrupt the operations of major government agencies, but have these agencies even been performing their jobs? In the case of the FDA, the agency has done little or nothing to protect the public against arsenical drugs in animal feed, and even less to protect it against the continued overuse of antibiotics in livestock.
“[N]ext time you hear someone worrying that the current government shutdown has caused the agency to stop functioning, you can reassure them with the fact that, even when fully funded, the FDA isn’t keeping us all that safe,” concludes Greiff.
By: Jonathan Benson