FDA announces pending withdrawal of arsenic-based drug approved for use in food animals.

  • FDA regulates the use of animal drugs used in companion animals and food-producing animals.
  • FDA has announced its receipt of a letter of commitment from the manufacturer of the last arsenic-based animal drug currently approved for use in food animals, namely poultry.  Although the drug is based on organic arsenic — the less toxic form of arsenic — scientific data indicate that even this form could transform into inorganic arsenic, which is a known carcinogen.  FDA has analyzed tissue from treated poultry and found the presence of inorganic arsenic at higher levels than in untreated poultry.  The drug manufacturer has pledged to suspend sale of the drug this Fall and to formally request FDA withdrawal of the drug’s approval by the end of the year.
  • This action — just like the FDA-industry voluntary effort to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics for enhanced food production — highlights the potential for voluntary industry action to effectuate regulatory change without the need for formal agency action.