Feature

Health scare of the week: Drug-laced chicken

Factory farms appear to be feeding their poultry a startling variety of drugs.

Factory farms appear to be feeding their poultry a startling variety of drugs—including caffeine, arsenic, and the active ingredients in Tylenol, Benadryl, and Prozac, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found. What’s more, they discovered, major poultry producers are still lacing their chicken and turkey feed with antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, which the FDA has banned for use in farming because such use can breed drug-resistant “superbugs,” highly dangerous to humans. “It’s unbelievable what we found,” study author Keeve E. Nachman tells The New York Times. He and his colleagues analyzed samples of feather meal, a food supplement made from poultry feathers. Eight of the 12 samples, collected from the U.S. and China, contained the banned antibiotics; most also contained arsenic, which turns flesh a healthy-looking pink. Further tests showed that many of the birds had ingested caffeine—used to keep them awake and eating—as well as Tylenol, Benadryl, and Prozac ingredients, administered to lower their stress levels. “It bewilders me,” Nachman says, “how comfortable we are feeding a number of these things to animals that we’re eating.”

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