What's in your chicken?
FORT MYERS, Fla. - At Pizza Fusion organic restaurant in Fort Myers, the owners are proud to be picky about where their ingredients come from.
"We get all our veggies from organic suppliers, all of our meats are nitrate free, hormone free," says owner Brown Thompson.
And that includes one of the most popular items on any menu - chicken.
The restaurant pays more for its chickens, but says it's worth it.
"There is lot of chicken on the market fed hormones and antibiotics to make them grow faster and larger in size," says Thompson.
Thomas Super, The Vice-President of Communications for the National Chicken Council, takes exception to that comment about hormones in chickens.
In a statement to Fox 4, he writes, "The use of added hormones is one of the most common, and frustrating, misperceptions for U.S. poultry producers because no added hormones or steroids are used in raising chickens – U.S. federal law prohibits it."
The owner of Pizza Fusion says it can't hurt to stick with chicken producers who keep their poultry production as natural as possible.
"And you got to be careful what you're putting into your system," says Thompson.
Doctor Amy Wecker, with Internal Medicine Associates, couldn't agree more.
She's picky about what goes into her chicken too.
"Personally, I'd rather have my chicken without arsenic," she says.
Dr. Wecker is referring to the FDA's past decision to allow many commerical chicken producers to put a chemical in chicken feed called Roxarsone - also known as 3 Nitro.
"The reason the chickens are fed that, is that it helps enhance their growth," says Dr. Wecker.
"And it also gives the chicken meat it's pink color which people associate with health, but the truth is that the reason it's pink, it's actually from burst blood vessels."
"Interestingly this drug was banned for use in the European Union in 1999, but we're still using it here," adds Dr. Wecker.
But the Vice President of Communications with the National Chicken Council, Thomas Super, says that's not the case anymore.
In a statement to 4 In Your Corner he writes, "Chickens produced for meat are not given arsenic as an additive in chicken feed."
"Some broiler flocks used to be given feed that contained a product called Roxarsone, which included safe levels of organic arsenic," writes Super who also adds it's no longer an issue.
"Even though the science shows that such low levels of arsenic do not harm chickens or the people eating them, this product was removed from the market in 2011, it is no longer manufactured and it is no longer used in raising broilers in the United States," writes Super.
"No other products containing arsenic are used in broiler meat production," he adds.
A couple years before the industry began phasing out the use of Roxarsone, the FDA released a study saying many chickens were eating enough 3 Nitro to pass arsenic into the edible parts of the bird.
4 In Your Corner asked this question to Dr. Wekcer: "What would giving this arsenic compound to chickens do to human health?"
"Well nobody really knows," says Dr. Wecker.
"Of course it's debatable whether it has any effect at all."
"One would think that it would."
"We know that arsenic poisoning leads to a variety of difference cancers," says Dr. Wecker.
The FDA has consistenly said the levels of arsenic found in chicken in the past were very low and not a health risk.
But Dr. Wecker says, in general, it's good to remember an age old phrase: You are what you eat.
"As I tell my patients all the time, if you eat poison, you shouldn't be surprised when you find yourselves to be poisoned,"
Super, the Vice-President of Communications for the National Chicken Council, adds this about Dr. Wecker's comments on Roxarsone.
"I’m sure that Dr. Wecker is an excellent physician and medical doctor," Thomas Super writes.
"She is not, however, an animal scientist or veterinarian," adds Super.
Dr. Wecker is an internal medicine specialist whose expertise is in human health.