August 15, 2012
John J. Johnston, USDA Food Safety Inspection Service
Roxarsone was used as a coccidiostat in poultry for 50 years. Using recent advances in instrumentation, FDA detected very low concentrations of carcinogenic inorganic arsenic in the livers of Roxarsone treated chickens. By combining these residue data with a prospective risk assessment, FDA concluded that the future cancer risk to consumers of Roxarsone-treated poultry was very low yet avoidable. The manufacturer initiated actions to suspend Roxarsone use in the United States. Anticipating public concern, USDA conducted a risk assessment based on historic poultry consumption and arsenic residue data to estimate the magnitude of cancer induced by consumption of inorganic arsenic residues in poultry meat prior to the termination of Roxarsone. USDA concluded that historic use of Roxarsone resulted in negligible public health risk. This presentation discusses the risk communication challenges associated with this situation and the inter-agency coordination that resulted in successful risk communication to the public.