Researchers from John’s Hopkins and Arizona State University discovered fluoroquinolones, a class of antibiotics, in samples of feather meal, a product made from chicken feathers that is routinely added to feed for chicken, swine, cattle and fish. The FDA banned use of these antibiotics in poultry production in 2005 principally because they can accelerate the development of antibiotic-resistance in bacteria that could be very harmful to human health and are already doing enormous damage.
Antibiotics are added to chicken feed not to treat diseases in the birds but to make them grow faster. The researchers found that all 12 samples of feather meal they tested had residues of between two and 10 antibiotics. The meal also contained acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol); an antihistamine that is the active ingredient in Benadryl; fluoxetine, an antidepressant used in Prozac; and caffeine, as well as arsenic.
Whether these contaminants present a danger to human health is unknown. I believe it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you eat chicken, take your cues from Keeve E. Nachman, Ph.D., co-author of the Hopkins study. Asked about his family’s chicken-buying habits, he replied, “We buy organic.”