Carcinogens In Food, Part 1

There are many carcinogens in food that is consumed by most Americans today. It is important that the general public be aware of these poisons so that they can make rational decisions when choosing food.


Fish are extremely sensitive to pesticides. They sicken or die at very low concentrations, much lower than for most living organisms. Concentrations as low as two parts per trillion of DDT were found to cause problems in the Great Lakes. The consumer can be harmed by eating fish that has been poisoned but not killed outright. Fish have been known to concentrate these poisons 2,000-fold over the amounts in the water where they were found.


In recent years, state and federal agencies that control oyster beds and their care have been pouring materials into the sandbanks to protect oysters from their enemies, such as starfish and other sea creatures. These materials are made of insecticide, and a chemical (orthodichlorobenzene) combined with sand. Sea animals, venturing into the treated sandbank, perish from the poisons in different ways.

A starfish, for example, goes into a spasm and disintegrates. An oyster drill, a member of the snail family, swells up to such an extent that it is forced out of its shell and either dies or is devoured by fish. A crab loses its sense of balance and goes into convulsions. You may well wonder whether the chemicals ultimately make the oyster poisonous to eat. Oysters are far away from our natural food and these chemical toxins give us double reason to eschew them.

Hatchery-Raised Trout

The feeds developed for trout were similar to those previously used for poultry. When the pellets were fed to baby chicks, the birds developed cancer. Later rainbow trout, raised in hatcheries, were given this feed in hopes of achieving maximum weight gains in the shortest period of time before being released into streams.

In the early 1960s, hatchery-raised rainbow trout that were fed this pelleted feed developed liver cancer in what leading cancer specialists considered epidemic proportions. In some hatcheries, 100% of the trout were affected. The outbreak seemed related to a cancer-inducing ingredient, still not completely identified, but present in the fat fraction of the feed. Upon investigation, moldy cottonseed meal in the dry feed was suspected as the most likely cause of the cancer. Dr. Hueper, one of the investigators, says, “The fact that at times carcinomatous involvement affects not only the liver and other internal organs not ordinarily used for human foods, but at times also the muscle tissue, provides an additional reason for caution against any laxity in the application and enforcement of existing laws.” The likelihood of strict reinforcement of these laws is very low. The best advice is to not eat any fish.

Fresh Fish

Fresh fish may be refrigerated in crushed ice containing preservatives such as sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, hydrogen peroxide, ozone, or chlorine to inhibit spoilage. In recent years, cases of illness and deaths were traced to excessive amounts of sodium nitrite added to fish by sellers’ who hoped to prolong even further the shelf life of their products.


Eggs are vehicles for residues of a wide range of chemicals present in the diet and environment of laying hens. Antibiotics in feed may more than double the egg laying in low-producing hens. There is also pressure to include antibiotics in the drinking water of layers as well. Feed medicated with antibiotics must be withheld from birds when they are laying. But even when this recommendation has been followed, antibiotics have been detected.

Although the FDA has set “zero” or “negligible residue” tolerance levels for pesticides in eggs, there is no assurance that this food is uncontaminated. Poultry management and poultry feed may both contribute to pesticide residues in eggs.


Drugs may be used with laying hens. A tranquilizer, used in conjunction with antibiotics in layer feed, was advertised as boosting egg production since it “calms birds, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, increases respiratory rate.” Experimentally, hens fed aspirin laid more eggs. Another drug has been found to be effective in reducing “laying slump”; at the same time it cuts feeding costs.


Since 1950, small amounts of arsenic as arsanilic acid have been incorporated into poultry feed to stimulate early maturation, increase efficiency of feed utilization, produce more eggs, “improve” skin coloring and feathering, and yield more profits.

Currently 90% of all commercial chickens are raised with arsenic in their feed. The arsenic-containing feed must be discontinued long enough before slaughter for the birds to eliminate most—but not all—of it from their meat. Even though arsenic is listed as a carcinogen for man, the FDA allows tolerance residues of 0.5 ppm for it in chicken and turkey tissues, and twice that amount in the byproducts of these birds.

The liver is the detoxifying organ of animal and man. Dr. Manuel Schreiber, FDA toxicologist, stated that dangerous accumulations of arsenic have been found in chicken livers.


Another group of “anti-infective” agents, the bacteriostats, are incorporated routinely in poultry feed to control the growth of “undesirable” bacteria. These include drugs which can result in dermatitis in man when applied to the skin, and others which are toxic. Little is known about the general effects of these materials, when eaten frequently in small amounts.


Hormones in poultry production have been used even longer than with livestock. The estrogenic female sex hormones, especially stilbestrol, were first used to caponize birds chemically. The use of stilbestrol was extended to include the treatment of all types of table poultry of both sexes, being highly profitable to the poultrymen. It put weight on birds quickly, and could even give old birds the appearance of youth, with plumper, more attractive flesh.

Since the cancer-inciting nature of stilbestrol was established, the FDA was forced to take action. The agency chose a course least upsetting to the economics of poultrymen, by persuading the industry to “voluntarily” discontinue the use of stilbestrol implants.

Despite this agreement, hormonized birds continued to be shipped by individual poultrymen. In New York City. 25,000 pounds were seized by the Department of Markets. The shippers complained that New York City is “the only city in the country where the FDA ban is being rigidly enforced.”

Although the stilbestrol pellet implants were banned, the use of stilbestrol was, and still is permitted in poultry and livestock feed. In addition, a U.S. patent was granted to allow stilbestrol as an additive to the drinking water of poultry, to increase “meat-producing efficiency.”


In 1965, the USDA tested 2,600 poultry samples in every federally-inspected plant throughout the nation, and found all birds contaminated with pesticide residues. No one section of the country was better than another. Primary sources of infection were traced to sprayed grain and animal tallows in the feed and to poor husbandry practices. No seizures were made, nor did the USDA divulge specific results, such as the most common contaminant or levels of pesticides found.


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