Poultry companies added dangerous arsenic to chicken feed, but they never warned poultry growers, people who spread chicken litter or children at schools, an attorney told jurors in Washington County Circuit Court on Friday.
Fayetteville attorney Jason Hatfield said the bags containing the arsenic-laced feed additives contain danger warnings, but poultry companies chose not to pass it along.
“Only the companies knew the dangers,” said Hatfield, who represents a Prairie Grove man who is suing Tyson Foods, George’s Farms, Peterson Farms and Simmons Foods.
The lawsuit filed in 2003 by the parents of Michael “Blu” Green, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 1999, alleges poultry producers used chicken feed with Roxarsone, a feed additive that includes arsenic, which led to cancercausing litter.
Attorneys for the poultry companies argued Roxarsone has been safely mixed with feed for 50 years to help keep chickens healthy and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They claim the testimony of worldclass scientists will show that the plaintiff’s case is based on faulty science.
Green lost his previous case against the feed additive maker, but this second trial is against the poultry companies, which were dismissed from the last case before it went to the jury for deliberation.
After a three-week trial in 2006, a jury took 21 minutes to reach its verdict in favor of feed additive maker Alpharma.
However, an Arkansas Supreme Court decision last May ruled that poultry producers can go to trial in the lawsuit, reversing the judge’s granting of a pre-trial motion that eliminated poultry producers as defendants.
Hatfield told jurors Friday poultry litter was spread on pastures near the Prairie Grove schools during the 1990s and that this caused Green and three others to develop leukemia.
Hatfield dismissed the poultry companies’ claim their FDA approved feed additive is safe.
“It’s not FDA approved to dump on children,” he said. “You have to bring common sense in the jury box. When you dump carcinogens on children, some of them will get sick.”
He said dust samples taken from the attics of homes show high levels of arsenic, which he said experts will testify can be linked to Roxarsone contained in the chicken feed.
Steven Quattlebaum, an attorney for Tyson Foods, agreed with Hatfield that high exposure levels of arsenic is known to cause cancers, but he said the studies show that it increases the risk of cancers of the lung, kidney, bladder and skin – not leukemia.
Quattlebaum noted that arsenic is everywhere. It’s the 28th most common element in the earth’s crust and is safe at low levels.
A gag order prevents the parties and the attorneys from making any comments to the media about this case.
Attorney: Leukemia caused by additive