Residues of chemical contaminants in poultry meat

Consumption of poultry meat and products has increased because of economic crisis, driven by several factors, while people keep away from high priced beef and lamb meet or meet products.

Residues of chemical contaminants in poultry meat

Meanwhile due to this increasing demand in industry resulting strict measures in disease control and environmental factors, these products may involve some chemical and natural compounds with hazardous properties at detectable or even at very low concentrations.

Among these compounds, residues are of concern, including, veterinary drugs, environmental pollutants, natural contaminants, and phytosanitary substances accidentally contaminating poultry product during the production and marketing stages. This article includes brief information on the residues of some potential chemical contaminants in poultry meat and products along with their hazardous effects on human health.

  • Veterinary drugs

Veterinary drugs in the poultry are used for the control of infectious diseases, for prophylactic and as growth promoters. The use of these drugs for infectious disease control is logical but for prophylaxis and growth promoter is causing serious threats to humans now a day. This over use leads to the residues of these drugs in poultry meet which in turn cause hazardous health effects in humans.

  These hazardous effects include, direct toxicological effects, allergic reactions, change of gut microflora, and increased bacterial resistance to antimicrobials. Serious concerns are raised on the antibacterial resistance in zoonotic enteropathogens (Campylobacter and Salmonella) and commensal bacteria (Escherichia coli and Enterococci).

  • Toxic elements

Poultry meat may be contaminated with toxic elements from the food and environment such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. Arsenic cause skin, lung liver and bladder cancer and also effect the nervous, cardiac and reproductive systems.

Low levels of lead which are present in the poultry meat cause pain, constipation, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases in adults while neuropathological disorders and learning capacities are affected in children. Cadmium damage the kidney and adversely affects the bones and cause cancer in lung, bladder and breast.

  • Radioactive substances

Two radioactive elements named as iodine 131 and cesium 137 are present in poultry meat and eggs. Both elements enter the poultry meat and eggs through feed source.

When a person is exposed to cesium that lead to diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding. Long time exposure may lead to coma and even death. Iodine 131 when enter the human body cause thyroid cancer and thyroid nodules.

  • Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)

Chicken is exposed to POPs through various routes the most common exposure route is its intake through feed. The most common POPs which are present in the poultry meat are organochlorine pesticides, industrial chemicals, polychlorinated biphenyles and dioxins.

When the human body is exposed to POPs it leads to increased risk of cancer, reproductive disorders, alteration of immune system, neurobehavioural impairment, endocrine disruption, genotoxicity and increased birth defects.

  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons accumulate in the meat as result of cooking chicken meat at the high temperature barbecue. Coal and coal dusts penetrates on the cooked foods and cause alimentary canal and large intestine cancers.

  • Phthalates

Poultry meat is very common source of some phthalates like DEHP (diethylhexyle phthalate), DBP (di-n- butyle phthalate) and DiBP (diisobutyle phthalate). When the human is exposed to these phthalates they cause sperm damage in males and reproductive canal disorders in females.


As mentioned above chemical contaminants which are present in the poultry meat have many hazardous effects on the health of public so there is urgent need to control the residues of these chemical contaminants. To control the level of these contaminants in poultry meat we should control the sources of these chemicals.

There should be regular testing of the poultry meat and the meat products and the meat which contain the elevated level (beyond the permissible limits) of these contaminants should not be provided to the public and should be discarded to safe the public from the lethal effects of these contaminants.

Authors: Ashiq Ali*1, Aisha Khatoon1, Zain- Ul- Abidin2.

1 Department of Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.

 2 Veterinary Research Institute, Lahore, Pakistan.

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