The Ractopamine Bombshell

February 3, 2010

Martha Rosenberg has just written an explosive article for AlterNet about the FDA’s questionable decision-making in allowing the use of ractopamine in cattle, pigs, and turkeys.

The drug is given in the last weeks of the animals’ lives in order to boost feed-to-muscle conversion rates. Rosenberg asks:

How does a drug marked, “Not for use in humans. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask” become “safe” in human food? With no washout period?

After approving the drug, it appears the FDA felt that key information had been withheld during the approval process. Here is Rosenberg’s summary of the letter the FDA sent the manufacturer three years after the agency approved the drug for use in pigs:

Where was mention of the farmer phone calls to Elanco [the drug company] reporting, “hyperactivity,” “dying animals,” “downer pigs” and “tying up” and “stress” syndromes, asks the FDA letter. Where was the log of phone calls that included farmers saying, “animals are down and shaking,” and “pig vomiting after eating feed with Paylean”?

After reading this piece, if I was a meat eater I’d go out of my way to make sure I never purchased meat from animals who had been fed ractopamine. I’ve no doubt many meat eaters would reach the same conclusion if exposed to this information, so post this article to your Twitter feed or Facebook wall. Ractopamine (and the various brand-name versions of this drug) should be part of every meat eater’s vocabulary. (Via Starkman.) Link.

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