Drug that “makes heart beat faster and blood vessels relax” routinely used in pork production

This post is from The Food and Environment Reporting Network

Our Latest Report: A Controversial Animal Feed Additive Gets a Closer Look

by  on January 25, 2012

Factory farmed pork is the other white lie.

In our latest report, Helena Bottemiller investigates a controversial feed additive ractopamine hydrochloride, which has become the focus of a long-running international trade dispute that centers on concerns about its effect on human health. The story, “Dispute Over Drug in Feed Limiting US Meat Exports,” appears today on msnbc.com, one of the top three global news sites on the web, and was produced by the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

“Although few Americans outside of the livestock industry have ever heard of ractopamine, the drug is controversial,” Bottemiller writes. “Fed to an estimated 60 to 80 percent of pigs in the United States, it has sickened or killed more of them than any other livestock drug on the market, Food and Drug Administration records show. Cattle and turkeys have also suffered high numbers of illnesses from the drug.”

The story reports that USDA meat inspectors have reported an increase in the number of “downer pigs”—lame animals unable to walk—who have been fed ractopamine. The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously struck down a California law that had sought to keep out of the food supply downer livestock. It overturned the lower court’s ruling on the grounds of federal preemption.

Only one human study was used in the safety assessment by Elanco, and among the six healthy young men who participated, one was removed because his heart began racing and pounding abnormally.

The report explains that ractopamine, which has not been proposed for human use, mimics stress hormones, making the heartbeat faster and relaxing blood vessels. In animals, it revs up production of lean meat, reducing fat. Pigs raised on it produce an average of 10 percent more meat, raising profits by $2 per head. The drug is fed to animals right up until slaughter and minute traces of it have been found in meat.

The European Union, China, Taiwan and many others have banned its use, limiting U.S. meat exports to key markets. Bottemiller explains that U.S. trade officials are pressing more countries to accept meat from animals raised on ractopamine—a move opposed by China and the EU, reporting: “Resolving the impasse is now a top agricultural trade priority for the Obama administration, which is trying to boost exports and help revive the economy.”

The trade dispute centers on safety studies conducted by drug maker Elanco. It conducted only one human study with six healthy young men, one of whom was removed because his heart began racing and pounding abnormally, Bottemiller writes. Elanco has reported that “no adverse effects were observed for any treatments,” but, within a few years of its approval, it received hundreds of reports of sickened pigs, according to records obtained by Bottemiller from the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

The issue has been deadlocked since 2008 at the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets global food-safety standards, on the acceptable level, if any, of ractopamine in meat. Setting a Codex standard for ractopamine would strengthen Washington’s ability to challenge other countries’ meat import bans at the World Trade Organization, Bottemiller explains. The EU and China—which together produce and consume about 70 percent of the world’s pork—have blocked repeated efforts of U.S. trade officials to set a residue limit. U.S. officials say the EU does not want to risk a public outcry by importing meat raised with growth-promoting drugs, which are illegal there.

You can read the full story in our archive here, as well as additional reporting on the process at Codexhere. The piece in our archive also contains additional reporting on the testing of ractopamine.

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One thought on “Drug that “makes heart beat faster and blood vessels relax” routinely used in pork production

  1. Let’s take out all the Artificial Colors and Flavors that are a danger to us all,
    not to think about all the Dangerous Food Preservatives. The health risks that we
    all pay should be enough to teach all Leaders to stop it. You want lower health
    cost start with the number one cause of 90% of the problems chemical ingredients
    drugs. Let our children eat good food not the man made chemical ingredients and
    drugs found in many processed foods.
    Take soda pop out of all schools and put back in Nutrition Whole Milk. 90% of all
    the Olympic Athletes gold medalists drink Whole MILK.
    i have been drinking half and half milk cream since 1964 and can brake three
    2 by 4’s in less than a second and a half. i have good strong bones thanks to milk
    and GOD.

    USA Leaders others countries started to put a end to chemical ingredients and drugs
    a while ago what are we waiting for the Drug CEO’s and Drug Cartels to approve it?

    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

    Global Health Care Company Abbott Laboratories Inc. has pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $1.5 billion to resolve its criminal and civil liability arising from the company’s unlawful promotion of the prescription drug Depakote for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Justice Department announced today. The resolution – the second largest payment by a drug company – includes a criminal fine and forfeiture totaling $700 million and civil settlements with the federal government and the states totaling $800 million. Abbott also will be subject to court-supervised probation and reporting obligations for Abbott’s CEO and Board of Directors.

    Abbott Labs to Pay $1.5 Billion to Resolve Criminal & Civil Investigations of Off-label Promotion of Depakote
    05/07/2012 01:08 PM EDT

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