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Ractopamine: the Meat Additive on Your Plate That's Banned Almost Everywhere but America

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's CAFO's vs. Free Range page and our Food Safety Research Center page.

Have you ever heard of ractopamine? Neither have most US food consumers though it is  used in 80 percent of  US pig and cattle operations. The asthma drug-like growth additive, called a beta-agonist, has enjoyed stealth use in the US food supply for a decade despite being widely banned overseas. It is marketed as Paylean for pigs, Optaflexx for cattle and Topmax for turkeys.

This month, the Center for Food Safety  (CFS) and Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) have sued the FDA for withholding records pertaining to ractopamine's safety. According to the lawsuit, in response to the groups' requests for information "documenting, analyzing, or otherwise discussing the physiological, psychological, and/or behavioral effects" of ractopamine, the FDA has only produced 464 pages out of 100,000 pages that exist. Worse, all 464 pages have already been released as part of a reporter's FOIA. Thanks for nothing.

CFS and ALDF have spent over 18 months meeting with the FDA and seeking information about the effects of ractopamine on "target animal or human liver form and function, kidney form and function, thyroid form and function" as well as urethral and prostate effects and "tumor development." The lawsuit says the CFS has "exhausted administrative remedies" and that the FDA has "unlawfully withheld" the materials.

Ractopamine's effects on animals are documented, say the groups, but effects on humans remain a mystery. Codex, the UN food standards body, established ractopamine safety residues on the basis of only one human study of six people and one subject dropped out because of adverse effects! "Data from the European Food Safety Authority indicates that ractopamine causes elevated heart rates and heart-pounding sensations in humans," says CFS.    


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