Organic Consumers Association

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A Ban on Hormonal Meat is Three Decades Overdue

On January 29, 2010, with three other scientific experts, Samuel S. Epstein, MD, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, filed a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Petition seeking an urgent ban on hormonal meat, as it poses unrecognized risks of hormonal cancers.

The Petition requests the FDA to take the following action:
  • * Require producers of hormonal meat to label it with an explicit warning such as "Produced with the use of sex hormones, and poses increased risks of breast, prostate, and testis cancers.
  • * Prohibit the routine implantation of sex hormone pellets under the ear skin of cattle on entry into feedlots 100 days prior to slaughter. The object of the implants is to increase meat production by about 50 pounds per animal, and profitability by about 10%.
  • * Ban hormonal meat. The hormones in past and current use include the natural: testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone; and the synthetic: trenbolone, zeranol, and melengesterol.

Based on the scientific literature, besides World Health Organization (WHO) reports, there is explicit evidence that the use of sex hormones to increase meat production poses serious dangers to consumers," Dr. Epstein warns in the Petition.

"Of particular concern are the increased risks of hormonal cancers since 1975: breast by 23%, prostate by 60%, and testes by 60%," he emphasizes.

For these reasons, the Petition urges the FDA to take the following actions, now decades overdue:
  •     * Recognize that hormonal meat poses "imminent hazards" to the total U.S. population.
  •     * Take prompt, and decades overdue, regulatory action to eliminate the use of sex hormones in meat production.
Dr. Epstein explains that some three decades ago, Dr. Roy Hertz, then Director of Endocrinology of the National Cancer Institute and world authority on breast and other hormonal cancers, warned of cancer risks due to the use of estrogenic cattle implants, particularly for the breast.

Dr. Hertz emphasized that these implants increase normal hormonal levels, and that such imbalance causes reproductive cancers. Hertz also warned of the essentially uncontrolled and unregulated use of these extremely potent biological agents, no levels of which can be regarded as safe.

"These warnings are even more apt today, particularly in view of the FDA's longstanding and reckless failure to ban hormonal meat," Dr. Epstein declares.

The misleading assurances since 1979, by the FDA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the safety of hormonal meat remain unchanged, Dr. Epstein declares. Of further concern are longstanding problems linked to conflicts of interest in senior agency personnel and their consultants. As clearly evidenced in a series of General Accountability Office investigations and Congressional hearings, the USDA and FDA have failed to take any regulatory action to protect the public from the dangers of hormonal meat, Dr. Epstein points out.

Dr. Epstein cites a 1986 report, "Human Food Safety and Regulation of Animal Drugs," unanimously approved by the House Committee on Government Operations, which concluded that the "FDA has consistently disregarded its responsibility - has repeatedly put what it perceives are interests of verterinarians and the livestock industry ahead of its legal obligation to protect consumers - jeopardizing the health and safety of consumers meat, milk, and poultry."

In response to questions on hormonal meat raised in February 1996 by the European Commission, the USDA responded with assurances that less than 0.25% of animals tested annually proved positive for "residue violations." Dr. Epstein asserts, "These criticisms remain equally appropriate today. In fact, meat is still not monitored for sex hormone levels by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; The Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medalist for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; and author of over 200 scientific articles and 15 books on the causes and prevention of cancer, including the groundbreaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), and Toxic Beauty (2009).

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Professor emeritus Environmental & Occupational Medicine
University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health
Chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition
To subscribe to the Cancer Prevention Coalition click here

Nicholas Ashford, Ph.D., J.D.
Professor of Technology and Policy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ronnie Cummins
Executive Director
Organic Consumers Association

Quentin D. Young, M.D.
Health & Medicine
Policy Research Group
Past President,
American Public Health Association

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