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Producers of Pigs Picking Fight Amid European Trade Deal

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's Factory Farms page, Food Safety Research Center page and our Health Issues page.

 WASHINGTON - R.C. Hunt, who's raised pigs for 50 years in North Carolina, offers no apologies for a common practice in the U.S. pork industry: mixing feed with a controversial drug that makes the animals grow leaner in the final weeks of their lives.

With the Food and Drug Administration allowing farmers to give the drug, ractopamine, to their pigs since 1999, pork producers say their meat is perfectly safe.

"I believe in the science," said Hunt, of Wilson, N.C., who produces 125,000 pigs a year and is a former president of the National Pork Producers Council.

But food safety advocates say there's one big problem: Amid fears that it may be harmful to animals and humans alike, the drug has been banned or restricted in roughly 160 of the world's 196 countries, including those in the European Union.

The growing anxiety over the safety of U.S. pork and other food products could thwart an expanded trade deal between the two economic superpowers, a top priority for President Barack Obama.

As European and U.S. negotiators met privately in a sixth round of talks in Brussels that ended Friday, critics worried that a pact might result in new trade rules that harm the European food supply.

"We want to have quality food. We don't want to have food that is produced in ways that are not good for our health," said Olga Kikou of Brussels, European affairs manager for Compassion in World Farming, an international advocacy organization headquartered in London that focuses on farm animal welfare issues.      
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