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Zilmax Causes Serious Side Effects -- Why Still Use It?

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

One of the reasons I stress the importance of only eating organic, grass-fed beef is because animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are given unnatural inferior feed loaded with antibiotics (i.e. grains instead of grass, and most of it genetically engineered at that), along with a variety of veterinary drugs.

Many of these drugs are administered for prophylactic purposes to prevent illness, and others are given as growth promoters.

Zilmax (Zilpaterol) is one such drug. It's a beta-adrenergic agonist, also known as beta-agonist; a class of non-hormone drugs used in animals to promote growth. It, and others like it are fed to cattle in the weeks prior to slaughter to increase weight by as much as 30 pounds of lean meat per cow. Beta-agonist drugs, as a class, have been used in US cattle production since 2003.

While 26 countries currently allow beta-agonists in food production, America's use of such drugs, which also includes the beta-agonist ractopamine, for promotion of growth and lean-meat yield has created challenges in the global market, including current trade barriers in Russia1. Now, Zilmax is also causing trouble on our own turf. As reported in the featured article:

"Zilmax became the focus of attention in the livestock industry after Tyson Foods Inc said on August 7 that it will stop buying Zilmax-fed cattle for slaughter beginning next month. Tyson, the biggest US meat processor, said it was concerned about Zilmax potentially causing health or behavioral problems for some cattle.

Merck's Animal Health unit announced on August 16 that it would halt US and Canadian sales of Zilmax, pending additional company research and review."

Merck has no plans on discontinuing the product, however; recently telling Reuters3 that it is in fact pushing to bring the drug back to market both in the US and Canada. The company says it stands behind the safety of the drug and is working on developing a quality control program to ensure its proper use.      
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