Saturday, August 22, 2015

Drug banned in Europe used for U.S. pork

Pork Industry Admits Using Muscle Stimulant Ractopamine

By s.e. smith, Care2, via Truthout

As if the pork industry - complete with crowded "gestation crates," abuse in slaughterhouses and grim conditions for pigs - wasn't bad enough, many farms use a variety of feed additives to boost profits. While the law bars the use of hormones, that doesn't mean pork produced conventionally is drug-free, and one of the most commonly used drugs is ractopamine, a growth stimulant. The beta-adrenergic agonist stimulates pigs to put on muscle, instead of fat, producing lean meat that's more valuable per pound. For the agricultural industry, the economic bottom line is always the most important. Ractopamine is also used in cattle and turkeys as part of a cocktail of drugs and feed designed to push animals to grow as heavy as possible as quickly as possible.

But some 160 nations ban ractopamine, reflecting concerns about human exposure to the drug through meat consumption. Animal studies and observation indicate that the drug can be harmful for many pigs, who can develop heart palpitations and other complications as a result of high doses of the drug, while humans can experience what amounts of a heady shot of adrenaline when they're exposed to it. In fact, the drug has arisen in the context of sports doping, where officials argue it could confer a competitive advantage - and some athletes barred for doping have claimed that ractopamine in their blood came from meat, not the deliberate consumption of the drug.

By and large, consumers are unaware that the compound is used in the production of their meat - farmers aren't required to disclose it, and while labels like "natural" and "organic" are more tightly regulated, conventionally-produced meat can include a variety of additives without needing to alert consumers. Ractopamine, however, has been dragged into the labeling wars, this time by a pork producer who wanted to sell meat specifically labeled "ractopamine-free" and encountered resistance from both regulatory agencies and the pork industry. He won the fight to add the label to his products. But along the way, his case illustrated the giant gaps in food labeling law and consumer awareness, the additives the meat industry uses freely without disclosure and escalating battles over food labels.

(Continued here.)

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