Ever heard of Ractopamine? Until recently, it probably isn’t a word you have just heard in your every day conversation. If you follow food safety, however, it is likely you have heard a bit more about it lately. Ractopamine is a drug that is quite controversial and is being strongly opposed by both animal rights and food safety groups. This drug is used to increase growth and leanness of meat and is given to turkeys, cows, and pigs. It is used most in pigs, with limits as high as 60-80 percent. The FDA approved Ractopamine for pigs in 1999, which led to approvals for other animals in recent years. These furious groups are taking a stand, as neither finds the benefits to be worth jeopardizing the health of humans or farm animals (depending which group they are with.)
Elisabeth Holmes, who is the Center for Food Safety’s staff attorney, said “The continued use and abuse of ractopamine in our food supply needs to be put in check.” This push is particularly timely, as trade between the U.S. and Russia has been halted due to Russia’s new “no tolerance policy” with the drug. Even if the U.S. doesn’t find the food safety and animal rights groups’ reasons to be sufficient, it may want to jump on board, as trade brings in approximately $500 million in profits for the country.
So for now, the FDA is not getting a break from these groups, as they believe strongly that continuing to use the product does nothing but harm the safety of both humans and animals. Helena Bottemiller, columnist for Food Safety News, writes “The petition contends that the FDA needs to do a more thorough job of assessing the potential harmful effects of ractopamine, a beta-agonist that mimics stress hormones and increases the rate at which animals convert feed into muscle.”
Many argue that the research done on the meat and its effects on those who consume it is simply not sufficient evidence that it is safe. There is some evidence that pigs have suffered effects such as trembling, broken limbs, hyperactivity, and inability to walk from the drug. The FDA, however, doesn’t confirm that it is, in fact, from the drug.