Ractopamine’s Impacts on Animal Welfare and Human HealthPosted by Daniel Lutz, ALDF's Litigation Fellow on December 21, 2012
This week, ALDF joined forces with Center for Food Safety (CFS) to petition the FDA to rethink its mistaken approval of high levels of the dangerous animal drug ractopamine.
On the factory farm, ractopamine is mixed into animal feed to make leaner meat. Its actual effects run the gamut in bringing about suffering. Ractopamine is known to cause tremors, chronically elevated heart rates, broken limbs, higher risks of hoof lesions, and death in farm animals. Scientists associate the drug with both non-ambulatory (“downer”) and over-excited behavior. The effects are no small matter: 60 to 80 percent of U.S. pigs are treated with ractopamine, and the FDA has received over 160,000 reports of pig suffering since the drug was approved in 1999.
ALDF’s petition shines a light into the shadowy overlap between human health and animal welfare threats in food production. Ractopamine is added to cattle, pig and turkey feed for several weeks before the slaughterhouse. Application of the drug for any longer before slaughter risks putting the animals in a condition unsuitable for even the low standards of factory meat. Because ractopamine operates within animal muscles, its residues remain locked into the meat.
Foreign markets, such as the European Union, China, and most recently Russia, have banned imports of meat with any traces of ractopamine residue. Their consumers don’t want to taste the tremors. By petitioning the FDA to significantly lower allowable levels of ractopamine use, ALDF and CFS have pushed the U.S. to follow suit.
- Read the press release on ALDF’s recent petition to the FDA