Public Interest Groups Sue FDA Demanding Records on Controversial Animal Growth Drugs Under Freedom of Information Act

Posted on October 7, 2013

Challenges to Industry Use of Ractopamine and Zilpaterol in Light of Animal Welfare, Food Safety Concerns

For immediate release:

Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety

cow-cc-David-Gleason-article-image-500pxSAN FRANCISCO — Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for withholding records related to the federal agency’s approval of the controversial animal feed additive ractopamine. Widely used in industrial U.S. factory farms, ractopamine is banned in over 100 countries and raises significant animal welfare and food safety concerns. In August 2012, ALDF submitted a public records request to the FDA, seeking records on physiological, psychological, and behavioral effects of ractopamine. Six months later, in February 2013, Center for Food Safety submitted an additional request. Despite serious public concerns about FDA’s approval of the drug, in the more than one year that has lapsed since ALDF’s initial records request, the FDA has produced only outdated data and unreasonably delayed the release of comprehensive records, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A second suit was filed today by CFS related to the animal drug zilpaterol, a similarly harmful feed additive.

Ractopamine and zilpaterol accelerate weight gain in animals raised for food. Yet ractopamine has also has resulted in more reports of sick or dead pigs than any other livestock drug on the market, and the European Union, China, Taiwan, and Russia ban or restrict the drug. Ractopamine effects may include toxicity; behavioral changes; and cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, reproductive, and endocrine problems. It is also associated with high stress levels in animals, “downer” or lame animals, hyperactivity, broken limbs, hoof lesions, and death. Zilpaterol has been linked to animals becoming reluctant to move, walking gingerly, and showing signs of lameness. On August 7, 2013, Tyson Foods, Inc. announced that as of September 6, 2013, it would no longer accept cattle fed the animal drug Zilmax, the trade name for zilpaterol.

“Countless pigs, turkeys, and cows have suffered—and continue to suffer—needlessly from these dangerous drugs,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.  “The FDA has an obligation to provide access to records which likely have dire animal welfare and public health implications.”

“FDA’s illegal delay is deeply troubling. The human health effects of eating meat with traces of these drugs are not well known, and the data we do have is alarming.  The American people have a right to know what they are eating. What does the FDA have to hide?” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety.

Copies of the FOIA records requests and lawsuits are available upon request.


About the Animal Legal Defense Fund

ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system.  For more information, please visit


About Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture.  CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon.  More information can be found at

8 thoughts on “Public Interest Groups Sue FDA Demanding Records on Controversial Animal Growth Drugs Under Freedom of Information Act

  1. Elizabeth Smith says:

    Don’t eat animals!

  2. Deborah Kelley says:

    Stop drugging those poor animals now

  3. Dear Sirs,

    Please aid in stopping all the chemical treatments of animals destined for our food supply as well as the GMO’s in our non-animal foodstuffs as well if that is in your power more than mine. The recent rises in previously unknown conditions such as Fibromyalgia and ADHD and Obesity can be directly attributed to the foods/drugs our food is given and is transferred to us as we consume it.

    Please stop the poisoning of our citizens before the costs of healthcare and the demise of our society are too far gone to remedy.

    Please reinstate the ethical treatment of livestock and ALL Life so that we can proudly live up to the motto on our money – “In God We Trust”. We are desecrating his creations – ourselves included. It’s time to act responsibly and become the caretakers we were supposed to be, not the destroyers we have become.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Constance Dent

  4. Jill Hammer says:

    This is wrong….we are playing God …please stop doing this.

  5. Pamela Geier says:

    Stop your disgusting attempt at god modding. You people are deplorable. You should be ashamed.

    Please reinstate the ethical treatment of livestock and ALL Life. It’s time to act responsibly and become the caretakers we were supposed to be, not the destroyers we have become.

  6. George Perry says:

    Man just can not keep his sick mind out of anything. Animals can grow and do well on their own. But because of greedy man he making killing them, and killing people as well.

  7. cay murphy says:

    I am a vegetarian, but thirty years ago I stopped eating beef. I live in a farming community ,that has large dairy farms.And the atrocities I saw happening on those farms, and how these animals suffered and were discarded like garbage, was life altering .Not only with my eating habits, but the degree to what man is capable of ,put a permanent ache in my very soul. The suffering that creatures endure , will haunt me until I leave this Earth .Since then I have become a vegetarian, and an online animal rights activist. But what is happening today with all of the Earths creatures, this life giving Earth and oceans , is so horrific ,I find myself with -drawing from people. For there seems to be no end to the destruction and the suffering. Why is it that so many cannot see that all life is connected,that when you harm one ,it creates a domino effect , with man at the end.And yet this abuse, torture and destruction continues, at an appalling rate. And the # one driving force is Greed, then apathy .We can no longer afford to bury our head in the sand.

  8. Maureen Hovestadt says:

    There was a recall of some chickens in California. There are a lot of meat recalls. does that tell anyone anything? I do not eat pork or red meat. I eat fish and I drink almond milk or organic. I am checking on the health and welfare on organically raised animals. I am working on this goal.

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