Press Release

Lawsuit Filed Against FDA Over Drug Approval of Experior

Beta-agonists known to cause adverse health effects in animals


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today a coalition of social interest groups filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) challenging the agency’s approval of Experior, an animal drug that claims to reduce ammonia emissions from cows on feedlots. The coalition, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Food & Water Watch, and Food Animal Concerns Trust, asserts the FDA had insufficient information to determine the drug is safe for animals and consumers.

The drug, produced by Elanco Animal Health, is a beta-agonist — the same class as ractopamine and other drugs known to cause significant health effects in pigs. Experior is given to animals in confinement during the last 14 to 91 days that they are given feed before slaughter. While it is purported to reduce ammonia emissions, there is no evidence to prove it fulfills its intended purpose when used in real-world conditions, and in fact it may increase incidental environmental effects and ultimately lead to even higher concentrations of cows confined to feedlots. Beta-agonists like ractopamine and others are also widely used to maximize weight gain in the final weeks leading up to slaughter, known as the “finishing” phase.

These drugs lead to increased risks for food safety as the drug residues that end up in meat products have been linked to heart and respiratory issues in consumers, producers, and farm workers. This class of drugs is also cruel and harmful to animals, causing them to suffer psychological stress and physically deteriorate, increasing the likelihood of them suffering, dying, and being mistreated during handling in transit to slaughter. Experior has also been shown to raise body temperature in cows, compounding the risk of heat stroke for those who are being raised in unnatural conditions, especially in desert or drought-prone areas.

“It’s critical we stop using beta-agonists like Experior that manipulate animals as part of an effort to make factory farms more profitable without properly assessing the health consequences — such as documented cases of cows going into cardiac arrest from the added stress on their bodies,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “This is a classic case of greenwashing industrial agriculture at the expense of the animals’ health, that may lead to even more devastating impacts as factory farms and slaughterhouses struggle to maintain operations during the COVID pandemic.”

“Feed additives like Experior are false solutions to the environmental havoc factory farms wreak in rural communities, and make these operations’ awful animal welfare and public health impacts even worse,” said Tarah Heinzen, Senior Attorney with Food & Water Watch. “FDA’s approval ignored the science and the law, putting Big Ag’s profits ahead of the environment and consumer welfare.”

“This is a terrible example of FDA failing in its primary mission to make sure that drugs are safe for both people and animals,”  said Steve Roach, Food Safety Program Director of Food Animal Concerns Trust. “We know how to limit the animal health and environmental impacts of ammonia, don’t crowd animals and keep them on pasture. Feeding them drugs with well-documented health risks is not the answer.”

Beta-agonists have long been controversial as the FDA itself has evidence of the adverse effects they can have on animals who ingest them. Still, beta-agonists are heavily used in meat production to increase output.

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