Dangerous Additives Found in US Industrialized Cattle
This means when Americans sit down for a hotdog or hamburger, they are also largely ingesting ractopamine.
A drug called ractopamine is a feed additive widely administered to cows and pigs here in the United States. At a UN codex alimentarius session, many were pushing to adopt minimum residue levels of ractopamine found in beef and pork, but the decision was delayed another year to be revisited by July 2010.
Ractopamine was approved in 1999 and works by directing nutrients away from the production of fat deposition and promotes an increase of lean meat, resulting in more weight gain, increased carcass leanness, and ultimately more profits. There is no evidence that ractopamine is safe at any level in animals. The widespread use of ractopamine is to fatten up bottom lines: the drug is called Paylean for pigs, and it improves feed efficiency by 13%, creates an average daily weight gain of 10%, and reduces the pigs' daily feed intake by 6%. The total lean meat production is boosted by 25 to 37%, which can bring in an extra $5 to $10 per hog, and increase profits by more than $320,000 a year in a large operation.
Optaflexx is the brand name of ractopamine that is used in cattle, and the average additional weight gain per head is 14.2 pounds when fed with 200 mg a day, feed efficiency is improved up to 15.9%, and the net increase per head is $8. Important for US consumers, there is no clearance time for ractopamine before the animal goes to slaughter, as a clearance time would allow the unnatural weight gain experienced by the animals to quickly disappear and so would farmers' profits. Other drugs usually have a two week clearance time before slaughter, and research shows that Paylean takes a full seven days for 97% of the drug to be excreted from the body of the pig. This means when Americans sit down for a hotdog or hamburger, they are also largely ingesting ractopamine.
Ractopamine belongs to the beta-adrenoceptor agonist class, which binds beta-receptors to the heart. The overall effect of beta-agonists is cardiac stimulation, including increased heart rate and systemic dilation of blood vessels. Other drugs in this class have been found to be carcinogenic. There have been no studies yet on the effect of this drug on humans: the few studies conducted on animals have shown destabilization of heart rate, reduced testicular and uterine weight and heart weight increase. The effect of Paylean on hogs is comparable to the effect of steroids on body builders. Farmers say it makes pigs walk like arthritic old men; they become mean and stubborn, and have to be beaten to get them loaded for market. They report that the drug makes the pigs extremely agitated and miserable; the pigs can become aggressive and lose their ability to cope with stress, can turn purple, shake and even fall down dead of a heart attack during a stressful event. Their tissues will end up flooded with stress related hormones when they go to market.
Interesting that ractopamine has no clearance time, but labeling for the drug cautions that people with cardiovascular disease should avoid exposure, and persons handling the drug are advised to wear protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eyewear, and NIOSH approved dust masks, as well as to wash themselves thoroughly immediately after handling Paylean. Though the US has delayed a decision on the safety of ractopamine, it is currently banned in 160 countries including China and Taiwan, and even in the European Union traces of the drug can lead to imprisonment and fines. A US company supplying pork to China gives their hogs a three week clearance time to ensure the drug will pass China's standards of being ractopamine free, which is inconsistent with the time codex says it takes for meat to become ractopamine free. At least until July 2010, large commercial US farms will continue to legally feed ractopamine to pigs and cattle with no clearance time before going to market.