March 22, 2018

Advocates Sue FDA Over Ractopamine Used in Food Animals

The Center for Food Safety, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the U.S. FDA on November 6, 2014 for approving ractopamine in a series of animal drugs used in food production “without fully examining how they affect people, animals, and the environment.” The government approved those drugs for rapid weight gain in food animals.

The drug is given to pigs, cattle, and turkeys to cause quick weight gain. Between 60 and 80% of pork sold in U.S. supermarkets comes from pigs treated with this drug. The lawsuit states that the FDA approved 11 ractopamine-based drugs with no analysis of environmental and public health risks.

Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for CFS said, “FDA is basing controversial drug approvals on incomplete and inadequate environmental analyses. These drugs in our food supply impact the environment, thousands of farm workers, millions of consumers, and billions of animals. FDA cannot continue to abdicate its responsibility to do its job.”

Ractopamine mimics the effects of stress hormones, which makes animals convert feed to muscle much more quickly in the growth cycle. The drug has been linked to “downed” animals, muscle tremors, heart dysfunction and increased aggressive behavior. The EU, China, and Russia have all banned U.S. pork from pigs given the drug. About 20% of pork products for sale in the U.S. contain traces of the drug.

The primary health study on the drug, conducted on only six men, caused heart pounding in three of them. The symptom was so severe that one of the men withdrew from the study. In addition, ractopamine is secreted in the animals’ manure, which factory farmers spray onto fields used to grow¬†crops or store in giant lagoons that often leak or rupture, polluting streams and rivers.

Ractopamine was first approved for use in pigs in 1999. The FDA has never proven that the drug is safe. For eight of the eleven drugs, there was no environmental analysis conducted at all. And the government has not analyzed the effects of ractopamine when used in combination with antibiotics and hormones already in heavy use in food animals.

The lawsuit asks the court to set aside FDA’s unlawful approvals¬†and will force the FDA to conduct more thorough analyses before the drugs are approved.

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