As Thanksgiving approaches we begin to plan our feasts: mashed potatoes, gravy, Brussels sprouts, yams, a potentially dangerous livestock growth drug . . . Wait! What?! That last item may be making it onto your table via your turkey, according to Vani Hari of Food Babe.
Hari is launching her latest campaign, this time on ractopamine, a drug used to increase growth in livestock. The drug, which is very clearly labeled “Not for Human Use,” has shown up in meat tested by the USDA and Consumer Reports and been documented to cause serious health and behavioral problems in pigs. Hari, along with two separate lawsuits by other organizations, attacks the FDA’s irresponsibility in approving its use, especially after it has been banned in more than 100 countries.
The FDA has allowed widespread use of ractopamine in turkey feed since its approval in 2008. This led the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Center For Food Safety to file a legal petition with the FDA demanding that they conduct comprehensive scientific studies that document the risks of ractopamine to human and animal health – because clearly more needed to be done before it gained FDA approval. The FDA approved ractopamine based on safety studies submitted by the company that makes it (Elanco), which is standard for most food and drugs on the market, and have reportedly refused to share their records. To date, ractopamine is still allowed to be fed to turkeys, cows, and pigs (up to 80% of pigs eat ractopamine-laced feed).
Other countries don’t take the use of ractopamine so lightly. For instance, China and Taiwan prohibit any traces of ractopamine residue in meat, and have rejected some U.S. exports. Also any meat exported to the European Union needs to be certified as ractopamine-free or it will be rejected.
The FDA has received more criticism lately over its lax product testing practices and we are glad to see Hari and others bringing ractopamine to our attention. While the larger issue here is the FDA’s role in regulating potentially dangerous chemicals in ways that favor the livestock industry, Hari’s focus on our Thanksgiving turkey is certainly worth considering. She also suggests a few ways to avoid ractopamine-traces birds that may help guide you.
Meet the Drug in Your Meat That Is Banned in 100 Countries via Robyn O’brien