Friday, January 27, 2012

Drug Given to U.S. Pigs Sickens Trade Relations (& the Pigs)

It seems that neither Congress nor the FDA wants to take real action in regard to the rampant administering of antibiotics to our livestock. Over 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to healthy cows, chickens and pigs. It is widely accepted that this overuse—to help the animals grow bigger faster—has helped foster the growth of superbacteria resistant to the antibiotics that have served us so well for decades.

But could a trade dispute involving a drug given to American pork lead to change? According to a story this week on, "Dispute over Drug in Feed Limiting US Meat Exports":

"A drug used to keep pigs lean and boost their growth is jeopardizing the nation’s exports of what once was known as 'the other white meat.'

"The drug, ractopamine hydrochloride, is fed to pigs and other animals right up until slaughter and minute traces have been found in meat. The European Union, China, Taiwan and many others have banned its use, citing concerns about its effect on human health, limiting U.S. meat exports to key markets.

"Although few Americans outside of the livestock industry have ever heard of ractopamine, the feed additive is controversial. Fed to an estimated 60 to 80 percent of pigs in the United States, it has sickened or killed more of them than any other livestock drug on the market, an investigation of Food and Drug Administration records shows. Cattle and turkeys have also suffered high numbers of illnesses from the drug."
It'll be interesting to see how this is handled politically. If the other countries don't budge, the Obama Administration will find itself in a quandary. Will an election year goal of "trying to boost exports and help revive the economy" trump the continuous kowtowing to the pharmaceutical and food giants?

The saddest part of the story may be that our health (and that of the pigs) really doesn't factor into the conversation. Here's one of the results of ractopamine, buried in the article's twentieth paragraph:

"Since it was introduced [in 1999], ractopamine had sickened or killed more than 218,000 pigs as of March 2011, more than any other animal drug on the market, a review of FDA veterinary records shows. Pigs suffered from hyperactivity, trembling, broken limbs, inability to walk and death, according to FDA reports released under a Freedom of Information Act request."
Have a nice weekend!

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