At Issue: Ractopamine Hydrochloride
FDA Black Box Warning:
Ractopamine hydrochloride, is a beta-adrenergic agonist. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children.U. S. Livestock Ractopamine Feeding Practices Altered by Outside Influences
Russia, China, the E.U. and various other countries prohibit the use of ractopamine, a weight-enhancing synthetic supplement in livestock production, because the drug has critically sickened animals—remains in product—and thus may expose consumers to similar health risks.
The ractopamine feed additive provides notable returns, an expected 10-20% gain in marketable meat.
Ractopamine, an over-the-counter status drug, does not require veterinary supervision. Government standards for ractopamine residue limits are set at 30 ppb for beef and 50 ppb for pork. These guidelines may be followed or not. The FDA rarely tests meat products for ractopamine.
According to the FDA, Eli Lilly's Elanco Animal Health Division and other pharmaceutical providers, ractopamine presents no human health risk. Aside: FDA 2002 Elanco Animal Health Violation Letter
Pigs have been consuming ractopamine (Paylean) since 1999, Cattle (Optaflexx '04) and Turkeys (Topmax '08).
In contrast to other pharmaceutical animal-improvement schemes, i.e. hormones and antibiotics, ractopamine is added during the finishing (prior to slaughter) period. These accelerate-growth drugs are unnatural, medically unnecessary and not listed as product ingredients.
Smithfield Foods Inc. (NYSE:SFD) notified investors in February 2013 that the use of Ractopamine impaired global expansion plans and consequently would be removed from some swine feeding regimens. This announcement was followed by the news in May that Shuanghui International Holdings, intended to acquire Smithfield Foods.
China and Russia are currently boycotting meat containing ractopamine and are mandating independent testing to verify the same. This zero ractopamine tolerance policy was made possible by the Neogen Corporation. Lateral Flow Device technology utilized by Neogen is able to detect minute amounts of ractopamine in meat samples.
In their February 2013 letter to Trade Representative Ron Kirk, thirty-three Senators expressed concern that Russia is interfering in U.S. affairs. The Senators are of the opinion that the ractopamine ban "contradicts generally accepted scientific conclusions and Russia's obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)."
The National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board would likely agree with the Senators' assessment. From the industry's point of view:
Ractopamine is used as part of a healthy, balanced diet for growing pigs. Ractopamine helps pigs make the most of the food they eat by promoting the conversion of dietary nutrients into lean muscle, which helps produce a leaner meat product.