I’ve been spending some time reading posts on Facebook. I have liked a lot of smart, forward-thinking folks who post stuff that makes me think and educates me, too. On Friday, someone posted a link to a story about ractopamine. All I could do was shake my head and open up WordPress so I could share the information with you.
What is ractopamine? Consumer Reports in April explained: “It was originally developed (but never approved) as an asthma treatment for humans and was later found to boost pigs’ growth and lean muscle mass…About one-fifth of the 240 pork products we analyzed in a separate test harbored low levels of the drug ractopamine, which the U.S. approved in 1999 to promote growth and leanness in pigs. It’s commonly used in pigs raised for food in the U.S. but is banned in the European Union, China, and Taiwan. Our food-safety experts say that no drugs should be used routinely in healthy animals to promote growth.”
Especially since, as a study from the Food & Drug Administration found, it can hurt the pigs. From the study: “However, users should be cautioned that ractopamine hydrochloride has been associated with an increased number of injured and lame pigs during marketing.”
That study goes back to 2006, by the way, so it’s not something new. What is new is that countries like China and the entire European Union don’t want our ractopamine-filled pork, with some outright banning its import. This cuts into the bottom line, so earlier this year one of the largest pork producers announced it would certify half of its livestock as ractopamine-free. This is not a big deal, unfortunately, because Americans are still going to get their bacon laced with the drug. The good stuff will be shipped overseas. You can read more about that here. And it’s not just pigs that get ractopamine. Factory-farmed cows and turkeys sometimes do, too.
So what can you do? Well, you can buy organic or from stores that have pledged to only sell pork that is ractopamine-free. Whole Foods is one of them. You can also email or write the FDA and ask it to start protecting our food supply from drugs that have no place in food. It may not do much at first, but at least it’s a start.