A few days ago, McClatchy posted a close piece on how the American pork industry — led by the National Pork Producers Council NPPC — now is challenging that European experts allow pork from pigs fed ractopamine into their market. The European Food Safety Authority investigated ractopamine in 2009, concluding there were not enough data to show that it is safe for human consumption at any level. But the NPPC is now urging U. S.
trade negotiators to override that resolution in existing trade talks with the European Union. The NPPC’s angle appears to be that that the pork industry’s profits should trump any issues about food safety or animal welfare from regulators, scientists or consumers. There are serious questions about ractopamine’s safety. It belongs to a category of drugs, beta agonists, that were built to treat asthma and only tailored for animal use once they were shown to spice up growth rates. The U.
S. Food and Drug Administration FDA accredited ractopamine for use on pigs after just one human health study — an evaluation of six young, fit men, one of whom dropped out as a result of his heart began racing and pounding abnormally. Three years later, the FDA sent ractopamine’s sponsor a 14 page letter, accusing the agency of withholding guidance about the drug’s “adverse animal drug experiences” and “safety and effectiveness. ” Shortly thereafter, the FDA required drug brands to add this warning label: “Ractopamine may increase the number of injured and/or fatigued pigs during marketing. Not for use in breeding swine.
” This strikes a chord in my memory of the pork industry’s cussed refusal to stop using gestation crates — coffin sized crates that confine pregnant sows so tightly that they may be able to’t even turn around. Polls show that consumers in every state oppose their continued use, while almost 60 major food organizations have dedicated to phasing out the crates in line with their cruelty. But still the pork industry, and particularly the NPPC, continues to cling to the crates — which they are actually, laughably, trying to rebrand as “maternity pens. ” This mentality is better summed up by an NPPC spokesman who told a reporter in 2012: “So our animals can’t turn around for the 2. 5 years that they’re in the stalls producing piglets.