If you care about the drugs that make it into the United States’ food supply — or only about what happens to the animals that supply us with meat — you should care about ractopamine. Because of safety concerns, about 160 nations ban or restrict the use of this drug during pig production, including all countries in the European Union, Russia and China. But that hasn’t stopped the U.S. pork industry from feeding it to an estimated 60 percent to 80 percent of American pigs to rapidly boost growth rates. If you buy pork at your local supermarket, chances are that it came from a ractopamine-treated pig.
The Food and Drug Administration first approved it 15 years ago, claiming the drug was safe to use. The nonprofit Center for Food Safety cited information from the European Food Safety Authority showing ractopamine can cause increased heart rates in humans. The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy has reported that studies show pigs fed ractopamine can have trouble walking, become more aggressive, and experience other abnormal behavior.
The sixth round of negotiations between the United States and the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) took place July 14-18 in Brussels, Belgium. While the EU is willing to eliminate tariffs on nearly all goods, it announced publicly it was unwilling to eliminate them on beef, poultry and pork. The EU will not change its legislation on beef hormones and the feed additive ractopamine used in beef and pork production.