Consumer Reports recently released a study in which they analyzed US retail pork and found levels of an adrenaline-like drug called ractopamine in pork samples, as well a foodborne bacteria that sickens nearly 100,000 Americans every year called Yersina, in 2/3 of pork samples.
Now, the National Pork Producers Council addressed these concerns. Ractopamine is fed to the pigs to promote muscle growth...a drug called Topmax is fed to turkeys to do the same thing. The Council tells us not to worry...the levels of these drugs are below the limit set by the UN Codex Commission. How did they come up with the "safety limit" level? Listen to this....they took SIX people, fed them pork with different amounts of the drugs in their portions, and observed them. When the study subjects reported their hearts were racing and pounding, they brought the levels down....when these six people had no cardiac issues, the Commission calculated the maximum allowable amount of drugs acceptable for human daily intake. Do you believe that???
The European Food Safety Authority, Europe's equivalent to the US Food and Drug Administration, calculated that a study of SIX people wouldn't have the statistical power to pick up changes in cardiac output they require. Also, the study of SIX people were all young men....what about older people, what about women and children? The European Committee, along with China, banned these two drugs, citing both human health AND animal welfare concerns. Studies over the last decade have shown that pigs on ractopamine have chronically elevated heart rates, increased stress reactions and difficulty in walking. In fact, there is a warning label on the drug stating, "Pigs fed ractopamine are at an increased risk for exhibiting the downer pig syndrome", which means pigs are too sick, injured or exhausted to stand and may be dragged to slaughter.
Given the human concerns and animal welfare concerns, why does the US pork industry continue to feed this drug to their animals every year? An analysis was recently published in the Journal of Animal Science showing the studies done on pigs that were fed ractopamine. These pigs had an overall carcass cutability advantage of 1.01 percent over pigs that were not fed this toxic drug.
All this for a 1 percent greater yield.