To the Editor:
I would like to ask the general public if they would willingly ingest a chemical that has a warning label that reads as follows: "Not for use in humans. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask when handling." Unfortunately, many of us may have already unwillingly eaten meat tainted with ractopamine.
Ractopamine is a beta agonist, which was being used and studied to treat asthma when researchers discovered that it made mice more muscular. Now you guessed it, big agriculture decided we can produce bigger, better, faster, and improve profits. So, ractopamine came on the market under such names as Paylean, for swine; Optaflexx, for cattle; and Tomax, for turkeys.
In 2002 ractopamine was banned in China after 1,700 people were poisoned by pork containing paylean. In fact, 160 nations, including Russia, Taiwan, and every member nation in the European Union, has banned this drug. However, the United States has not.
What makes ractopamine different than other growth promoting hormones is the withdraw time. Most drugs are withdrawn when an animal nears slaughter. However, that is when ractopamine is started and can be fed until the day of slaughter with no washout time.
Ractopamine is fed to 45 percent of US pigs and 30 percent of ration-fed cattle in the United States. It would be easy to think that this is only a big agriculture issue, but unfortunately, this drug is being added to show feeds that our 4-H and FFA youth are feeding to their project animals. Some do this willingly to add to their success in the show ring, others have no idea what is in the feed they are feeding their animals, and still others simply do not care. It is just a project and who is it going to hurt anyway, right?
I ask that anyone who is concerned with what they eat or feed their family to please research this drug for themselves. Buy locally, get to know your farmer, ask your farmer questions. If it is important for you to know what the animal you are going to consume has been fed, then please build that relationship with your farmer, livestock club member, or abattoir. Do not assume that just because it did not come from Wal-Mart or Kroger that it is safe. Whether you are buying from a local fair or a next door neighbor, just ask, your health may depend on it.