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The livestock growth stimulating drug ractopamine, commonly marketed as Paylean and Optaflexx, has dampened U.S. trade relations with Taiwan on U.S. beef and pork exports because of the drug’s presence, which was detected last year.

Taiwan is the 6th largest export market for American beef and pork according to Food Safety News, but testing conducted in early 2011 on meat originating in the U.S.  found low-level trace amounts of ractopamine, leading the country to pull infected meat from stores across the country. Despite the levels of ractopamine being well below U.S. and proposed international standards of 10 ppb (parts per billion), in June of 2011 Taiwan rejected close to 100 tons of frozen U.S. beef and forced the suspension of bacon products at Taiwan Burger King locations for samples that tested in the 1.5-3 ppb range.

Eli Lilly’s Elanco division manufactures ractopamine, which is now approved for use in livestock in 25 countries. The drug is fed to as many as 80 percent of conventionally raised pigs in the U.S. and is considered controversial for its high frequency of illness and related death among pigs—more than any other drug.

Proposed residual ractopamine limits have set off a debate between the U.S., China and the European Union on defining global standards. Proposed international standards would be around 10 ppb and the U.S. currently has a maximum allowable limit of 30 ppb. But concerns over the drug’s safety—both for animals and humans who eat them—have the controversy continuing and contaminated U.S. exports still highly regulated.

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Image: plindberg