FDA animal growth drugs

Several public interest groups have filed suit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for allegedly withholding records related to its approval of the controversial animal growth drug ractopamine.

Although ractopamine is banned in more than 100 countries, the FDA’s approval of the drug allows it to be used widely in U.S. factory farm operations. This week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit against the agency because of its inability (or unwillingness) to produce data to support its decision to approve the drug.

More than 12 months ago, both organizations “submitted a public records request to the FDA, seeking records on physiological, psychological, and behavioral effects of ractopamine,” according to an ALDF press release. Since that time, “the FDA has produced only outdated data and unreasonably delayed the release of comprehensive records, in violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” continues the release.

Ractopamine is used to speed weight gain among animals raised for food, yet that’s rarely the only side effect. Unintended consequences include toxicity; behavioral changes; and cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, reproductive, and endocrine problems. It is also associated with high stress levels in animals, “downer” or lame animals, hyperactivity, broken limbs, hoof lesions, and death, reports the ALDF. As a result, the European Union, China, Taiwan, and Russia ban or restrict the drug.

“FDA’s illegal delay is deeply troubling. The human health effects of eating meat with traces of these drugs are not well known, and the data we do have is alarming.  The American people have a right to know what they are eating. What does the FDA have to hide?” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety.

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Image: Thomas Bjørkan