Fear-Mongers Take Aim at Ractopamine, Could Disrupt Export Markets

Never underestimate the power of a freaked-out consumer to impact your bottom line. Under the right circumstances, your export market to a particular country could be gone overnight, for example. Today Reuters reports that Russia is threatening to stop all imports of beef and pork from the United States unless the meat can be tested and certified as being free of ractopamine. It is terrifying to realize that one crazy misrepresentation of your product can have drastic implications for an industry. And so the fallout continues from the recent Consumer Reports magazine article, entitled, “What’s in the pork?” seeking to create a stir about ractopamine use.

Never underestimate the power of a freaked-out consumer to impact your bottom line. Under the right circumstances, your export market to a particular country could be gone overnight, for example. Today Reuters reports that Russia is threatening to stop all imports of beef and pork from the United States unless the meat can be tested and certified as being free of ractopamine.  It is terrifying to realize that one crazy misrepresentation of your product can have drastic implications for an industry. And so the fallout continues from the recent Consumer Reports magazine article, entitled, “What’s in the pork?” seeking to create a stir about ractopamine use.


In spite of efforts by credible sources such as veterinarians, medical doctors and meat scientists to point out that the claims made in the article amount to junk science, the damage has already been done.  The U.S. Meat Export Federation says that since the U.S. Department of Agriculture has no testing and certification program currently in place for ractopamine, the Russian demands could effectively stop our country’s exports of pork and beef to that country by tomorrow.

Now remember, all of the pork samples tested by Consumer Reports had well-below the allowable limit of ractopamine according to both international guidelines and U.S.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules.  There’s an obvious trend toward ignoring sound science, and producers should be both vocal and concerned.  Consider the example of antibiotic use. During a conference in Kansas this week, Mike Appley, a professor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University, predicted that it is highly likely that the FDA will be moving to take needed antibiotics away from farmers based on consumer perceptions alone and in spite of legitimate science that justifies the product’s use

Yet another story reported by Food Safety News details how a lawsuit was filed against FDA this week contending the agency withheld data regarding the sale of antibiotics used in food animal production. A group called the Government Accountability Project (GAP) wants more information released about drug company sales of antibiotics for animal use. According to one of the people pursuing the lawsuit, obtaining the data “will help public health researchers decipher how the industry’s antibiotic use erodes the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs.” Do you see any particular agenda there?

It is important to point out that ractopamine is not an antibiotic. But just what is it? According to Jeff Simmons, president, Elanco Animal Health, ractopamine hydrochloride is a feed ingredient that directs nutrients from fat to lean protein, helping increase the yield of lean meat from pigs and cattle. It is a synthetic organic compound, not an antibiotic nor a steroid hormone. Ractopamine isused in Elanco’s products Paylean for swine andOptaflexx for cattleto improve carcass leanness, increase average daily gain and improve feed efficiency. According to Elanco, 26 regulatory agencies have conducted extensive reviews of ractopamine data, and based on stringent human food safety criteria, have concluded that the feed ingredient is safe for use in swine and cattle production. Ractopamine was first approved for use in 1999 and has since been registered in multiple countries and used in well over 300 million swine worldwide.Those are the facts. 


Do facts matter to consumers anymore?  What do you think? Are you taking steps to educate your friends, neighbors and customers? Leave us a comment by clicking on the comment icon with this article, or email lora.berg@penton.com to let us know what you think about this situation.

Discuss this Blog Entry 28

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 9, 2012

What I think...ha! Ractopamine is safe... - sure, that's exactly the reason it is banned in 160 countries, like whole EU and others! And GMO is safe, rBST is safe... If author tries to protect big business with such article - I could understand this, money is money. But if person really beleives in what's written there - it's really sad.

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Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 9, 2012

Facts do matter and the fact is that farmers and meat packers have earned the distrust of American consumers by continually adulterating their product for no good reason. I grew up on a farm, raised thousands of hogs myself, and love all kinds of meat dishes. Yet this continued adulteration of the meat products I purchase at my local supermarket has caused me to reduce my meat consumption by 90% over the last few years. In short, I consume a diet consisting of mostly vegetables and fruits which is not nearly as tasty as the meat dishes I prefer because the meat industry clearly places a low or no value on my health and the long term effects of their various additives, hormones, and other adulterations on the health of consumers.

Milton Hondrakis (not verified)
on Dec 10, 2012

Hello Lora, I am one of those "freaked out" consumers that you seem to have such contempt for, although i am probably what people like you fear the most...I am an INFORMED consumer.
I don't know what you are complaining about, you live under a protective umbrella of news blackouts about the food industry here in North America. You have a compliant USDA and FDA looking out for your interests, and nary a word in the news media about what is really going on "down on the farm."
Things like GMO's both for humans as well as feeding GMO corn to the animals, using additives that is even banned in CHINA. It will blow over though, not to worry, Lora...a few weeks of fake press outrage, and just like "pink slime" it will all be business as usual, and the freaked out consumers will be once again oblivious to what they are buying...
Yours, Milt

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 10, 2012

Ahem, I also remember when doctors in the 1950's told us that smoking was safe too, Lora. All of your 'facts' are disputed in one article titled:

Would You Like Extra Ractopamine With Your Pork, Sir?


And if Ractopamine weren't enough, how about:

FDA quietly increases allowed radiation doses of meats for human consumption


You 'meat industry' people are real nutters, and whether you realize it or not, you're obtuse and are slowly killing not just us out here, but your own family and friends as well.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 3, 2013

I would like my meet WITHOUT ractopamine please. If your think it is safe and consumers don't have anything against it, just nicely label the meet that does contain it so that us who DON'T want it can avoid it.
Thank you very much.

Anthony (not verified)
on Feb 13, 2013

What's scary is how ignorant the commenters are. They have no basic understanding of genetics, radiation, chemistry or metabolism. Because of this, they are very susceptible to scare tactics. It reminds me of those folks signing a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide. I'm sure they would want that chemical banned from their food too.

Anonymous (not verified)
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the fact that people on commenting on articles like this cite naturalnews as a legitimate source of information should worry everyone.

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