China halts beef shipments from Colorado over banned RACTOPAMINE

China has halted beef imports from the U.S., in particular those coming from a processing plant owned by the Brazilian company JBS SA in Colorado, over traces of the banned drug ractopamine.

ZeroHedge reported, citing Bloomberg News, that beef shipments coming from JBS’ Greeley, Colorado plant are the only ones affected by the suspension. The suspension notice was first posted on the website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

“The move from China is a blow to JBS beef operations in the U.S., at a time when scarce cattle supplies have sent costs surging and eroded beef producers’ profits,” Bloomberg News wrote. Meanwhile, JBS – which is based in Brazil’s Sao Paulo state – issued a statement saying it is “working diligently with U.S. and Chinese authorities to resolve the situation as soon as possible.”

According to Bloomberg News, ractopamine detected in the China-bound beef shipments “is used by livestock producers to boost muscle growth and improve feed efficiency in pigs and beef cattle.” Despite the feed additive being banned in several countries, U.S. authorities deem meat from ractopamine-fed animals safe for human consumption.

In 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of ractopamine for farm animals. But ten years later in 2009, the European Union banned the drug after finding data that didn’t support a conclusion that ractopamine was safe for humans.

Animals are often given ractopamine during their finals weeks of life. But this comes with a risk, as they face an increased likelihood of experiencing painful injury and extreme stress.

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Evidence, including that within the FDA’s files, also links ractopamine to human heart and respiratory issues in meat consumers and farm workers, increased risk of pathogen contagion and intensified environmental pollution through seepage and runoff to ground and surface waters.

Concerned groups sue FDA, seek to make agency reconsider its stance on ractopamine

Major food safety, environmental and animal rights groups have taken the FDA to court through a lawsuit, claiming that the agency has been turning a blind eye to requests for a review for ractopamine. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) are just two of the several plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. (Related: Groups take FDA to court over its inaction toward banned livestock drug RACTOPAMINE.)

The lawsuit seeks to force the FDA to reconsider its approval of ractopamine. According to the plaintiffs, the additive is putting human health at risk. It cited a study of ractopamine’s impacts on human health, which was discontinued after it was found that low doses administered to patients increased heart rate significantly.

“For years the FDA has had evidence of the dire effects ractopamine has on animals physically and mentally but has refused to take action – risking the safety of public health and the environment,” says ALDF managing attorney Daniel Waltz. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund urges the FDA to reduce allowable ractopamine levels — or withdraw the drug’s approval all together — instead of allowing the industrial animal agriculture industry to dictate what is safe.”

“We’re suing the FDA because the agency has dragged its feet for years while factory farms have continued using this dangerous animal drug,” says Hannah Connor, environmental health deputy director at the CBD. “Until the FDA can prove ractopamine is completely safe, the best solution is to act urgently to better protect human health, animals and the environment by granting these petitions.”

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