If you eat meat in any country in the European Union, or even in China or Russia, you don’t have to worry about getting a dash of ractopamine with your pork or beef. All these nations ban the use of the growth-promoting drug.
But if you eat meat in the United States, buyer beware. Ractopamine may be unsafe for you. The drug is certainly unsafe for pigs and other farm animals dosed with it. It has caused hundreds of thousands of pigs to become lame or unable to walk without intense pain, or die.
Pork producers feed pigs ractopamine during the last few weeks before they are sent to the slaughterhouse. It alters the pigs’ metabolism so that 10 percent more of the food they eat turns into muscle. That translates into faster growth and leaner meat.
Eli Lily & Co’s Elanco Animal Health unit, the leading producer of ractopamine-based livestock drugs, said in a statement to Reuters last year that it remains confident in its products’ safety and the FDA’s approval process. The drug was originally approved by the FDA in 1999.