Sat, Feb 18, 2012 - Page 2 News List

US BEEF CONTROVERSY: INTERVIEW: Ractopamine in beef poses health risk: toxicologist

With the President Ma Ying-jeou administration announcing its reassessment of the viability of increasing US beef imports soon after last month’s presidential election, the first governmental inter-departmental meeting on the issue declared that “ractopamine should be differentiated from other lean meat feed additives.” The announcement caused a public uproar as it was perceived as a “sudden” departure from the common perception of Paylean as a feed additive that promotes the production of lean meat in cattle. In an interview conducted by “Liberty Times” (sister paper of the ”Taipei Times”) staff reporter Jennifer Huang, Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital department of toxicology director Lin Chieh-liang said that Paylean, an additive based on ractopamine, is definitely a lean meat additive, adding that although it is less toxic than others, it could cause side-effects in humans, such as heart palpitations or cardiovascular diseases

Lin Chieh-liang, director of the department of toxicology at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, gestures during an interview with the Liberty Times on Feb. 10.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

Liberty Times: The Council of Agriculture (COA), after chairing the inter-departmental meeting, is alleged to have made an arbitrary statement that ractopamine-based Paylean differs from commonly known lean meat essences. Is Paylean not a kind of lean meat additive?

Lin Chieh-liang (林杰樑): Paylean is definitely a lean meat additive. The effects of the additive are exactly the same as that of other lean-meat promoting drugs, which are to increase lean meat in cattle and pigs and to decrease the amount of excrement to lower overhead costs and maximize economic value. Nobody in the entire world would deny that fact.

While low in toxicity in comparison with clenbuterol and salbutamol, Paylean cannot be said to be completely non-toxic. If [Paylean] is as safe as the government says it is, why is it that only 27 nations, and most of them exporters of farm animals, in the whole world dare use it? [The only explanation] is that its safety [of usage] is still doubted internationally.

Because Paylean causes animals to grow lean meat unnaturally, it must have adverse side-effects. It is possible that it would cause palpitations or induce side-effects including cardiovascular diseases. People with cardiovascular diseases do not even have to ingest a lot of it to be poisoned; [all it takes] is for their heartbeat to accelerate to higher than 100 beats per minute — from the normal 70 to 90 beats per minute — for symptoms to begin to show, or even become fatal.

Currently, 29 countries in the world have clear laws prohibiting the use of Paylean, while other nations, such as Singapore, do not allow the import or use of the additive. These countries have further said that they would only consider importing and using the additive if the WHO or the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) has certified its safety.

LT: Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) and other high-level officials have all been saying that no research has ever showed that anyone has been poisoned by ingesting Paylean-laced meat. It seems that [they are implying] Paylean is safe.

Lin: The EU’s European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released complete and in-depth scientific evaluation reports on Paylean in 2009.

These reports were based on documents and research reports that the US offered to the WHO on the use of Paylean in the US and it also included research — which the EFSA doubted very much — cited by our government officials, saying that six subject cases did not exhibit Paylean-poisoning symptoms.

The EFSA report said that the US’ data, with most of the statistics based on animal test subjects, had a credibility issue. It added that, for safety reasons, evaluations should also be done of human test subjects.

The EFSA also cast doubts on the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) standard of 1 microgram of Paylean per person, based on a study of six test subjects that ingested 5 milligrams of Paylean each, saying that not enough people have been tested to form a basis for setting a standard.

The EFSA further said that of the six test subjects, one had backed out of the experiment after experiencing palpitations upon ingesting Paylean, showing the report lacked credibility.

The EFSA also questioned why the FDA had given the test subjects a lower dosage to determine Paylean’s effects, adding that all six subjects had clean bills of health. The FDA study did not even evaluate high-risk groups with cardiovascular diseases, the EFSA said, adding that the US report would not be able to predict the safety of high-risk groups.

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