Use of the animal feed additive ractopamine only benefits meat producers and has negative effects on humans, a British professor who sits on a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) panel said yesterday.
“Ractopamine usage benefits producers, but not consumers. It is bad for animal welfare and has some bad effects on humans,” Donald Broom, a professor at the University of Cambridge’s department of veterinary medicine, concluded in his 30-minute brief at a forum in Taipei.
The forum, co-organized by the legislative caucuses of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Taiwan Solidarity Union and the People First Party, was convened to discuss why the EU bans the additive.
The forum was held on the same day that the legislature discussed amending the Act Governing Food Sanitation (食品衛生管理法), with more than a dozen proposals to ban ractopamine and other beta-agonists.
Broom, who sits on the EFSA’s Panel on Animal Health and Animal Welfare, said people in Europe began to pay attention to animal welfare, including how animals are kept, slaughtered and what they are fed, in the late 1980s and the EU subsequently promulgated several directives on the subject in the 1990s and has continued to re-examine the issues since then.
Europe took a different approach toward animal welfare and food safety from the US, he said. It was not up to food producers to unilaterally decide how the product was produced — consumers were also influential and vocal.
“In Europe, consumers are controlling what happens ... and companies are more aware of the power of consumers ... while in the US, producers still dominate how the product is produced,” he said.
Citing EU research data, Broom said that beta-agonists cause meat to have a higher water content, which effectively penalizes consumers, who for pay more per unit of weight.
Research results also showed that ractopamine use increases human anxiety, he said, adding that animals treated with the drug are more active, more difficult to handle and find it harder to deal with adverse situations.
That is why ractopamine is banned in 160 countries, including EU member states, and clenbuterol, another beta-agonist which is much more persistent in animal carcases, is banned in almost every country, he said.
The EFSA does not accept the maximum daily intake level of 0.1 micrograms per kilogram proposed by the UN’s Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and insists that the calculations should take account of discomfort caused to humans, although the EFSA has yet to determine a safe intake level for humans or how to quantify human discomfort, Broom said.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said his party calls for Taiwan to adopt measures and standards similar to those of Europe to keep out meat products containing ractopamine residues.