Pork may be the other white meat — but it’s carrying around a deep, dark secret you’re not supposed to know about.
Every time you bite into a ham sandwich or a slice of crisp bacon, you may be getting a mouthful of a dangerous asthma drug that’s never been proven safe for humans.
It’s called ractopamine, and the pork industry is loading pigs up with it by the ton. It’s banned in most of the world and has been linked to everything from heart damage to birth defects.
But one small organic farmer is helping to spread the word about how this dangerous drug is in many of the pork products we eat every day. And we’re learning how much our lives are really worth to the pork industry.
About two measly bucks.
These little piggies have to stay homeIf the pork industry had its way, you never would have known about all the ractopamine in your pork chops and sausages. But David Maren, a small organic farmer from Virginia, had other ideas.
He recently won a public fight with the USDA to label his pork as “ractopamine free” — and that got a lot of people (and reporters) asking new questions about this risky med.
You see, farmers have been force-feeding ractopamine, an asthma drug intended for animals, into pigs since the FDA first approved it 16 years ago. That’s despite the fact that its effect on humans — you know, those of us who end up eating this stuff — has never been studied.
In fact, the label on Eli Lilly’s ractopamine product says in big, bold letters, “NOT FOR HUMAN USE.”
So why is this stuff being used in our food? Well, it turns out the drug fattens up pigs enough that they can be sold for a whopping $2 extra per head.
That’s right — the pork industry sold you out for the price of a cheap cup of coffee.
And while, as I said, we still don’t fully understand the risks of ractopamine in humans, it’s been linked to birth defects and it looks like it can produce the same side effects these poor pigs experience. I’m talking about irregular heartbeats, tremors and high blood pressure.
That’s why scientists — except the ones who work for our government, apparently — say you shouldn’t come within a mile of this stuff if you have a heart condition.
Ractopamine is considered so dangerous that 160 countries around the world have rejected it for pork. And Russia and China refuse to import our pork over it.
That’s right, China! The same country that was caught selling counterfeit baby formula thinks our pork is unfit to feed its people.
So how much of this stuff are we all eating? Unfortunately, a lot more than you might think.
When Consumer Reports did some testing, it found detectable levels of ractopamine in around 20 percent of pork samples. That means that if you feed pork chops to a family of five, odds are at least one person is going to end up eating pig drugs.
Believe it or not, that 20 percent contamination is still less than the maximum allowable levels of ractopamine that the FDA permits in our food. But it’s clear that the only safe amount of this stuff is zero.
The best way to keep ractopamine out of your diet is to only buy organic pork raised by farmers that aren’t drugging their pigs. That means swearing off those mass-produced ham steaks, sausage links and cold cuts you’ll find all over your local supermarket.
But at least this way you’ll be comfortable bringing home the bacon — without having to worry about what’s inside it.
“A muscle drug for pigs comes out of the shadows” Dan Charles, August 14, 2015, NPR, npr.org
“Will ractopamine be the next ‘pink slime’?” Dr. Richard Raymond, August 24, 2015, Meatingplace, meatingplace.com
“Ractopamine Fact Sheet” Food & Water Watch, foodandwaterwatch.org