Fellow food lawyer and guest blogger David Jackson is back, this time to put his trade law expertise at your disposal to explain how a notorious feed additive threatens US pork exports. For some perspective on the use of ractopamine, it is banned in China, the country that makes children’s toys out of radioactive lava. Hit it, Dave:

“The long standing debate about the use of pharmaceuticals in animal feed in the United States has gone global according to one recent news story.  This article notes that both China and the EU have banned U.S. meat imports if the animals were treated with ractopamine due to concerns about potential health risks.  Ractopamine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in animal feed, especially for pigs. Materials safety data sheets which accompany the drug however, note that the drugs are not for use in humans.  There are U.S. companies, such as Chipotle and Whole Foods, which also don’t sell meat treated with pharmaceuticals.  Now the global pressure may add fuel to the debate already burning at home.

The import ban is now beginning to hurt the U.S. economy by limiting agricultural exports.  In response, the U.S. government is working internationally to improve access for American meat products by promoting ractopamine in the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), which is in charge of determining international food safety standards. There has been much reluctance to green-light the U.S. approach.  There are both supporters and detractors for Codex approval of ractopamine in pork and other meat products.  If Codex approves ractopamine, the U.S. could mount a stronger challenge to the import ban in the WTO. For U.S. advocates of less pharmaceuticals in livestock raised for food, for now they may find additional support from the rest of the world.”

Farming and foreign policy are inextricable. Instead of changing our laws or agricultural practices to accommodate the market, the official response is to alter the international perception of a controversial drug. Thanks for the run-down, Dave!