Codex approves international standards for ractopamine

WASHINGTON — A U.N. commission has approved an international standard for the veterinary drug ractopamine, a feed additive to promote leanness in pigs.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, which was established by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and its World Health Organization to promote food safety and fair practices in trade, yesterday adopted a science-based standard for ractopamine, a feed ingredient used to promote leanness in pork and beef. It was the fifth time the U.N. body considered setting a maximum residue limit for ractopamine.

The EU and some other European countries ban ractopamine completely, and contributed to the delay in adoption of any Codex standard, as did Taiwan. The EU, China, Taiwan and Thailand currently ban imports of pork from pigs fed ractopamine.

Ractopamine was evaluated and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has been approved for use in 26 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

In the U.S., National Pork Producers Council President R.C. Hunt, a producer from Wilson, N.C., voiced approval for the decision, saying the commission “fulfilled its mandate to base standards and guidelines on science.”

The Codex meeting took place in Rome July 2 -7.

The vote on ractopamine came July 5, as the member countries voted in favor of the adoption of standards for Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) for ractopamine.

Established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization in 1963, the Codex sets international food standards and codes of practice that contribute to the safety of food trade.

The issue of ractopamine has historically caused unnecessary trade disruptions, according to National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Veterinarian Kathy Simmons, who was in Rome for the meetings.

Simmons said ractopamine is recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a safe feed additive, but the lack of international MRL standards caused confusion.

“Hopefully, the Codex decision to move forward with science-based standards will translate into a shift in trade policy for other countries to adopt science based safety standards,” Simmons said.

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