Russia will ban U.S. turkey products over concerns about the controversial animal drug ractopamine, the country’s Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) announced this week. The news comes a few days after Russia announced it will block U.S. beef and pork as of Feb. 11 due to a lack of compliance to its zero-tolerance policy for ractopamine residues in meat and poultry products.

A USDA spokesperson said the department is “extremely concerned” with Russia’s recent actions, which jeopardize more than $500 million in U.S. meat exports.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ractopamine as safe— for boosting growth and leanness in pigs in the weeks leading up to slaughter—in 1999 and has since approved the drug for use in cattle and turkeys. More than two dozen other countries, including Canada and Brazil have given the feed additive the green light, but the substance remains prohibited in China, the European Union, and many other countries.

Last summer, the Codex Alimentarius Commission ended a years-long dispute over whether to approve an international standard for maximum residue limits for ractopamine in beef and pork products. The commission approved the standards in an unusually contentious vote, 69-67, but trade disputes over the drug have continued.

The USDA is urging Russia to adopt the Codex standards, which allow for residues at or below 10 parts per billion in muscle meat. The department says it has not received any scientific evidence from Russia that would justify the country’s ban and U.S. officials have offered to host technical consultations on the issue, to no avail.

“We continue to call on Russia to suspend these unjustified measures and restore market access for U.S. beef, pork and turkey,” said a spokesperson. The USDA did not respond to questions about what portion of the beef, pork, and turkey markets utilize the drug.

Russian media outlets reported Thursday that the country’s health officials were not accepting assurances from the United States that ractopamine is safe in meat at very low levels.

“We, as a WTO member, have not received sufficient proof. The proof that has been presented does not satisfy us. It does not stand up to criticism in terms of the methodology and the time over which the drug’s application was analyzed, and it does not answer the question regarding the drug’s accumulation in a human body,” said Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s chief public health officials who heads the government’s consumer watchdog, in an interview with Interfax Thursday.

Onishchenko also pointed out that two U.S. advocacy groups, the Center for Food Safety and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, recently petitioned the FDA to re-evaluate the drug’s implications for human health and animal welfare.

Outside of Russia, China and the EU, which together produce and consume the vast majority of the world’s pork, have been the most outspoken opponents of ractopamine use in meat production.

China has expressed concerns about the higher concentrations of ractopamine residues found in pig organs, which can be part of a traditional Chinese diet, and the EU has argued that the science backing the drug’s safety is flawed.

In 2009, the European Food Safety Authority published a 52-page report strongly criticizing the data and methodology used by Codex to calculate the Acceptable Daily Intake for ractopamine, upon which the ractopamine residue standards are based.

A report last year by the Food and Environment and Reporting Network found that, according to FDA data, more pigs were reported to have experienced adverse effects from ractopamine than any other veterinary drug.

“Pigs suffered from hyperactivity, trembling, broken limbs, inability to walk and death, according to FDA reports released under a Freedom of Information Act request. The FDA, however, says such data do not establish that the drug caused these effects,” read the report.

A handful of studies have linked ractopamine, which is sold commercially as Paylean, to increased aggression and hyperactivity in pigs.

  • Thank you for this informative article…will be sure to share with family and friends.


    • Richard Raymond

      Marge, to be fully informed you need to know that the number of pig deaths prematurely at FSIS inspected slaughter facilities have actually declined by about 50% since ractopamine was approved by the FDA. Death would be the ultimate bad side effect, and it has decreased in incidence. Also the number of fatigued and downer pigs has markedly decreased as selective breeding has helped remove the primary causes for these “side effects”. 

      • Richard, are you suggesting that ractopamine (a drug fed to promote growth) is the cause of reduced premature death in swine? As a consultant for the company that markets ractopamine as “Paylean”, can you shed some light on how this might be the case?

        Also, the decrease in downer pigs is remarkable considering that FDA required ractopamine be labeled, “CAUTION: Pigs fed Paylean are at an increased risk for exhibiting downer pig syndrome (also referred to as “slows”, “subs”, or “suspects”).” 

        I wonder if the reduction in poor health and death would be even more pronounced if the increased risk associated with ractopamine (Paylean) was removed from pig farming…

        • Richard Raymond

          No I am not. The decreased death rates are because of better handling and transportation issues. It is also because of the labeling of Paylean advising farmers on the need for these changes. As I said, the decrease in downers/fatigued pigs is because of selective breeding to remove certain genes that were leading causes of these symptoms. Paylean is but one tool used by American farmers to promote growth and health in their animals that they raise to feed us.

          • Does Paylean fall into the category of tools used to promote health? From what I’ve read, it’s a growth promoter. Not a growth and health promoter.

  • 19Matty36

    I would rather be safe now than sorry later.  Here we go again, involved in a dispute that has, at its heart, the almighty dollar and everyone on the supply side seems to ignore the fact that this product is eaten and potentially could cause health problems for humans.  Why doesn’t the FDA dig deeper instead of taking a defensive stance for the industry’s welfare?  What about protecting people’s lives and health rather than just defending the industry’s stance?  If it were up to me, I wouldn’t allow any type of additive in anything that could ultimately have an impact on the food supply  until that additive is shown to be 99.9% safe for human consumption.    

    • Richard Raymond

      It is 99.9% safe, in fact it is 100% safe. This chemical is a B-Agonist, a chemical related very closely to drugs kids inhale to break asthma attacks and MDs give to pregnant women IV to stop premature labor. If you can get it intravenously or thru an inhaler for an immediate medical effect, then what very little of the B-agonist might be present in the food we eat and slowly digest pales in comparison. 300 million plus pigs supplemented for over ten years and not one adverse human event from consumption. I wish all of our food was this safe.  

      • I thought I posted a comment here, but it doesn’t seem to have made it through.

        The basic gist of my comment was that ractopamine should not be considered 100% safe. Just as overusing an asthma inhaler can be dangerous, so too can being exposed to ractopamine. The controversy here derives from the question of how much ractopamine is dangerous and whether that dose could be delivered through meat consumption. The European Union and Russia (among others) opt to not take the chance that an animal will be improperly drugged and processed and thereby expose the consumer to a overloaded cuts of meat.

        Regardless of the threat to consumers, ractopamine (marketed as Paylean) is a hazardous substance. The FDA has required Paylean to carry the following warning: 

        “WARNING: The active ingredient in Paylean, ractopamine hydrochloride, is a beta-adrenergic agonist. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children. The Paylean 9 formulation (Type A Medicated Article) poses a low dust potential under usual conditions of handling and mixing. When mixing and handling Paylean, use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask. Operators should wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. If accidental eye contact occurs, immediately rinse eyes thoroughly with water. If irritation persists, seek medical attention.”

  • Is there no safety in our food anymore?

  • Oginikwe

    So happy we grow all of our own meat or go without!

    • Richard Raymond

      O, so happy you can do that. Now what about the other 300 million Americans that cannot?

      • Oginikwe


        You mean the 300 million people who are held
        captive by our industrial food system?

        As they wake up and come to the realization
        that the meat in the grocery store is profoundly unhealthy and contaminated,
        they will seek alternatives and when they seek alternatives, new markets will
        arise that are cruelty and chemical-free. 
        That food isn’t found on the global market. 

        For example, BGH, AKA rbST. 
        Thanks to your postings on Food Safety News, I’ve become very interested
        in Elanco because even though I’d followed the saga of BGH since its introduction
        to the dairy market, I’d never heard of Elanco before: I missed when it was
        sold by Monsanto to Elanco, a division of Lilly. 

        In looking at Elanco, I found this article: Lilly
        hopes Elanco unit becomes a cash cow (Indianapolis Business Journal) 5/8/2010:


        The article states: “As Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health,
        ambles to the back corner of a Kroger supermarket in Greenfield, he stops
        halfway between the milk and the cheese.


        On each
        glass door of the milk refrigerators, a multicolored sign stands out sharply
        against the white jugs behind them: “Our farmers pledge not to treat their cows
        with the artificial growth hormone rbST.” The signs, now familiar to shoppers,
        are a direct attack against Elanco—the Greenfield-based maker of rbST.


        But no
        such sign appears amid the blocks, bags and cartons of cheese—meaning those
        products are made with milk from cows given rbST.


        is making a huge bet the cheese will win over the milk. He predicts retailers
        and consumers—especially in emerging markets—will opt for food made cheaper by
        using Elanco’s productivity-enhancing drugs over the pricier organic and
        locally grown products made without them. But, as a hedge, Simmons has Elanco
        developing products to help organic farmers, too.”



        is exactly the type of disingenuous attitude (that is nothing but deceptive0, that turns consumers
        off.  BGH is banned in thirty-one countries,
        including Canada yet I bet many Canadians don’t know that imported BGH bulk milk
        from the US can be used for making foods like yogurt and cheese in their
        country.  So we have this veneer of
        giving the consumer what they want on one hand while practicing deception with
        the other. When consumers figure out what is going on, the backlash is
        substantial as we saw with the “lean finely textured beef” debacle. 


        what about the other 300 million Americans who can’t grow their own?  We’re going to find out in the near
        future.  Either the industry will adapt
        or it won’t, but either way, returning to “real” food is on the rise and will
        most likely continue to do so.

  • Ben Mark

    At least other countries are smart enough to protect their citizens! In USA the drug companies can make money twice. First feed the livestock with all types of drugs and then sell other drugs to the humans to cure from HDHD symptoms and others. A good money making system!

  • ethanspapa

    Some of the side effects listed are aggression. I can hear some Lawyer using it In the turkey salad sandwich  defense. Someone assaults and breaks the law.


    ractopamine is only a small part of a much
    bigger problem from Russia and other countries importing USA

    ractopamine is only a small part of a much bigger
    problem from Russia and other countries importing USA livestock…


    Monday, February 11, 2013

    APHIS USDA Letter to Stakeholders: Trade Accomplishments and failures (BSE,

  • goodgrief

    Can you imagine that Russia cares more about its citizens than we do. Maybe because Russia doesn’t have lobbyists bribing our agencies and politicians with promises of jobs and signing bonuses when they leave their probation period known as public service. This country is so corrupt it is beyond redemption. Our government is ready to poison its citizens to please lobbyists.

  • Pat

    Adding anything to an animals food to make them grow bigger . . shame . . they are only out to make money and don’t care what it does to humans or animals. As for China objecting to it? . . that is a laugh, their poison milk, add drugs to their food . . anything to make a dollar. China needs to knock it off and start taking care for their own people before they say anything about anyone else.