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Groups take FDA to court over New Drug Combos for Farm Animals

PHOTO: Three groups are suing the FDA over their approval of new combinations of growth-enhancing drugs to be administered to millions of animals raised for food, including cows. Photo courtesy Humane Society of the United States.
PHOTO: Three groups are suing the FDA over their approval of new combinations of growth-enhancing drugs to be administered to millions of animals raised for food, including cows. Photo courtesy Humane Society of the United States.
November 10, 2014

BOSTON - Pharmaceuticals....it's what's for dinner. And groups in the U.S. are suing the federal government over it. The Humane Society of the U.S (HSUS), the United Farm Workers of America and the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in San Francisco over a new "cocktail" of growth enhancing drugs and antibiotics.

Hannah Connor, a HSUS staff attorney, says it's fed to millions of pigs, turkeys and cows. She says they filed the lawsuit over the Food and Drug Administration's failure to investigate the long-term effects of the drugs.

"They need to take a really hard look and make sure when approving these varieties of drugs that have huge impacts, not only to the environment, but also to animals and to workers and to human health, that they really need to do a meaningful review," says Connor.

According to the Humane Society, the FDA has never prepared an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment on the combined effects of the drugs. The lawsuit asks the court to set aside the FDA's approval of the drugs until the agency performs a review - which they say is required under federal law. The FDA says it doesn't comment on pending litigation.

At the center of the lawsuit is the drug ractopamine as well as combinations of this drug with antibiotics, growth hormones and steroids - many of which have been banned in other countries such as China and Russia. Eli Lily & Company, a leading producer of ractopamine, says it's safe and effective, with no confirmed human-health effects. Conner says studies conducted in the U.S. regarding the drugs are troubling.

"What they actually showed was some real concern, especially when the drug is absorbed directly by a human," says Connor.

She adds, the overuse of antibiotics for animals can cause them to become ineffective in humans. She's also concerned about the vast amount of animal waste from large-scale farms that can leach into water and soil, affecting wildlife.

Monique Coppola/Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA