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New Drug “Cocktails” for Farm Animals Prompts Lawsuit

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 pigs. 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 pigs. Photo courtesy Humane Society of the United States.
November 10, 2014

NASHUA, N.H. – Pharmaceuticals – they’re what's for dinner.

And three groups in the U.S. are suing the federal government over the drugs.

The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), 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 Humane Society staff attorney, says the cocktail is fed to millions of pigs, turkeys and cows.

She says the three groups filed the lawsuit over what she says is the Federal Drug Administration’s failure to investigate the long-term effects of the drugs.

"We think that they need to take a really hard look and make sure that 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," she stresses.

According to the HSUS, 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 the groups 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 the drug with antibiotics, growth hormones and steroids, many of which have been banned in other countries, including 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," she says.

Connor adds that the overuse of antibiotics for animals can cause the drugs 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 - NH