UN food safety body sets limits on veterinary drug used to feed pigs and cattle

6 July 2012
Codex Alimentarius Commission sets international food safety and quality standards.

The United Nations food standards body has agreed on a set of residue limits in animal tissues for ractopamine, a veterinary drug mostly used to promote leanness in pigs raised for their meat.

“The decision was made after a rigorous process of scientific assessment to ascertain that the proposed levels of residues have no impact on human health,” the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a joint news release about the agreement reached by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

A joint programme of the two UN agencies, the Commission sets international food safety and quality standards to promote safer and more nutritious food for consumers worldwide, with Codex standards serving, in many cases, as a basis for national legislation, and providing food safety benchmarks for international food trade.

According to media reports, there is, so far, no global consensus on the safety of the feed additive, with some countries banning its use. The Commission does not address the authorisation of use of veterinary drugs in food producing animals, but establishes maximum residue levels for such drugs in foods.

In its agreement today, the Commission set the limits for the amount of ractopamine allowed in the tissues of pigs and cattle at 10 micrograms per kilogram of pig or cattle muscle, 40 micrograms per kilogram in liver and 90 micrograms per kilogram of the animals' kidneys.

The limits were approved through a vote by 69 votes for, 67 against, and seven abstentions, after an assessment carried out by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, a group of independent experts convened by FAO.

Some 600 delegates representing Member States and the European Union, as well as a large number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, have been attending the latest session of the 49-year-old Commission, which concludes its gathering on Saturday.

 

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