AR-News: Hormones in meat
Brucef at peta.org
Fri Jul 4 13:14:13 EDT 2003
Press Release Source: Cancer Prevention Coalition
McDonald's Is Leading the Way, But Hasn't Gone Far Enough Yet, Advises
Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Tuesday July 1, 1:09 pm ET
CHICAGO, July 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Commendably, responding to growing
concerns that the routine use of antibiotics in meat production has
resulted in their decreased effectiveness for treating infectious
diseases, McDonald's Corporation has demanded that its suppliers phase
out antibiotic growth promoters by the end of 2004. This trailblazing
initiative is backed by Burger King, Wendy's, KFC, and by Elanco, the
nation's largest veterinary drug company. However, McDonald's initiative
excludes hormonal growth promoters.
When beef cattle enter feedlots, hormone pellets are implanted under the
ear skin, a process that is repeated at the mid-point of their 100-day
pre-slaughter fattening period. The hormones increase cattle weight,
adding about $80.00 profit per animal.
The commonest hormone in current use is the potent cancer-causing, and
gene-damaging estradiol. Other hormones include progesterone,
testosterone, and their synthetic variants. However, the FDA and USDA
claim that residues of these hormones in meat are within "normal"
levels, and could not possibly induce any harmful effects. However, of
130 million livestock slaughtered annually, few, if any, have been
monitored for residues of estradiol or any other hormone.
In sharp contrast, confidential industry reports to the FDA, obtained
under the Freedom of Information Act, have revealed high hormone
residues in meat under idealized test conditions. Following a single
implant in a steer of Synovex-S, a combination of estradiol and
progesterone, estradiol levels in different meat products were over
20-fold higher than normal. The amount of estradiol in two hamburgers
eaten daily by an 8-year-old boy would increase his hormone residues by
at least 10 percent over very low natural levels.
However, the situation may be much worse in real life. An unpublicized
random USDA survey of 32 large feedlots found that as many as half the
cattle had illegal "misplaced implants" in muscle, rather than under the
ear skin. This would result in very high local concentrations of
hormones, and in meat all over the body. Besides such abusive practice,
accidental implantation of hormone pellets in neck muscle, rather than
under ear skin, is not uncommon and would also result in high residues
These sex hormones, particularly estradiol, are linked ever more closely
to the escalating incidence of reproductive cancers since 1973 -- 54%
for post-menopausal breast cancer, 67% for testicular cancer, and 105%
for prostate cancer. Of particular concern also is the increasing
incidence of premature puberty in young girls, which has been linked to
The endocrine disruptive effects of estrogenic industrial chemicals,
including pesticides, cosmetic ingredients, and food contaminants, are
now under intensive investigation by federal regulatory and health
agencies. But the contamination of meat with residues of the much more
potent estradiol, besides other sex hormones, remains ignored.
Europe has been highly skeptical of U.S. claims on the safety of
hormonal meat, and banned its sale and import since 1989. In 1997, the
U.S. and Canada appealed this ban before the World Trade Organization
(WTO) on the grounds that it was discriminatory trade practice, and not
scientifically justified. The WTO ruled in favor of the appeal on the
narrow and arguable technical grounds that the European Commission (EC)
had not undertaken a formal quantitative "health risk assessment," and
imposed financial penalties on the EC.
The EC then requested a "Scientific Committee" of nine independent
experts, including four from the U.S., to undertake a comprehensive risk
assessment of all growth-promoting hormones. By 1999, the Committee
concluded that the risk to consumers had been clearly established, and
that safe exposure levels could not be identified for any of these
hormones. They further warned that exposure to even small traces in meat
posed carcinogenic, endocrine, and genetic risks, especially for
pre-pubertal children because of their "extremely low level" of
production of sex hormones. In striking contrast, despite the EC's
repeated requests, the U.S. has failed to produce any scientific
information or publications on which they still base their claims of
The EC went further by funding 17 comprehensive studies on hormone
residues in meat. All these, most already published in peer-reviewed
scientific journals, further document the carcinogenic, genetic, and
other risks of hormonal meat.
McDonald's should further strengthen its "Social Responsibility"
campaign by extending concerns on the dangers of growth-promoting
agents, from the antibiotic to the hormonal.
Source: Cancer Prevention Coalition
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