Highly Toxic An­i­mal Growth Drug Blocked by Codex

Trillions - - Contents -

A ma­jor drug pro­vided for years to stim­u­late mus­cle growth in cat­tle was just blocked for fur­ther use for a sec­ond time in 2018.

That drug is zil­pa­terol hy­drochlo­ride, man­u­fac­tured un­der the trade­name Zil­max® by In­ter­vet, a sub­sidiary of Merck Cor­po­ra­tion. It is what is known as a be­taa­dren­er­gic ag­o­nist (BAA) com­pound. It is pre­scribed for use with cat­tle and other food an­i­mals to cause nutri­ents to move away from ex­cess fat pro­duc­tion, the norm for how they would be han­dled with­out the drug, to help pro­duce more mus­cle meat in cat­tle. That pro­duces a leaner and in the­ory more valu­able an­i­mal. It fur­ther makes it pos­si­ble to in­crease the size of cat­tle far more ef­fi­ciently than with­out the pres­ence of the drug. It also pro­duces more use­ful meat to “har­vest” when slaugh­ter­ing the an­i­mal.

Merck Cor­po­ra­tion’s own web­site pro­mot­ing the drug sings its many val­ues to farm­ers. Ac­cord­ing to its cover in­for­ma­tion, it helps pro­duce more beef from less cat­tle, help­ing make beef more af­ford­able. To as­sist Amer­i­can fam­i­lies where “nearly one in five U.S. fam­i­lies [strug­gle] to put food on the ta­ble”, the avail­abil­ity of more beef at a lower cost is im­por­tant, the site says. When us­ing Zil­max, “farm­ers grow an­other 105 semi-loads of bone­less beef per week”.

Merck doesn't men­tion that even with­out the use of its prod­ucts, con­sump­tion of beef can cause can­cer, heart dis­ease and other se­ri­ous health prob­lems.

The way zil­pa­terol hy­drochlo­ride works is sim­i­lar in some ways to how steroids work. Its an­abolic prop­er­ties help stim­u­late ex­cess mus­cle growth – but at a sig­nif­i­cant toxic cost for the an­i­mals. In a study con­ducted by sci­en­tists at North Dakota State Univer­sity in­volv­ing the use of zil­pa­terol and horses, when three oth­er­wise healthy horses were fed zil­pa­terol in quan­ti­ties sim­i­lar to what might be used for cat­tle, the horses be­gan to see neg­a­tive im­pacts al­most im­me­di­ately. Within only 25 min­utes of con­sum­ing the drug, the horses be­gan show­ing ner­vous­ness, be­gan sweat­ing heav­ily and man­i­fested mus­cle tremors. Within min­utes their heart rates went up. Those mus­cle tremors con­tin­ued for as much as a week and the el­e­vated heart rates lasted up to two weeks be­fore re­turn­ing to a nor­mal level. Fur­ther med­i­cal eval­u­a­tion showed signs of mus­cle dam­age and kid­ney dam­age from the use of the drug. These tests are de­scribed in de­tail in, Wag­ner, Sarah A. et. al., “Ad­verse Ef­fects of Zil­pa­terol Ad­min­is­tra­tion in Horses: Three Cases”, pub­lished in April 2008 is­sue of the Jour­nal of Equine Vet­eri­nary Sci­ence, Vol­ume 28 Is­sue 4, pages 238-243.

It is log­i­cal to as­sume that cat­tle and hu­mans ex­posed to the drug would ex­pe­ri­ence se­ri­ous symp­toms.

Such drugs don’t just stay in the an­i­mals which orig­i­nally re­ceived the med­i­ca­tions. They are also passed through dur­ing the slaugh­ter­ing process and even­tu­ally con­sumed by hu­man be­ings in the end prod­uct as well. Though ex­act re­sults on what hap­pens to hu­mans af­ter­wards has not been stud­ied as thor­oughly as for use with the an­i­mals them­selves, the re­sult is clearly toxic and dan­ger­ous also.

This is far from an iso­lated study, and in­for­ma­tion like this was slowly mak­ing its way through the an­i­mal food pro­duc­tion phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in­dus­try. This is part of why, when the Codex Com­mit­tee on Residues of Vet­eri­nary Drugs met in April 2018 in Chicago, the com­mit­tee soundly blocked ap­proval of the zil­pa­terol medicine as a safe drug in use with an­i­mal pro­duc­tion. The same drug fam­ily came up again at the larger 41st ses­sion of the Codex Ali­men­ta­r­ius Com­mis­sion held in Rome, Italy, from July 2-6, 2018. There it was blocked again for fur­ther dis­tri­bu­tion.

These are pos­i­tive steps in a world dom­i­nated by toxic drugs which un­nec­es­sar­ily hurt an­i­mals and prop­a­gate through­out the food chain. It also shows how sound sci­ence can de­feat even the strong­est lob­by­ing by in­dus­try providers like Merck, when an­i­mal and hu­man safety is at stake.

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