Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle Revisited: The Meat Industry and Feed Additives

With the previous scares of tainted meat in the past, now Americans have to be concerned with perhaps a greater threat — feed additives. Although most are approved the the United States Food and Drug Administration, in other parts of the world, they are a bit more hesitant.  Since the United States is exporting more meat to other countries, the use of feed additives to keep the pigs and other livestock healthy and lean are now a much more considerable health threat worldwide.  China and some of the European Union are halting import of American pork because of feed additives, specifically ractopamine hydrochloride (otherwise known as paylean). Ractopamine hydrochloride, or paylean, has been banned from the European Union and some of southeast Asia citing its effects on human health.  While Americans may think they may have escaped The Jungle with assurance from the U.S. government, we could be possibly farther from the truth.  Again, the meat industry is impacting American health, but this time with more subtlety.

Feed additives are generally concentrated product that provides a particular effect.  For humans, a vitamin would be deemed a feed additive.  According to the European Union, there are five kinds of feed additives for livestock: technological additives, sensory additives, nutritional additives, zootechnical additives and lastly, coccidiostats and histomonostats.  Technological additives impact the additive directly by impacting its shelf life and handling characteristics.  Sensory additives affect the appetite by providing flavors or fragrances.  Nutritional additives provide nutritional benefits in the feed.  Zootechnical additives impact the utilization of the nutrients gained from feed.  Lastly, coccidiostats and histomonostats affect the intestinal health of poultry and be deemed as antibiotics.

In swine, ractopamine hydrochloride, or paylean, affects swine by increasing fat-lean growth and lean mass in general.  Ractopamine hydrochloride has shown to have mutagenic and musculo-skeletal effects and change behavior.  Residues of ractopamine were detected in pork sold from the United States in 2007 and has been banned from some of the European Union and southeast Asia, including China and Taiwan.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there has been no global consensus on the impact of ractopamine on human health.

So think about this, the next time, you drop pork chops onto the grill…now there’s a whole lot of food for thought.