Ractopamine, a veterinary drug used to promote leanness in pork and beef, will be issued international trade standards by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a group established by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization's World Health Organization to promote safety in trade.
The decision, made Wednesday, means that American producers will no longer face trade restrictions due to non-science based bans by importing countries on the use of ractopamine. The drug has been used safely in the United States and other countries for 12 years.
The approval comes after five years of Codex Commission discussion about the drug. As a result of the decision, Maximum Residue Levels will be established and trade standards will be developed.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised the decision on Friday.
"Establishment of international standards for veterinary drugs like ractopamine are important since many countries rely on science-based food standards to ensure that the food they are importing is safe," Vilsack said. "U.S. agricultural exporters benefit and consumers worldwide benefit when countries adopt international standards."
The Codex Commission was created in 1963 to set international food standards to ensure safety in food trade. Kathy Simmons, National Cattlemen's Beef Association chief veterinarian, said the Codex standards for ractopamine have caused trade disruptions in the past.
"Standards not based on science create an unnecessarily volatile trading environment for U.S. exporters who are reluctant to ship products to countries with non-science based testing regimes. Hopefully, the Codex decision to move forward with science based standards will translate into a shift in trade policy for other countries to adopt science based safety standards," Simmons said.
And, the decision comes just in time for Russia's admission to the WTO, something the National Pork Producers Council is pleased with.
"U.S. pork producers are very disappointed with the continued opposition to ractopamine for reasons other than scientific ones from several countries, particularly Russia," said NPPC President R.C. Hunt. "That country is set to join the World Trade Organization this year, and the WTO requires member countries to abide by international trade standards.
But, even the decision doesn't solve all problems.
"Given Russia's intransigence on ractopamine, we're concerned about its commitment to WTO principles," Hunt concluded.