By Maneka Gandhi
Some time ago, I wrote an article about the cocktail
of drugs in meat in India. One of the drugs that I mentioned was Ractopamine.
Ractopamine is a feed additive to promote muscle growth and less fat in animals raised for their meat. It increases the weight inspite of giving 10% less food. Ractopamine (RAC) is fed to an estimated 80% of cattle, pigs and turkeys raised in the United States and in 27 other countries including India. In other countries it is fed to lambs as well.
It is the active ingredient in products known as Paylean for swine and Optaflexx for cattle.
As of 2013, it is banned in 160 countries including Russia and China. Even in America, under public pressure, the USDA has approved of a new label, “No ractopamine – a beta-agonist growth promotant”, on beef and pork.
It has not been allowed in the 28 member countries of the European Union, based on the 2009 European Food Safety Authority’s opinion on its safety evaluation, which concluded that available data is insufficient to derive a maximum residue limit as a ‘safe residue level for human consumption’.
Only 27 countries allow it.
India is the top user and supplying country in the world – supplying 100% of ractopamine to countries in Eastern Europe, Eastern Asia, and Central America. It is sold in powdered form as a cattle feed, swine and poultry feed additive.
An American law student, who had also majored in biochemistry, had applied for an internship for an organisation that was examining the regulatory approval of ractopamine in the United States. During this process he read my article and he sent the findings of the research organisation to me to see whether I could bring it to the attention of the Government of India. This was it:
In 2014, a group of researchers performed a study of ractopamine. This research group studies addiction to methamphetamine. One of them had noticed the molecular structures of meth and ractopamine were very similar. Their work found that ractopamine activates a cell receptor called TAAR1, which is one of the primary receptors of meth.
Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Its street names are blue, crystal, ice, meth, and speed. People take it by smoking, swallowing pills, snorting and injecting powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol.
Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical, dopamine, in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviours. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine, in reward areas of the brain, makes the user want to repeat the experience.
Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, faster breathing, rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure and body temperature. Methamphetamine use can also alter judgment and decision-making, leading to risky behaviour. Its long term effects impair thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering, extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), intense itching, skin sores from scratching, anxiety, changes in brain structure and function, with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning, confusion, memory loss, sleeping problems, violent behaviour, paranoia and hallucinations.
A recent study suggests that people, who once used methamphetamine, have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the nerves that affects movement. A methamphetamine overdose often leads to a stroke, heart attack, or organ problems. Methamphetamine is highly addictive.
Why am telling you about meth?
Because ractopamine does the same thing.
According to a study done in 2014, by Liu, Grandy and Janowsky of Knight Cardiovascular Institute, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience(AJ), and The Methamphetamine Abuse Research Center, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, and printed in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Ractopamine (RAC) is a full agonist of the Trace Amine-Associated Receptor (TAAR1). When used as a food additive, ractopamine, added to feed, is distributed by the blood to the muscle tissues, where it serves as a full agonist.
The scientists concluded that: “Since TAAR1-mediated signalling can influence cardiovascular tone and behavior in animal models, these findings should stimulate future studies to characterize the pharmacological, physiological, and behavioral actions of RAC in humans exposed to this drug. The results of such an analysis are likely to be of interest to those concerned about animal welfare, the meat-eating public, the scientific community, and policymakers.”
Taar1 is also a receptor for methamphetamine. These two research papers conclude that methamphetamine is an agonist for TAAR1
https://www.ncbi. nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/28919515
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8490/020342 be97e 31ea82aa 58ea1880b4f5f12cb.pdf
What is a cell receptor? What is an agonist?
When a drug is taken, we expect it to do what it claims to do. But how does the ibuprofen pill turn off your headache? Or the sleeping pill help you to sleep?
Drug processes are about receptors, and the molecules that activate them. Receptors are large protein molecules embedded in the cell wall, or membrane. They receive chemical information from other molecules – such as drugs – outside the cell. These outside molecules bind to receptors on the cell, activating them and generating a biochemical, or electric, signal inside the cell. This signal then makes the cell do certain things, such as making us feel dizzyor happy.
Those molecules that bind to specific receptors and cause the cell to become more active are called agonists.
TAAR1 is Trace Amine Associated Receptor. It affects the nervous and immune system functions. TAAR1 is a high-affinity receptor for amphetamine, dopamine, methamphetamine.
What are the effects on animals after being fed ractopamine? In pigs, ractopamine causes hyperactivity, tremors in the limbs, an increase in the heart rate and broken limbs. Colorado University Professor of Animal Science, Temple Grandin, describes the effects of ractopamine on cattle with stiff, sore, and lame limbs, and increased heat stress. Other effects include restlessness, agitation, excessive oral-facial movements, and aggressive behaviour. In a study published in the Journal of Animal Science, when scientists studied the effects of ractopamine in pigs over a four week period, they found that pigs had higher heart rates and, higher catecholamine (a hormone produced during times of stress). USDA meat inspectors found that ractopamine increased the number of lame pigs. USDA asked for drug manufacturers to add a warning label to ractopamine in 2002.
Ractopamine has significant known health impacts on animals. It effects include toxicity and other exposure risks, such as behavioural changes and cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, reproductive, and endocrine problems.
The metabolic reaction of ractopamine hydrochloride is similar in pigs and cattle, laboratory animals, and humans. It is very possible that any consumption by humans of the meat of animals that consumed ractopamine may result in such clinical effects as tachycardia and other heart rate increases, tremor, headache, muscle spasm, or high arterial blood pressure. Consumption of products that contain ractopamine residues is not advisable for persons with cardiovascular diseases.
Data from the European Food Safety Authority indicates that ractopamine causes elevated heart rates, and heart-pounding sensations, in humans. Other examples of health problems include information from the Sichuan Pork Trade Chamber of Commerce in China, which estimates that between 1998 and 2010, 1,700 people were poisoned from eating pork containing ractopamine.
The side-effects of ractopamine, on both animals and humans (increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, loss of bone density, cardiomyopathy, etc.), all match those of meth.
Would you want to be a meth addict? Do you want your child to be one? What could be the reason for the huge increase in heart disease, attacks and strokes? Could it be the drug being fed to the animals you eat?
(To join the animal welfare movement contact firstname.lastname@example.org,www. peopleforanimalsindia.org)