Oct 1, 2018

Banned or severely restricted drugs appearing in the U.S. meat supply more often than was previously known.

ConsumerReports: Ketamine, a hallucinogenic party drug and
experimental antidepressant. Phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory
deemed too risky for human use. Chloramphenicol, a powerful antibiotic
linked to potentially deadly anemia.

All these drugs are prohibited in beef, poultry, and pork consumed in
the U.S. Yet government data obtained by Consumer Reports suggest that
trace amounts of these and other banned or severely restricted drugs
may appear in the U.S. meat supply more often than was previously

The data—as well as Consumer Reports' review of other government
documents and interviews with farmers, industry experts, government
officials, and medical professionals—raise serious concerns about the
safeguards put in place to protect the U.S. meat supply.

These concerns start with how poultry, cattle, and pigs are raised in
this country. And they include questions about how the federal
government tests meat from these animals, and how it investigates and
enforces potential violations.

The data come from the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and
Inspection Service, the agency tasked with ensuring the safety of the
U.S. meat supply. Emilio Esteban, Ph.D., chief scientist for the FSIS,
says that the results should be discounted because they came from
unconfirmed screening tests.

Indeed, much remains uncertain about the test results. For one, it's
not always clear how the drugs end up in meat, though experts have
ideas, including contaminated feed and intentional misuse. There are
also questions about whether the amounts of drug residue found in the
samples pose risks to humans, in part because little research has been
done to investigate that possibility.

Still, CR's food safety scientists, and other experts we consulted,
say the results are meaningful and concerning.

"These results are credible enough that you would expect the
government to take the warning signs seriously," says James E. Rogers,
Ph.D., who was a microbiologist at the FSIS for 13 years before
becoming director of food safety research and testing at Consumer
Reports. "You would hope the results would prompt the agency to look
into why these drugs may be present, what risks they could pose, and
what could be done to protect consumers."