FDA allows higher hormone levels in meat

Posted by Christine, October 16, 2011

Susan A. Schneider, Director, LL.M. in Agricultural & Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, Arknsas blogs about the increased allowable levels at aglaw.blogspot.com:

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. §360b) directs the FDA to establish maximum tolerance levels for the use of approved animal drugs given to food-producing animals, with the tolerance level set as the maximum level allowed in the food to be consumed.

While the use of antibiotics in food animal production receives a fair amount of coverage in the news and is the subject of a good deal of discussion, the use of hormones in meat production has not been in the news lately.  I am not sure if this because people assume that hormones are being used safely and accept the use as an appropriate way of decreasing the cost of production; because people simply don’t care; or because people are largely unaware of their use.

In preparing for an upcoming “2011 Food Law Update” presentation at the American Agricultural Law Association conference, I found a Federal Register notice that surprised me.

On September 19, 2011, the FDA dramatically increased the amount of progesterone allowed in beef and lamb.  76 Fed. Reg. 57,907 (Sept. 19, 2011) (to be codified at 21 C.F.R. pt. 556).  This final rule and “technical amendment” was immediately effective.  As noted in the rule, “Progesterone is approved for use in subcutaneous implants used for increased rate of weight gain in suckling beef calves and steers (21 CFR 522.1940) and in vaginal inserts used for management of the estrous cycle in female cattle and ewes (21 CFR 529.1940).”  The new rule applies to the amount of the progesterone that can show up in the meat.

She includes a table comparing previous allowable limits and the increased levels.