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Codex Committee Squashes U.S. Attempts to Soften Blows to Vet Drugs
By Katherine Carroll
October 03, 2013
Scott Tips speaking at CCRVDF Working Group meeting
If Americans were relying on the U.S. government delegate to represent them at Codex, then they have been betrayed once again.
Minneapolis turned up the heat for the National Health Federation’s (NHF) arrival for Codex Alimentarius’ 21st session on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods (CCVRDF) during the week of August 24-30, 2013. Held in searing Minnesota with tropical humidity and 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit daily, locals admitted that they’d never experienced such a Summer. Schools cancelled and sidewalk cafes were closed “due to extreme heat,” a timely illustration for the hot topic of veterinary drug residues and their metabolites in food. NHF, your consistent, truthful Voice for health and health freedom at Codex Alimentarius helped expose the U.S.’ pathetic argument repeatedly as pointless regarding their insistence on retaining the widest possible options for veterinary-drug residues in foods. Speaking consistently for health, NHF opposed each of the ten veterinary drugs and recommended a Global ban on their use in animals.
Among other things, the veterinary drugs being reviewed for use or discontinuance of use were Chloramphenicol (a carcinogen potentially leading to aplastic anemia, a precursor to leukemia), Malachite green (a carcinogen that acts genotoxically), Carbadox(growth promoter and antimicrobial agent, another carcinogen that acts genotoxically), Furazolidone, Nitrofural (causes tumors and testicular degeneration via an endocrine-mediated mechanism), Chlorpromazine (Thorazine, tranquilizer and reproductive-system disrupter), Stilbenes (e.g., diethylstilbestrol), Olaquindox, and the Nitroimidazoles (antimicrobial and antiprotozoal agents such as Dimetridazole, Ipronidazole, Metronidazole, and Ronidazole).
Unfortunately, world-trade-prompted greed at the expense of health is rampant at Codex. NHF President Scott Tips had the foresight to move up as early in the decision-making process as we could get by participating in the Physical Working Group (PWG) before the plenary Committee session. He spoke out vehemently, passionately defending our right dozens of times to have access to meat free of residues of drugs designed for animals. NHF demanded a moribund class of veterinary antibiotics and other drugs for Global ban as they are associated with cancer, tumors, leukemia, aplastic anemia, and more, and do little to actually aid the animals who receive them. Even in the United States, all but one of the above-mentioned vet drugs (Carbadox) are banned; however, illogically, the U.S. accepts residue tainted meat as imports.
The outcome of this Codex meeting was unexpectedly positive as the majority of the World reached consensus upon two things:
- There is not enough current data to make an intelligent decision assuring us that these vet drugs will not result in residues of toxicological health concern. Drug manufacturers are not coming forth with fresh studies but are instead withholding current research to maintain the status quo.
- The determination was made that there are no safe levels of antibiotic vet drug residues because maximum residue levels cannot be established due to lack of current data so they are recommended to be banned, erring on the side of safety.
True to form, the U.S. delegation opposed consensus, parroting their impotent argument repeatedly that because there were scientific data gaps (current studies) on these drugs, no one could really say that they were harmful to humans (forget the animals, as only NHF discussed animal welfare here). By attacking the method of decision-making instead of the facts (i.e., considering the residue’s toxicity and lack of recent studies), the U.S. merely succeeded in slowing consensus at Codex against these vet drugs while at the same time strangely ignoring the United States’ own laws against the drugs.
One of the vet drugs debated, Carbadox (which is employed in pigs), is still in use. While the Codex Committee largely opted for discontinuance of Carbadox, the U.S. disagreed, contending that “a 2003 report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) meeting confirmed it as a carcinogen in tissues but couldn’t determine the level that it wouldn’t be carcinogenic.”
Studies report, though, that “Carbadox may induce adverse effects on the adrenal in growing pigs at therapeutic (100 to 150 ppm) and feed-additive doses (50 ppm). Even at lower doses (25 ppm), mild lesions were found. The grade of lesions was positively correlated with the duration of exposure to this growth promoter.” (See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3346391)
Perhaps opening up the potential huge profits by getting dangerous vet drugs back into the U.S. meat supply, in which 9 of its 10 drugs have been discontinued for some time, is a consideration, as the United States once again demonstrated the exact same kind of greed-induced intent that led last year to its and its allies’ shoving the dangerous steroid-like vet drug Ractopamine down the rest of the World’s throats just so farmers could make $3-$4 more per porcine head. “Wealth over health” seems to be the U.S. mantra every time. They argued everything but the real issue: whether vet drug residues and their metabolites are harming us. Ah, but there’s the money to be made . . . .
Brazil wisely noted, with NHF agreement, “No risk management measures should be recommended for substances without sufficient information to conclude whether there is a specific human health risk associated.” This kind of recommendation leaves no other alternative than the best one: a complete Global ban on these dangerous drugs in food-producing animals.
When the issue of Concern Forms (a procedure for Codex members to express their concerns about Vet Drugs) arose, Scott Tips’ perspective as a food-and-drug law specialist attorney fostered a unique critique of the limiting wording proposed for inclusion in the official Codex Procedural Manual. He successfully argued – and had to repeatedly argue so as to preserve its inclusion – particular wording that would ensure that Codex members had more flexibility in raising concerns over vet drugs.
Zilpaterol's proposed addition to the priority list of veterinary drugs for evaluation by JECFA was strongly opposed by the European Union, the NHF, and a number of other delegations. But, in the end, the anticipated debate on a standard for Zilpaterol (marketed as Zilmax) – the most controversial steroid-like vet drug (along with Ractopamine) – was pushed to the next CCRVDF meeting in 2015. Remember, in the United States, doped meat is marketed as “Natural,” so beware. It is FDA and USDA deception at its finest. As with the Ractopamine issue before, the Federation will fight strongly to remove these toxic, steroid-like vet drugs from the Global food supply.
Overall, Chairman Steven Vaughn was a fair and positive force keeping the Committee moving forward to resolution without rancor. Despite a Pharisaical debate literally over every “jot and tittle,” the Global food regulators reached consensus on recommending that the Risk Management Recommendations (RMRs) for the above-mentioned drugs be generally worded as follows (example given for Chloramphenicol):
“In view of the JECFA conclusions on the available scientific information, there is no safe level of residues of chloramphenicol or its metabolites in food that represents an acceptable risk to consumers. For this reason, competent authorities should prevent residues of chloramphenicol in food. This can be accomplished by not using chloramphenicol in food producing animals.”
This is strong wording. Unfortunately, at the insistence of the United States and New Zealand, and over the objections of the European Union and NHF, exceptions to the above wording were made with watered down language about “insufficient data” for the vet drugs Nitrofural, Chlorpromazine, Olaquindox, and the Nitroimidazoles, sending them all on to Step 5/8 out of 8 in the Codex process for approval at the higher-level Commission meeting next year.
In the meantime, if you are a meat eater, NHF recommends consuming only organic meat. Probably for the rest of your life – if you value your health.