Consumer Reports: There Are Banned Drugs in Meat

According to government data recently obtained by Consumer Reports, there are trace amounts of banned drugs in U.S. meat.

The data from the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service included hundreds of samples of chicken, beef, and pork that were destined for grocers, restaurants, hospitals, schools, and other food providers. And while it’s unclear how these drugs end up in meat, experts suspect it’s due to contaminated feed and intentional misuse.

The list of drugs found includes ketamine, a drug used medically as an anesthetic and antidepressant and recreationally as a hallucinogen; phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory considered dangerous for humans; nitroimidazoles, a class of powerful antibacterial drugs; and chloramphenicol, an antibiotic known to cause severe side effects, including potentially fatal anemia.

James E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports and former microbiologist at FSIS, said:
These results are credible enough that you would expect the government to take the warning signs seriously. 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.
Sadly, the agency charged with inspection couldn’t care less about the presence of potentially deadly drugs. In fact, FSIS has gone out of its way to discredit and downplay this shocking report.

This isn’t the first time drugs have been found in U.S. meat. Last year Sanderson Farms—the third-largest chicken producer in the U.S.—was sued by three consumer groups over its claims that its chicken products were “100% natural. The lawsuit accused the poultry producer of false advertising after the USDA detected synthetic drugs and antibiotics in samples of Sanderson Farms chicken products.

The tests also found steroids, pesticides, growth hormones, and ketamine, all of which are either not approved or explicitly banned in chicken production.

It’s blatantly clear that the meat industry doesn’t care about breaking the law, so long as it can keep turning a profit. Animals raised for meat at factory farms are given more than 450 different types of drugs to either grow faster or survive conditions that would otherwise kill them. It should come as no surprise that 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are administered to farmed animals.

But that’s not all. At factory farms, animals are subjected to intense and horrific abuse: gruesome mutilations; cramped confinement and overcrowding; and violent, bloody slaughter. If we treated just one dog or cat the way the meat, dairy, and egg industries treat billions of animals, we’d be behind bars for animal abuse.

You can protect animals and your health by choosing plant-based foods. Get a copy of our free Vegetarian Starter Guide.