Codex ractopamine MRLs could boost global meat trade - FAO

By Mark Astley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Codex alimentarius

Codex agrees on new maximum limits for ractopamine in cattle and pigs
The Codex Alimentarius Commission has set new maximum limits (MRLs) for ractopamine in pig and cattle tissue in an effort to improve the trade of meat containing the growth substance.

At its Commission meeting, Codex members agreed on the new limits, which will allow no more than 10 micrograms of ractopamine per kilogram (kg) of pig or cattle muscle, 40 micrograms per kg in the livestock’s liver and 90 micrograms per kg in kidneys.

Opinion on the use of ractopamine, which is a feed additive used to promote leanness in animals raised for their meat, is divided. Earlier this year, Taiwan briefly issued a ban on all US beef products over concerns about the country’s use of the substance.

Codex, which is jointly run by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), sets international food safety and quality standards to promote safer and more nutritious food for consumers globally.

The propsosed MRLs were approved by the organisation following a ballot, which saw 69 votes in favour of the proposal, 67 against and seven abstentions.

Divided opinion

“Well we’ve been talking about it for a long time,” ​an FAO source told “Besides the fact that all Codex decisions are aimed at improving the safety of food, we’ve been talking for about ractopamine in meat because some are in favour of it and some aren’t.”

“Opinion is divided between the Americans who use ractopamine in their beef and other meats, and others like the European Union (EU) and China who have banned it.”

“The vote was 69 to 67, it was pretty close. A lot didn’t want it, but others did.”

The decision followed a Codex-commissioned scientific assessment - carried out by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives – which found that the now approved levels of ractopamine residues have no impact on human health.

“A committee of experts ruled that ractopamine was perfectly safe within certain limits,” ​said the FAO source. “This ruling could make it easier for meat containing ractopamine to be traded.”

“Usually this kind of thing ends up before the World Trade Organisation (WTO); they usually settle this type of dispute. Hopefully we’ve managed to avoid that​."

Codex regulations

The agreed MRLs for ractopamine are the latest in a line of new regulations issued by Codex at its Commission meeting in Rome earlier this month.

During the meeting, which ended on 7 July 2012, a number of maximum limits and controls were agreed upon, including one relating to melamine in infant liquid milk.

Codex members agreed on a new maximum limit of 01.5mg/kg for melamine in liquid infant milk.

At the meeting, new limits were agreed relating to aflatoxins in dried figs and outlined a number of production, packaging and distribution controls relating to sliced melon to mollusc.

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