Materia Medica Malaysiana

January 29, 2007

So what meat is safe?

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:43 am

NST: IPOH: Pigs are not the only farm animals fattened with banned growth boosters. Beef, mutton and duck meat have also been found to contain beta-agonist in tests conducted by the Universiti Sains Malaysia Doping Control Centre (DCC).
The Ministry of Health’s food control division has detected it in beef.
Random tests by the DCC confirm that cattle, goats and poultry have been fed with Salbutamol, the most commonly used beta-agonist.
DCC science officer Mohd Azman Ibrahim told the New Straits Times that about two per cent of over 100 samples received monthly by the laboratory had traces of Salbutamol.
Beef, mutton, and buffalo and duck meat make up 20 per cent of the monthly samples.
“This is worrying as the samples were taken at random. Many more would have gone undetected.
“Since the DCC was set up 10 years ago, things have taken a turn for the worse,” he said.
“Even duck farmers use Salbutamol while those rearing chicken inject their livestock with banned cancer-causing antibiotics such as chloramphenicol and nitrofuran.”
Only one spoonful of Salbutamol is needed for each tonne of animal feed, which made the growth enhancer economically attractive to livestock farmers, Azman said.
A kilogramme of the easily-available Salbutamol costs RM1,500.
“It is easy to smuggle Salbutamol into the country in powder form. It will be difficult for the Customs to restrict it.”
Two other types of beta-agonist, Terbutaline and Clanbuterol, though more effective, were not as widely used due to their high prices, he said.
Although beta-agonist, a drug listed under the Poisons Schedule, was banned in 1996, the ministry acknowledges that farmers use it to produce more marketable lean meat and speed up the growth of pigs.
Dr Abdul Rahim Mohamad, director of the food control division in the Public Health Department, said beta agonist was detected in beef recently.
“Following the findings by the Doping Centre, we will act and start testing other meats sold in the market,” he said.
Dr Rahim said although the ministry conducted random checks, it was crucial for the division to be informed of meat samples containing banned substances.
Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said the ministry had not received an official report on the use of beta-agonist in beef, mutton and duck meat, but he would instruct the ministry’s food division to immediately check on meats sold in the market.
The Veterinary Services Department will also step up inspections on cattle, goats and poultry in response to the DDC findings.
Director-general Datuk Dr Abd Aziz Jamaluddin said the same action taken against pig breeders would be started on other livestock farms.
“We will go hard on those found using the growth enhancer on animal feed,” he added.
The lack of testing on meats, other than pork, worries the Perak Veterinary Services Department, whose deputy director (health) Dr N. Krishnan said it was time random checks were instituted for other animals apart from pigs.
“We have never monitored these farms but maybe something needs to be done,” he said.
Beta-agonist is a bronchodilator traditionally used to dilate airways to relieve shortness of breath in patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Pigs fed with the substance mature 20 days earlier and produce an additional 4kg of lean meat.
In 2004, the Health Ministry said between 70 and 84 per cent of pork contained the drug and a recent check on 656 pig farms nationwide confirmed the figures.
Now, 31 pig farms are under quarantine after their animals were found to have high levels of beta-agonist.
The farmers in Malacca, Selangor, Perak and Penang can only slaughter pigs certified free of the growth enhancer.
So far only four farms, whose quarantine period expired on Jan 14, have applied to the Veterinary Services Department to test their pigs.
Azman warned of the long-term dangers of eating meat containing the banned substance, which includes heart-related diseases, headaches, dizziness, breathing difficulties and palpitations.
“Those who are weak can see their hands trembling shortly after eating tainted meat,” he said.
Now, livestock breeders are only allowed to use ractopamine hydrochloride, known by its trade name Paylean.
Ractopamine hydrochloride is a pharmaceutical product that causes the pig’s metabolism to shift nutrients from fat to muscle growth.
In 1999, Paylean became the first beta-agonist approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in food-producing animals.
Azman said the biggest target in the government’s campaign against the use of beta-agonist remained illegal pig farms.
Dr Krishnan said the lack of punitive measures might be a reason for the rampant abuse of beta-agonist by pig farmers.

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