Kitchen Think: Russia, China and EU All Ban This Drug… Why Don’t We?


Image-by-EWGThink about this a moment.

A few days ago, Russia banned imports of U.S. pork and beef because the meats may contain the feed additive ractopamine. That’s the same additive banned in China, Taiwan and the European Union.

Ractopamine is used to develop lean muscle in livestock… pigs that are fed the additive during the last weeks of their lives produce an average of 10% more meat and have less fat. Between 60% and 80% of the pigs in this country are given the additive.

But since it’s been in use, the drug maker (Eli Lilly) has received hundreds of reports from vets and farmers about pigs that became sick or lame because of the additive. The situation is serious enough that the Food and Drug Administration now requires the drug to carry a warning label when it’s dispensed.

Thirteen years ago, the FDA declared ractopamine safe for livestock… Really? Ractopamine mimics stress hormones, making a pig’s heart beat faster and relaxing its blood vessels. Ractopamine hasn’t been proposed for human use, but somehow, I have to believe that these additives find their way into our bodies if we’re eating livestock that’s been fed the drug.

There’s something unsettling about the fact that other countries (including China, which has a history of goosing food with illegal substances) have taken a stand on ractopamine. It makes me wonder, once again, if the FDA is looking out for big business or us.

Thankfully, if you’re concerned enough about this, some American food companies are avoiding ractopamine altogether… like Whole Foods Markets and Chipotle Restaurants.

But what about regular grocery stores where discount prices fuel the way we shop? Mama’s always preaching about reading labels and being informed BEFORE you buy.

Ractopamine is one of the BIG reasons why.


Kitchen Think: This Week’s Food News You Need To Know


The big business of food made a lot of news this week… what with Dow Chemical’s Agent Orange corn and Burger King’s whopper of an announcement.

Now, while you finish your Nutella sandwich I’ll share the rest of the headlines.

Yesterday, the Obama Administration, bowing to pressure from ag groups, withdrew a proposal to restrict child labor on farms. The proposal would have banned kids from working in feed lots, grain bins and stockyards as well as from using power-driven equipment.

Dow calls the corn “Enlist.” But critics have labeled it Agent Orange corn because it’s resistant to the herbicide that was an ingredient in Agent Orange, and could pose a serious health threat (think cancer) to us as well as the environment.

I stopped eating pig a few months ago after I took a pig butchering class and became more aware of how factory-farmed pigs are raised. Well Burger King says “No more!” This week the chain announced that all of its pork and eggs will come from cage-free pigs and chickens. Wow. Someone is actually listening.

The government reported a new case of mad cow disease this week (the first in the U.S. in six years). Was finding it a lucky break… or are their methods for discovering diseased animals actually getting better?

We’ve never been a big Nutella-eating household, what with Sistie’s nut allergy and all. But some mothers I know slather it on everything, believing it is a healthy, “good for you” kind of food. Well, the makers of  Nutella got spanked this week for being just a tiny bit deceptive about their product.

Finally, beautiful ruminations on chili powder, paprika, chorizo and working hard in the food industry in David Dominguez’ poem “Oxtail Stew.” Have a great weekend!






I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: