It sounds alarming: Banned drugs — everything from antibiotics to antidepressants — have been found in beef, poultry, and pork. A new Consumer Reports investigation raises serious questions about how the drugs got there and why federal agencies are not doing more about it.
Food scientists at Consumer Reports analyzed government data from almost 6,000 samples of meat collected over an 11-month period from 2015 to 2016.
What’s explosive is immediately seeing these drugs, which were never approved for use in food animals because they’re highly hazardous, still showing up in the food supply.
Drugs like chloramphenicol, an antibiotic linked to potentially deadly anemia, and ketamine, a hallucinogenic party drug and experimental antidepressant known on the street as Special K. All of them banned or severely restricted, yet trace amounts showed up in meat samples. And no one, including people in the Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration, seems to know exactly how they’re getting into the meat supply.
They should have found out why these drugs are showing up in dozens and dozens of samples of meat and poultry. It can’t just be an accident. Why isn’t the government doing more about it? The chief scientist for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service tells Consumer Reports that essentially the data came from what it calls “unconfirmed screening tests,” and that no further action from the agency is required.
It’s unclear what health effects result from eating meat and poultry containing drug residue. Consumer Reports says you don’t have to eliminate them from your diet, but perhaps think about reducing the amount you eat or make different choices at the market.
Consumer Reports also says that organic and grass-fed meat might contain less drug residue or none at all, because there are stricter regulations on those products, though there’s not enough information to know for sure.