Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hormone Levels in Beef and Lamb: Is Anyone Concerned?

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. §360b) directs the FDA to establish maximum tolerance levels for the use of approved animal drugs given to food-producing animals, with the tolerance level set as the maximum level allowed in the food to be consumed.

While the use of antibiotics in food animal production receives a fair amount of coverage in the news and is the subject of a good deal of discussion, the use of hormones in meat production has not been in the news lately.  I am not sure if this because people assume that hormones are being used safely and accept the use as an appropriate way of decreasing the cost of production; because people simply don't care; or because people are largely unaware of their use.

In preparing for an upcoming "2011 Food Law Update" presentation at the American Agricultural Law Association conference, I found a Federal Register notice that surprised me.

On September 19, 2011, the FDA dramatically increased the amount of progesterone allowed in beef and lamb. 76 Fed. Reg. 57,907 (Sept. 19, 2011) (to be codified at 21 C.F.R. pt. 556). This final rule and "technical amendment" was immediately effective. As noted in the rule, “Progesterone is approved for use in subcutaneous implants used for increased rate of weight gain in suckling beef calves and steers (21 CFR 522.1940) and in vaginal inserts used for management of the estrous cycle in female cattle and ewes (21 CFR 529.1940).” The new rule applies to the amount of the progesterone that can show up in the meat.

I looked to the Code of Federal Regulations for the old standard and made the following chart to show a comparison of the new allowances.

Comparison of Prior and New Allowable Amounts of Progesterone in Meat Cuts for Human Consumption in Parts Per Billion (PPB)
 Prior level — 21 C.F.R. § 556.540New level — 56 Fed. Reg. 57,907
Beef: Muscle35
Beef: Fat1230
Beef: Kidney930
Beef: Liver615
Lamb: Muscle35
Lamb: Fat, Kidney1530

I did a quick web search, and no one seems to have commented about this change. It seems significant to me, and I am curious about what others think.


Blogger Christine Heinrichs said...

Thanks for the heads up on this, Susan. I'll ask around about it at the Society for Environmental Journalists conference in Miami this week. I'll check back with you in November.

10/16/2011 1:01 AM  
Anonymous Lorraine Lewandrowski said...

Why are you checking with environmental journalists? What are their credentials in food science? Shouldn't you ask the people who are experts in meats production, grading, processing, etc? I would recommend Chris Raines at Penn State. Several of the ag colleges have programs and experts in meats.

10/16/2011 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. Are there good studies on the effects in the human body of eating increased levels of hormones in our meats? I'd be very interested in reading some of the concerns people have, and what impact the increases may have.

10/18/2011 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, @ Lorraine: I think its obvious why someone would check with environmental journalists, as they may have credentials on the impact of this adjustment on the environment, as well as awareness of this rule change that they've either written or read about. duh. Meat producers are interested in the effect on meat, which is an important perspective, but the externalities -- like effects on human, environmental, and animals' welfare -- are what is really of concern to most non-meat producers (i.e. consumers who vote with their forks.)

10/18/2011 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Lorraine Lewandrowski said...

Good point, Anonymous. New York State Department of Health had some experts who dealt with impact of environmental contaminants on people when I worked in environmental litigation. We all come at these issues from different perspectives. I also believe people who work in the meat industry would have some useful background knowledge as to why these regulations were changed. Glad you took the time to remind me of some of the experts I have met in the past. However, I don't appreciate your DUH addition. Lorraine

10/19/2011 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Progesterone, while a steroid, is not as much of a concern as much as the more anabolic steroids, estradiol and testosterone. Progesterone functions to prepare and maintain pregancy in female animals. Unless progesterone is conjugated to other proteins like other steroids (estradol benzoate or testosterone cypionate), it's not orally active (i.e. not absorbed). The higher tolerance levels in tissues are fats and kidney are because progesterone is fat soluable and excreted by the kidneys. Don't paint progesterone with a broad brush.

10/19/2011 6:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ack! I wrote this....

1/13/2013 1:31 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

As a transgender woman, progesterone I am SURE is directly related to breast development

1/13/2013 1:32 AM  

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