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Hormones in meat: different approaches in the EU and in the USA

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The use of hormonal active growth promoters (“hormones”) in farm animals can increase the production of veal and beef significantly up to 15%. However, in the different parts of the world the regulation regarding the use of such hormones differs sharply. In the European Union there exists a total ban on such use in contrast to the United States of America where the use of some hormones is authorized under strict conditions. An overview is given of the different opposing aspects and their consequences are discussed. It has to be concluded that in some EU Member States an extented black market exists. For the USA no experimental evidence is available for such a black market. In the EU the number of ascertained different illegal “hormones” ranges between about 35 and 55. In the USA the number of legal hormones in total is six. The levels of hormone residues found in beef originating from the USA are in the fast majority of cases below the Maximum Residue Limit as recommended by the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee of Food Additives. No comparable experimental data are available for the EU. Finally other food commodities have to be taken into account to assess potential risks of the dietary intake of “hormones”. Eggs, example given, contribute more to the dietary intake of estradiol than beef, whether the animal is legally treated with hormones or not.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM/ARO), Bilthoven, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2001-07-01

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