Controversial livestock drug ractopamine hydrochloride is at the center of an international trade dispute, MSNBC reports. The drug is administered to an estimated 60 to 80 percent of pigs raised in the US, as well as other livestock, in order to reduce the animals’ fat content and increase their growth. While the Food and Drug Administration has deemed ractopamine safe for human consumption at low levels, the drug has sickened or killed more pigs than any other livestock drug, leading to international concern over its health implications. Currently, key markets such as the European Union, China, and Taiwan have all banned the use of ractopamine and, as a result, are rejecting some US meat exports. The Obama administration has declared resolving the dispute a top agricultural priority, trade officials say.
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