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Scientific panel advises keeping ban on growth hormones

By Ahmed ElAmin , 18-Jul-2007

New scientific studies do not provide enough evidence for the EU to amend its ban on the use of growth promoting hormones in cattle, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has concluded.

EFSA today issued a report by one of its scientific panels, which concluded that there are no grounds to call for revision of previous risk assessments advising a ban on growth promoting hormones. The EU ban has led to a trade battle with the US, which permits the use of growth hormones. The ban has meant EU processors have had to carefully chose the source of their meat supplies. Growth promoting hormones are used to increase the weight gain of cattle. However, such drugs are not permitted in Europe because of concerns about possible health risks from residues in the meat and other edible parts. Previous scientific studies have linked the eating of red meat with specific hormone-dependent cancers in humans. EFSA was asked by the European Commission to assess any new scientific evidence that emerged since the EU risk assessment in 2002 on natural and synthetic growth promoting hormones (GPH) in cattle. An EFSA panel concluded that whilst more sensitive analytical techniques have been developed to identify and quantify the presence of GPH, these techniques have not been widely used. "Hence there is a lack of data on the type and amount of GPH residues in meat on which to make a quantitative exposure assessment," the report stated. The panel then concluded: "Consequently it is not possible to assess the significance of the large scale use of hormones in relation to many epidemiological studies that indicate a correlation between eating red meat and certain hormone-dependent cancers." The EFSA panel also concluded that new data published since 2002 confirm and extend the understanding of the effects of GPHs. "However, these new data available to EFSA do not provide any quantitative information that would change the understanding of the possible risks to human health associated with residues of GPH substances in meat and meat products," the panel stated. "Consequently the panel concluded that there are no grounds to call for revision of the previous risk assessments. The new data indicated an association between the large-scale beef cattle production using hormones, and undesirable effects in wild fish species living in rivers that are exposed to waste water originating from these farms, the panel noted in the report. The full text of the opinion is available on the EFSA website at: www.efsa.europa.eu/en/science/contam/contam_opinions/ej510_hormone.html

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