Two years ago the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) - the joint FAO/WHO body responsible for international food standards - approved the use of three natural hormones used to promote growth - progesterone, testosterone and estradiol-17ß. They considered it unnecessary to establish Acceptable Daily Intakes and Maximum Residue Limits for the hormones, which are naturally produced by human beings. The CAC did impose Maximum Residue Limits for two synthetic hormones, zeranol and trenbolone actetate, to ensure the safe use of these substances. Other growth promoters, including diethylstilbesterol (DES) have not been approved.
In 1987 an FAO/WHO Expert Committee compared the intake of estradiol-17ß from eating meat to the levels of the hormone produced by the human body. They found that the levels produced daily by the normal consumer were several million times the amount contained in a 500 g piece of meat from an animal treated with the hormone.
The use of hormones improves the efficiency of beef cattle to convert feed into good quality beef. Improved and safe use of food and feed at all levels is required if the world is to meet the food security targets envisaged by the World Food Summit and expressed in the Rome Declaration.