FSA Press Release, 6 July 2006
A report examining the use of growth hormones in food-producing animals, such as cattle, has been published by the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC).
Growth hormones make livestock gain weight more quickly on less feed and can decrease the amount of fat in meat. They are commonly used in the USA but are banned from use in the European Union because of the difficulties in determining safe levels of growth hormone residues in meat.
In 2002, the VPC, which advises Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Health Ministers and the FSA, was asked to re-examine this issue and to advise the European Commission on whether the science justifies the ban. An expert group examined a range of studies on the issue.
Although the VPC report concludes that there isn't a scientific justification for a generic ban, it acknowledges that there are some gaps in the evidence.
The FSA is in broad agreement with the conclusions of the report. However, as a result of the gaps in evidence, the Agency is in favour of a precautionary approach.
There is no indication that the generic EU ban is to be lifted, but should there be any prospect of lifting it, the Agency would call for a case-by-case risk assessment of each hormone before it could be granted authorisation.