(NAFB)--The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working with USDA and Merck and Company to collect information about Zilmax - a cattle feed additive - to determine if it is unsafe. Merck and Company has temporarily suspended Zilmax sales in the U.S. and Canada - and Tyson Foods announced earlier this month it would stop accepting beef from cattle fed Zilmax - after observing animals arriving at slaughter facilities having trouble walking or moving. Tyson says its rejection of Zilmax-fed cattle is based solely on animal welfare - not food safety - and that the company had no idea what was causing the animals’ behavior - but animal health experts suggested the use of Zilmax as a possible cause.
The cattle industry - however - is wondering how this will affect beef markets - since Zilmax has been proven to boost carcass weights and lean-meat yield. In its livestock, dairy and poultry outlook report last week - USDA suggested impacts on beef supplies could be reduced if feeders switched to a different additive - Optaflexx - and lower corn prices allowed feeders to feed cattle heavier weights. However - some analysts estimate a switch from Zilmax to Optaflexx could reduce carcass weights by six to eight-pounds. Last year - average fed-cattle carcass weights increased nearly 19-pounds compared to 2011 - which correlates with the adoption of beta agonists - such as Zilmax.
FDA has received a very small number of reports of lameness or lying down in cattle fed Zilmax - according to Reuters - and it will review additional information about the additive - then notifying Merck and the public if it is found to be a safety concern.