The EU Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health (SCVPH) confirmed that the use of hormones as growth promoters in cattle poses a potential health risk to consumers, following a review of 17 studies and other recent scientific data.
17 studies were launched by the European Commission, after the WTO questioned the scientific basis of the EU’s ban on meat and products treated with growth-promoting hormones. The studies addressed toxicological aspects, potential abuse and control problems, as well as environmental aspects of six hormones.
Following the completion these studies, the SCVPH was asked to review its previous opinions on the potential risks to human health from hormone residues in bovine meat and meat products. The Committee confirmed the validity of its previous opinions stating that “no amendments to those opinions are justified”. This opinion was not only based on a re-appraisal of the 17 studies but also took into account the scientific evidence available from other relevant sources.
The EU's ban on the use of growth promoting hormones and the prohibition of imported beef treated with hormones is the cause of a long-running trade dispute with the USA and Canada. The US disputes Europe's scientific evidence and allows the use of growth hormones for fattening cattle.
In 1997, the World Trade Organisation judged the EU ban to be illegal and authorised the USA and Canada to impose sanctions worth $117 million a year on EU goods. In an effort to resolve the conflict, the EU promised regularly to evaluate scientific data on hormone use and offered to lower tariffs or raise import quotas on US hormone-free beef exports.
The EU is currently putting in place a new Regulation on feed additives, which includes the phasing out of four antibiotics used in animal feed as growth promotors (see