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July 18, 1980

Battles continue over DES use in fattening cattle

JAMA. 1980;244(3):228. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310030010005

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Federal investigators are uncovering widespread disregard of the Food and Drug Administration's ban on use of diethylstilbestrol (DES) to help slaughter animals gain weight (JAMA [MEDICAL NEWS] 242:1010, 1979). In the meantime, alternative compounds for this purpose are under study.

The FDA officials say the illegal use of DES so far involves more than 420,000 cattle, some 30,000 of which already have been slaughtered. Some violators may be prosecuted, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is increasing surveillance to prevent further violations. The FDA and the USDA contend that "DES is a known carcinogen in both animals and humans" and that "DES residues have been found in animals intended for human food."

All this results from an FDA decision of about a year ago in which the agency declared the following:

  • Effective July 13, 1979, DES was not to be manufactured or shipped. (Some manufacturers since have filed suit,