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By P.J. Huffstutter
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Cargill Inc, the United State's third-largest meat producer, said more testing needs to be done on Zilmax and the last cattle fed with the feed additive will be out of its production supply by the end of September.
Zilmax became the focus of attention in the livestock industry after Tyson Foods Inc said on August 7 that it will stop buying Zilmax-fed cattle for slaughter beginning next month.
Tyson, the biggest U.S. meat processor, said it was concerned about Zilmax potentially causing health or behavioral problems for some cattle.
Merck's Animal Health unit announced on August 16 that it would halt U.S. and Canadian sales of Zilmax, pending additional company research and review.
"While Cargill has not linked Zilmax to any specific incidents involving animal well-being, the company does believe more research is necessary to answer recently raised questions regarding the use of this product," the company said in a statement posted on its website.
Zilmax is part of a family of drugs called beta-agonists, a class of non-hormone growth promoters that have been deemed safe for animals and humans by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Such products are fed to cattle in the weeks prior to slaughter to increase weight by as much as 30 pounds of lean meat.
(Reporting By P.J. Huffstutter; editing by Andrew Hay)