Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pork Board reacts to antibiotic resistance story

For years I have been following the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act or PAMTA legislation (H.R. 1549/S. 619) which has been introduced numerous times in various forms and is now stronger than ever. The latest version, introduced by the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY)--(the only microbiologist serving in Congress), would require that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deny any new animal antibiotic drugs unless the federal government is certain the drugs will not contribute to antimicrobial resistance. The bill would also ban the routine, or nontherapeutic,* use of antibiotics in food-producing animals--a widespread practice in animal agriculture.

*According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) an estimated 70 percent of the antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs used in the United States are fed to farm animals for nontherapeutic purposes, including-- growth promotion; and compensation for crowded, unsanitary, and stressful farming and transportation conditions; and unlike human use of antibiotics, these nontherapeutic uses in animals typically do not require a prescription.

The emergence of the animal production system we have today (concentrated animal feeding operations) can be partly attributed to the liberal use of antibiotics. But as many are beginning to realize: more is not always better, efficiencies cause unintended consequences and the industry is not trying to protect only their bottom line.

In response to the recent antibiotic media coverage (a two part series on CBS news with Katie Couric) the Pork Board offered their response:

The National Pork Board recognizes the importance of getting the facts out about this important issue and fostering open, honest dialog about why tools such as antibiotics are a vital way to keep animals healthy and the food supply safe. The top four messages that consumers should know about antibiotic use are:
  • Antibiotics are given strategically – administered when pigs are sick, susceptible or exposed to illness.
  • Using antibiotics strategically ensures that the safest meat in the world ends up on America's dinner tables.
  • Only antibiotics approved by the FDA are used to treat pigs.
  • We have a 20-year history of continuous improvement working with modern farm production to make pork better, healthier and safer to eat

According to a 2006 USDA study over 8 of 10 nursery sites (85.3 percent) and grower/finisher sites (81.2 percent) used antibiotics in feed. This is the SAME study that the Pork Board cited on its FACT's page to argue the findings of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

A majority of the antibiotics approved by FDA for agriculture were done so before resistance was a consideration. They are the same ones used in human medicine and none of them have been reviewed. New drugs are subject resistance discretion. Drug companies are not developing new antibiotics, because the ones we have are and have been so effective. This legislation aims to make humans "better, healthier and safer."


newRDcook said...

Thanks for this post, Ashley. I found the CBS story to be a bit cursory on the issue; they continued to mention 'pending legislation in congress' but then failed to provide viewers with further information. I appreciate learning about the problems, but would have liked to understand possible solutions, too! I appreciate your coverage and hyperlinks to learn more.

Anonymous said...

Union of concerned scientist has web page up proclaiming s510 is s619

could you please contact them about this.

Please Reply

Thanks for flagging this- not sure what is going on with our website, clearly, yes, the header and story don't go- I'll alert our web person ASAP.

Ashley Colpaart said...

The S. 510 is the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

They have the correct bills for PAMTA.

Thank you for your comment and concern.