During World Antibiotics Week, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board have shared steps they have each taken to ensure judicious use of antibiotics at pig farms.
According to NPB, the pork industry has embraced USDA and FDA efforts to phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and, in turn, to limit them to treatment and prevention against the spread of disease.
"We understand people are confused about the role of antibiotics in meat production and, unfortunately, recently released reports only add to that confusion," said Director of Producer and Public Health at National Pork Board, Dr. Jennifer Koeman, DVM.
"It's simple – when you produce healthy livestock, you get safe food. The meat you eat is safe due to Food and Drug Administration rules on antibiotics and US Department of Agriculture testing of meat."
The National Pork Board is implementing a three-point plan of action focused on five research priorities, shaping educational outreach to pig farmers and broadly sharing information with the retail and foodservice industries and pork consumers.
On behalf of more than 60,000 pig farmers in the U.S., NPB is:
• Establishing a blue ribbon panel on antibiotics that includes seven experts with specific experience and knowledge in antibiotic practices or consumer marketing, but who are independent of National Pork Board practices.
• Educating America's pig farmers on new FDA rules for the use of medically important antibiotics in feed and water and investing up to $400,000 in education and awareness programs to ensure pig farmers understand and adopt these new guidelines.
• Investing more than $750,000 in new research projects in pig health/welfare, human health/safety, environmental impact and pork quality.
• Sharing the innovation of today's production practices and efforts to responsibly use antibiotics with food chain partners and other important stakeholders.
Also as part of the week, the National Pork Producers Council shared a timeline of events and efforts to ensure best use of antibiotics:
• Developed the Pork Quality Assurance program to address concerns over antibiotic residues
• Established Judicious Use of Antibiotics standards for pork producers to follow.
• Supported establishment in 1996 of the federal National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System to track antibiotic resistance in foodborne bacteria from humans, retail meats and food animals.
• Backed in 2002 USDA's Collaboration in Animal Health and Food Safety Epidemiology pilot program to enhance overall understanding of the epidemiology of antibiotic resistant foodborne bacteria that pose a food-safety risk by monitoring antibiotic use on farm and bacteria on farm and in plants.
• Developed in 2005 the Take Care – Use Antibiotics Responsibly program to provide pork producers and their veterinarians principles and guidelines to use when making antibiotic use decisions. FDA, CDC and veterinarians provided input for the program.
• Incorporated in 2007 the Take Care – Use Antibiotics Responsibly program into the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program. PQA Plus, which includes producer certification and on-farm assessments, has assessment points on veterinary-client-patient relationships and antibiotic use record keeping.
• Supported in 2013 FDA Guidance for Industry #213, which lays out the framework for judicious use of antibiotics in food-animal production. The guidance asks drug manufacturers to give up growth promotion claims for antibiotics that are medically important to human medicine. Using those same antibiotics for treatment, control or prevention of diseases must be under veterinary oversight.
• Collaborated in 2014 with USDA and FDA to develop meaningful antibiotic use data collection. The effort is ongoing.
• Conducted in 2014 outreach to pork producers about FDA Guidance #213 and a revised Veterinary Feed Directive rule. The effort is ongoing.
• Participated in 2015 in the President's National Strategy for Combatting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.
Sources: NPB, NPPC