Industry challenges Consumer Reports story

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – Stakeholders in the meat and poultry industry defended producers’ use of antibiotics following another in a series of Consumer Reports articles pointing to antibiotic use in food animals as a contributor to antibiotic resistance in humans.

“The combination of frequent antibiotic use and the conditions the animals are raised in creates a hospitable environment for superbugs to develop and proliferate,” Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports, said.

Betsey Booren, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs for the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), expressed disappointment that “Consumer Reports continues to perpetuate myths about ‘superbugs’ on meat and poultry products.”

“Bacteria develop resistance in nature in response to a variety of threats. Just because bacteria are resistant to one or more antibiotics do not mean they are superbugs and this is a fact that has been affirmed by the US Food and Drug Administration,” Booren said in a statement. “More meaningful information would indicate whether pathogenic bacteria are resistant to certain types of antibiotics, but Consumer Reports has never shared this information publicly.”

The National Pork Producers Council released a statement categorically disagreeing with Consumer Reports that the industry indiscriminately uses antibiotics in meat production. “Furthermore, there is no conclusive scientific evidence linking antibiotics use in food-animal production with antibiotic treatment failures in people,” NPPC added.

“Numerous peer-reviewed risk assessments, including at least one from FDA, have shown a “negligible” risk to human health of antibiotics use in livestock and poultry production. At best, the science on antibiotic resistance is incomplete, and a recent CDC report on the subject focused on overuse of antibiotics in human medicine, mentioning animal use of antibiotics only six times in its 113 pages.”

Booren noted that Consumer Reports’ research actually highlights the meat industry’s food safety record for meat and poultry products.

“The companies that comprise the meat and poultry industry are proud to provide a wide array of safe meat and poultry choices that are produced in various ways — from conventional, to natural to organic — to satisfy the needs and preferences of our customers,” Booren said.
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