Livestock antibiotic use 'wildly overestimated' by critics

by Staff
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WASHINGTON – Critics of antibiotic use in livestock production overestimate the amount administered to food animals, according to a study conducted by Kansas State Univ.

KSU found in using data from a 2006 US Department of Agriculture swine survey and a 2009 survey of swine veterinarians, approximately 1.6 million lbs. of antibiotics are used annually in pork production for growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention. Meanwhile, a 2001 study titled “Hogging It,” from the Union of Concerned Scientists, charged that 10.3 million lbs. per year are used.

“The UCS report should have been titled ‘Fabricating It,’” said R.C. Hunt, National Pork Producers Council president. “Pork producers do not overuse antibiotics. We work with veterinarians to carefully consider if antibiotics are necessary and which ones to use.”

Published in the March issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, the KSU study found that 2.8 million lbs. of antibiotics were used for growth promotion/nutritional efficiency, disease prevention and disease treatment. This total is 368 percent less than the amount asserted by UCS for just growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention.

The study also belies the claim made by opponents of modern livestock production and some members of Congress – and repeated by much of the media – that 80 percent of all antibiotics sold are used to promote growth in livestock. This figure always has been at best a guess because there is no reliable data on human uses of antibiotics, NPPC relays.

Some groups and lawmakers claim antibiotics use in food animals is leading to treatment failures in people who develop antibiotic-resistant illnesses. As a result, they support legislation to ban the use in livestock of antibiotics that prevent or control diseases and of ones that improve nutritional efficiency. NPPC counters that many peer-reviewed risk assessments have shown a “negligible” risk to human health of antibiotics use in livestock production.

“Pork producers use antibiotics carefully and judiciously to protect public health and the health of their animals and to produce safe food,” Hunt iterated. “To denigrate America’s hog farmers by deliberately peddling misinformation about how they care for their animals is despicable.”

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