DES MOINES, IOWA — Responsible use of antibiotics has always been a top priority for America’s pork producers, said the National Pork Board (N.P.B.) in response to recent stories in the media that have triggered more interest in this topic.

“We welcome a fact-based discussion about this issue because we know science tells us we’re doing the right thing for animal health and food safety,” said Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice-president of science and technology for the N.P.B. “Producers care about their animals and the safety of the food they produce. That’s really the bottom line that should be understood by everyone.”

The 21-year history of the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program is proof of the value pork producers place on using antibiotics in a strategic and judicious way, she said. “The Pork Quality Assurance Plus program, started by farmers in 1989, has led the way in reinforcing good on-farm practices that help ensure animals are healthy, well cared for and produce safe food,” she added.

Fostering open, honest dialog about why tools such as antibiotics are vital to keeping animals healthy and the food supply safe is important to get out to the consumers, the N.P.B. said.

The N.P.B. said the top-four messages 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 the safest meat in the world ends up on America's dinner tables.

? Only antibiotics approved by the Food and Drug Administration are used to treat pigs.

? The U.S. pork industry has a 20-year history of continuous improvement working with modern farm production to make pork better, healthier and safer to eat.