National Pork Board defines antibiotic research and education priorities

New blue ribbon panel to focus on improving consumer and channel partner knowledge

The National Pork Board today announced the seven members of its blue ribbon panel on antibiotics, an outcome of the Pork Checkoff’s stewardship plan first defined in June. The new, third-party panel includes experts with specific experience and knowledge in antibiotic practices or consumer marketing, but who are independent of NPB practices.

The panel’s call to action is to objectively review the status of antibiotic use in the pork industry and advise National Pork Board efforts in prioritizing research and producer education programs. Also, this independent panel will identify opportunities for improvement in current antibiotic practices and offer guidance in how to improve antibiotic stewardship in the pork industry. The panel members are:

  • Mike Apley, D.V.M. and Ph.D., food animal production medicine, Kansas State University
  • Bonnie Buntain, D.V.M. and coordinator, veterinary medical and surgical program, University of Arizona
  • Mike Chaddock, D.V.M. and associate dean, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University
  • Chris Cochran, senior manager, food sustainability, Walmart
  • Jim McCollum, protein purchasing manager, Independent Purchasing Cooperative Inc.
  • Justin Ransom, senior director, quality systems U.S., McDonald’s
  • Steve Solomon, M.D., public health consultant and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s office of antimicrobial resistance

“The critical role antibiotics play in pig farming is one of the most misunderstood facets of food production today,” said Chris Hodges, NPB chief executive officer. “We thank these leaders for their assistance and appreciate their range of expertise. From rigorous scientific study to foodservice and retail management, these experts will help us continue to build consumer trust and confidence in meat production.”

Toward that end, the NPB has hosted meetings with its food chain partners, sharing the innovation of current production practices and efforts to responsibly use antibiotics. Since the U.S. pork industry introduced its new antibiotic stewardship plan in June, meetings have been held with animal health companies, packers and processors, and retail and foodservice leadership.

“We are advancing in antibiotic stewardship, but antibiotics remain a vital part of our ability to address animal welfare and food safety issues,” said Michael Apley, a veterinarian and professor in clinical sciences at Kansas State University. “We can raise some animals without antibiotics, but not all.”

“The science is complicated, but we do know how to improve the use of antibiotics in both human and animal medicine,” said Steven Solomon, M.D., a public health consultant and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s office of antimicrobial resistance. “We need to better translate complex information about antibiotic use for the benefit of the food consumer and the medical community.”

Three-point plan

The NPB has defined 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.

  • Research – Investing $750,000 in new research projects that span five distinct priorities intended to provide data for animal and public health outcomes (pig health/welfare, human health/safety, environmental impact and pork quality).
  • Education – Updating the Pork Quality Assurance Plus farmer certification program in 2016 and investing up to $400,000 in education and awareness programs to ensure pig farmers understand and adopt new Food and Drug Administration rules for the use of medically important antibiotics (to treat human illness) in feed and water.
  • Communications – Gathering industry leaders for meetings on responsible antibiotic use and sharing the U.S. pork industry’s story of continuous improvement with producers and consumer media through outreach, byline articles and advertisements.

“All of these efforts are focused on sharing our story of innovation and excellence in pork production. The bottom line is simple: safe food comes from healthy animals,” said Derrick Sleezer, NPB president and a pig farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. “Our farmers are experts in animal care and sustainable farming. And that expertise is needed to maintain our track record of responsible antibiotic use. Our goal is to protect the health and well-being of people, pigs and the planet.”

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