On Sunday evening, the CBS News program "60 Minutes" aired a segment,"Is overuse of antibiotics on farms worsening the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria?" During the episode, journalist Lesley Stahl interviewed Washington state epidemiologist Scott Lindquist about a 2015 antibiotic resistant salmonella tied to pigs from Montana farms. She also spoke to Lance Price, a microbiologist at George Washington University, and Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian of the National Pork Producers Council.
However, despite an 80-minute interview with Wagstrom, conducted in October 2019, the NPPC says the show that aired Sunday included less than two minutes of Wagstrom's comments and failed to include critical information about modern pork production.
In a response post, the NPPC says the U.S. pork industry has an excellent food safety record and the organization is proud to represent hog farmers who provide the safest, healthiest and most affordable pork in the world. Here's what consumers should know about U.S. pork.
The U.S. pork production system is the envy of the world and yields the safest, highest-quality and most affordable pork available. U.S. pork producers adhere to rigorous government regulations and stringent production standards defined by the industry's Pork Quality Assurance Plus program. Food safety truly is a team effort — from the farm to processing facilities to consumers who must be informed about food handling and cooking temperatures. Close scrutiny of U.S. government data shows that American consumers can take pride not only in the quality, but indisputably in the safety of U.S. pork.
Use of antibiotics
U.S. pork producers have been committed to responsible antibiotic use for decades. They supported regulations adopted three years ago requiring veterinary oversight and limiting the use of antibiotics important for human medicine. These regulations and the industry's PQA Plus certification program require farmers to form client-patient relationships with licensed veterinarians. Only these veterinarians can prescribe antibiotics on farm. Sales data reflect declining use of antibiotics in livestock. Since 2015, there has been a 41% decline in antibiotic sales used for livestock.
Although there's broad scientific acknowledgment that the use of antibiotics in people is the primary source of antibiotic resistance, agriculture is committed to responsible use in animals to minimize any contribution. Both the medical and animal health communities are working to reduce the need to use antibiotics to ensure they're available and effective for people and animals.
The PQA Plus certification program includes on-farm assessments to evaluate how antibiotics are used. We stand by the safety, affordability and nutritional value of U.S. pork as second-to-none in the world.
New swine inspection system
The USDA recently finalized the new swine inspection system, a voluntary program supported by many years of research. It is designed to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the federal inspection process and to provide more flexibility for adopting new food-safety technologies. It had been 50 years since pork inspection had been modernized and these changes were long overdue.
It's important to know that the USDA maintains absolute authority and accountability for inspection. Like any industry, the pork industry is focused on continually improving and incorporating technologies that improve the way we raise animals and produce safe pork products.
The health of pigs is a top priority, so farmers follow strict biosecurity protocols, including being very careful about who comes onto a farm or enters a pig barn. African swine fever, an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks, is growing as outbreaks continue throughout China and other parts of Asia. There are no reported cases of ASF in the United States and thanks to diligent vigilance by USDA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, we have kept the disease outside our borders. Farmers take biosecurity very seriously; the last thing they want is for someone to carry a disease into a barn and cause animal suffering.
While on-farm access is limited, the U.S. pork industry is highly regulated and USDA conducts surveys on farms periodically and makes these findings available. The NPPC has actively advocated for USDA funding required to gather more farm data that supports the industry's commitment to continuous improvement.