The National Pork Board applauds the White House action plan for combatting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Pork Checkoff, which is funded directly by America's 62,000 pig farmers, could expand its existing research to address this growing consumer issue if the additional commitment of $1.2 billion is realized.
"Collaboration across our industry - from the farms to the dinner table - is critical," said Chris Hodges, chief executive officer of the National Pork Board. "America's pig farmers welcome this new federal initiative and are committed to continuous improvement to ensure responsible antibiotic use on the farm.
"Our industry pledges to go above and beyond simply complying with federal guidance," Hodges added. "The Pork Checkoff has deployed millions of producer dollars to fund antimicrobial research for well over a decade and, as noted in the White House statement, is one of the leading agricultural organizations to lead research efforts. Any additional dollars earmarked for research could serve to address the risk posed to animal and human health by antibiotic resistant bacteria."
The U.S. pork industry has previously funded studies conducted in support of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) - a collaborative effort focused on improving animal and public health. Previous NARMS research has studied the epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance. Minimizing resistance is a long-standing priority of the Checkoff's producer, public health and workplace safety programs.
Additionally, the Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA Plus) program conducts on-farm assessments and provides guidance on best practices. PQA Plus participation includes mandatory veterinary oversight and compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements to maintain current medical records on the farm.
The National Pork Board also shares its information and research with U.S. retailers and foodservice companies. Through this collaboration, the Checkoff underscores the safeguards already in place for antibiotic use in pork production and helps prepare these companies to provide information to inquiring consumers.
"We are working with our suppliers and regulatory agencies to assure antibiotics that are needed for animal health remain in place and are used under veterinary oversight," said Joe Swedberg, vice president of legislative affairs at Hormel Foods.
Responsible antibiotic use - as demonstrated by a farmer working with a swine veterinarian - combined with proper diet and nutrition, access to fresh water, vaccinations, barn sanitation and biosecurity, all serve to protect pig health and promote food safety.
"We have always been focused on improving pork's safety, quality and nutritional value," Hodges said. "Keeping pigs healthy is an important facet of our work and an area where both consumers and pork producers can agree."