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‘Tis the Season to Fear Our Food???

Consumers are receiving confusing messages
<p> Consumers are receiving confusing messages that often leave them in fear of their food. Photo courtesy of National Pork Board.</p>

Apparently the fact that Thanksgiving is a recent memory, and food is still top-of-mind, means the timing is right to urge consumers to live in fear of their food. I HATE it when people try to make me fear my food. One of the first big news items to pop up in cyberspace this week was the Consumer Reports magazine article claiming antibiotic-resistant bacteria and traces of ractopamine were found during an analysis of pork chop and ground-pork samples from around the United States. The article is entitled, “What’s in that pork?”

There were some weird things about this article. The article started by referencing bacteria levels, but then took an odd turn to focus on ractopamine.  Consumer Reports repeatedly referred to ractopamine as a “drug.”  The magazine said ractopamine is “given to as many as 60 to 80% of pigs raised in the United States by one estimate.” The article also stated, “Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has pressed for a ban of the drug, citing insufficient evidence that it’s safe.”  This was an “AHA!” moment for me. Somehow I did not realize that Consumer Reports had a “policy and advocacy arm.” So what happens to objectivity and research-based information when you have one of these “advocacy arms?” 

Here’s the deal for me.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and international food safety standards rely upon research to set food safety standards. Guess what?  In response to comments made by Dave Warner, director of communications for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), pointing out that ractopamine is approved for use in 26 countries, this Consumer Reports article states, “Indeed, although we found the drug at detectable levels in about 20% of our 240 pork samples, all had less than 5 parts per billion (ppb). That’s well below the FDA’s limit of 50 ppb in muscle tissue and the international limit of 10 ppb adopted in July 2012 by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a program of the United Nations.”

This particular statement is not the last word in the article, however. Consumers are left with a rather confusing take-home message. In a “What you can do” section, consumers are told, “Choose pork and other meat products that were raised without drugs. One way to do that is to buy certified organic pork, from pigs raised without antibiotics and ractopamine. Another option is to buy from Whole Foods, which requires that producers not use either type of drug.”

There are some really great pork producers who supply Whole Foods, don’t get me wrong. But seriously, if Consumer Reports is to be believed, we are only supposed to shop at Whole Foods? Is this responsible journalism?  Consumer Reports left readers of this article with this final call-to-action statement, “To find meat from animals that were raised sustainably—humanely and without drugs—go to To learn about the Consumers Union campaign aimed at getting stores to sell only antibiotic-free meat, go to”

Indeed, pork producers probably should go to these Web sites to see what type of information is being spread to the food-fearing public.  You might be surprised to learn that the Web site is planning an event to “re-imagine meat” at a conference on Dec. 7-9.   

When you get to the Web site, you can “sign a card” to the Trader Joe’s grocery chain, asking them to, “Help Joe the Pig get his holiday wish.” believes "Joe" wishes to get off of antibiotics.

These are the messages your consumers are receiving. What do you think about it all? Leave a comment by clicking on the Comments icon with this blog post, or email [email protected].

Read the Consumer Reports article online at

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