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NPPC: Advocacy Group Uses Junk Science to Scare Consumers

28 November 2012, at 11:29pm

US - On the day the US Food and Drug Administration suspended a company’s production because of salmonella-tainted organic peanut butter, the advocacy group, Consumers Union, published an article – in its magazine Consumer Reports – designed to scare consumers into purchasing only organic pork by using junk science against pork from conventionally raised hogs, says the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC)

"Consumers Union resorted to sensationalism because the 'science' it used wouldn't stand up to even elementary scrutiny," said R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, North Carolina and president of the NPPC. "It’s another attempt by that advocacy group to push a social agenda that is not based on science and one that, if successful, would take choice away from consumers."

NPPC and scientists such as Dr Scott Hurd, former US Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for food safety, strongly criticized Consumers Union for attempting to link antibiotics use in food animals with antibiotic resistance in humans and for ignoring more than 15 years of data from federal public health agencies, showing significant reductions in bacteria on meat. Among their criticisms of the 'findings' in the Consumer Reports article:

  • The low number of samples tested (198) does not provide a nationally informative estimate of the true prevalence of the cited bacteria on meat.

  • Yersinia enterocolitica found by Consumers Union on some pork has more than 50 serotypes and several biotypes, only a few of which are pathogenic and, thus, could cause illness. Consumers Union either did not conduct, or chose not to report the results of, tests to determine if the bacteria it found were pathogenic. Federal surveillance data show a greater than 50 per cent decline in human Yersinia cases since 1996. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a low number of US cases, so low, in fact, that USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service does not test pork for it.

  • The few antibiotics the article cited as being unable to treat some bacteria – because of resistance – are in classes that are not considered critically important to human health. Regardless, virtually every bacteria has some antibiotics to which it is resistant.

  • Consumers Union cast aspersions on the FDA approval process for animal drugs by referring to European concerns over ractopamine, a feed supplement approved by FDA and the United Nations’ food-safety standards-setting body after in-depth scientific analysis. Additionally, ractopamine is not an antibiotic.

"This report was obviously written to support Consumers Union's claim that antibiotics use in food animal production is the major cause of antibiotic resistance, or treatment failures, in human medicine," Hunt said. "The article and Consumers Union disregarded numerous peer-reviewed risk assessments that show any risk to human health from antibiotics use in food animals is negligible.

"The simple fact is that pork producers like me use FDA-approved antibiotics very judiciously to keep our animals healthy and to produce safe pork for consumers."

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