This article was posted on Drover's Web site under Industry News.

Bee Sting More Deadly than Antibiotic Risk
By Geni Wren  |  Thursday, February 11, 2010

In February 2010 the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric aired a two-part series on antibiotics in animal agriculture.  An abbreviated summary of the presentations can be found here.

According to livestock industry, veterinary and scientific experts, the information presented about the use of antibiotics in livestock was fraught with misinformation, speculation, and inaccuracies.  “The CBS report was rather short on facts and science and long on speculation,” said Dr. Richard Carnevale, veterinarian and vice president, Regulatory, Scientific and International Affairs, Animal Health Institute, in a media conference call on Feb. 11.

“The segment failed to portray that antibiotics used in livestock are FDA approved and monitored for residues and bacterial resistance,” Carnevale explained.  “They undergo a rigorous approval process and all are subject to surveillance. The implication was that antibiotic-resistant bacteria freely flow between people and animals, but there are numerous layers of protection.  Bacteria do not fly and cause human infection despite what the PEW spokesman said in the CBS interview.  I am dismayed the FDA commissioner did not discuss this.”

Carnevale noted that the CBS segment did not differentiate between the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections that can occur in people and animals.  “The CDC and FDA have recognized they are two different strains,” he said, “and that hospital-acquired and human MRSA infections have no animal connection. MRSAs in animals are not the same as in hospital infections, but that’s what CBS focused on.  The story was short on these key facts.”

On the media call, Dr. Scott Hurd, senior epidemiologist, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University and former Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety, USDA, spoke about risk assessments for antibiotic resistance.  “The actual risk assessments that have been and quantified the steps in the causal chain to get from on-farm to sick humans say there is virtually no risk at all.  You are more likely to die from a bee sting than have a few extra days of illness from products that are used on the farm.”  Hurd noted that there are so many steps between the farm and the fork, that by the time you get meat products in the kitchen, there are very few pathogenic bacteria and very, very few are resistant bacteria.

Banning antibiotics for use in food animals can also lead to other unwanted problems.  “If you ban the antibiotics there won’t be any improvement in public health,” Hurd stated.  “Research and published papers show that if antibiotics are not used in animals at all, there are small changes in animal health, a few more subclinically infected animals go to market, and there’s an increase in pathogen load, which means they probably will have Salmonella or Campylobacter on the carcass.

Hurd noted that this has been modeled out in poultry and the end result would be more human illness days when you ban antibiotics than you have now.  “The Danes have shown that Salmonella rates in humans have not gone down after antibiotics were banned,” he said.  “The World Health Organization concluded there was no benefit in public health and there was an increased cost of pig production.”

Hurd has posted a point-by-point response to Segment One of the CBS show here.  He later expanded his response to Segment Two here.

Dr. Liz Wagstrom, assistant vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board was interviewed by Couric for the CBS show. “Pork producers have a closer relationship with their veterinarians to strategically place antibiotics at a time in the animals’ life when they may be at risk,” she said on the media call.  “For over 20 years with the Pork Quality Assurance Program we have focused on responsible use and residue avoidance.  A transition to the PQA-Plus program now also looks at regulations regarding residues and also the responsible use of antibiotics to protect animal and human health.”

Wagstrom explained that the on-farm assessment for producers requires them to show they have a valid veterinarian-client-patient-relationship, records and decision-making strategies.  “It’s just one tool they use to protect animals and produce safe food.  Other tools include hygiene, vaccination, ventilation, and keeping them warm, clean, dry and safe.  All of these are part of a continuous process to raise healthy animals and produce safe food.”


This next article was posted on Cattlenetwork, The Source for Cattle News.

We Are Not The Audience
02/16/2010 10:43AM

Last week was a tough one for animal agriculture. The CBS Evening News’ report on antimicrobial use in that sector grabbed a lot of time, attention and energy from all sorts of meat, poultry and dairy folks as everyone scrambled to set the record straight.

In some ways it was impressive, seeing so many experts involved in the food community working together in a common battle.  It was hard work and Aggies always feel better after some hard work.

Also typical with Aggies, we like to cite things like scientific research and global and U.S. government data, it gives us a sense of “well, the truth is out, now that’s that.”  However, we tend overlook the fact that today’s consumers are more interested in who they can trust than who has the facts, as the Center for Food Integrity’s surveys repeatedly point out.

We also tend to forget that we are not the audience.

It doesn’t matter if we know most of the details in the CBS report were stretched beyond truth or logic, most U.S. consumers don’t.  The seeds have been planted and the doubt will grow over time with each consecutive report—accurate or not—that raise questions about your practices.

It doesn’t take much of a chat with consumers to find that they have plenty of doubts about food production today.  They have negative perceptions about such things as the size of your farms, the sincerity of your business, how you raise and treat animals.

While animal agriculture rallied around last week’s attack, it was all still reactive not proactive.  Just as important is the fact that we too often talk to ourselves.

Sure, the various commodity groups address these issues throughout the year—and I’m not diminishing their work or importance.  But agriculture (and not just animal agriculture) needs to work together on these types of social issues. Much like Congress, there are always concerns about who gets credit and prioritizing membership’s needs first and foremost.  But there are so few aggies today, that we cannot afford to be fractured.

We have to be proactive, and we have to get an effective message flowing well beyond the confines of our ag community.  We have to work together, and I don’t mean organizing a new group, association or organization; I mean working together with exceptional professionals that we have now.

It won’t be easy, but remember, hard work and Aggies are a solid combination.

Source: Marlys Miller, Pork Magazine Editor

Web posted:  February 16, 2010