USDA corrects media reports - sees no rise in human antibiotics resistance due to livestock antibiotics use

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 18 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a clarification on Friday to recent statements made about livestock producers overusing antibiotics and about that overuse leading to antibiotic resistance in humans. The statements were wrongly interpreted in a March 16 story in the Wall Street Journal.

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In testimony Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee's Agriculture Subcommittee, USDA Agricultural Research Service Administrator Dr. Edward Knipling, in response to a question from Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, said his department is conducting research on antibiotic use in livestock and antibiotic resistance. Knipling said that, while data suggest “in some cases, there are problems and concerns,” they also show “this is not as severe an issue as it might be otherwise portrayed.”

Despite those statements, the Wall Street Journal reported that “hog farmers are overusing antibiotics on their herds and that may be creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose a threat to human health.” The headline on the story said government data supports that contention.

In its clarification statement, USDA said: “Dr. Knipling never said that swine producers were overusing antibiotics in the herds.” He also pointed out, the statement said, that “some of that data and trends show that the resistance is not developing to the extent as otherwise might be portrayed.” A transcript of the hearing supports USDA's clarification.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said claims that pork producers are overusing antibiotics, which is leading to antibiotic resistance, have no basis in fact and no science behind them. NPPC pointed out that data from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), which does not gather antibiotic usage information, show resistance has been nearly unchanged for the past 10 to15 years and that 2009 NARMS data on hogs show that antibiotic resistance is “low.”

“Pork producers use antibiotics responsibly, under the direction of a veterinarian, to protect public health and the health of their animals and to produce safe food,” said Howard Hill, DVM, who serves on NPPC's board of directors. “We are appreciative that USDA clarified what actually was said at Wednesday's appropriations hearing.”

The U.S. pork industry consistently has supported NARMS's work and urged it to conduct on-farm sampling of animals for antimicrobial resistance.

For more information about antibiotic use in pork production, visit

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