Roger Stevens
Roger Stevens

Hot on the heels of the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to limit antibiotics in farm animals (including pigs), comes a white paper produced by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA). Titled “Bridging the Gap between Animal Health and Human Health,” the paper offers good observations on the use of antibiotics, in humans as well as animals, including companion animals.

You can find the paper here. At 15 pages, it is worth the effort, especially the one-and-a-half-page executive summary.

For pork producers, a couple of statements stand out. The first: “If you think you understand antimicrobial resistance, it hasn’t been explained properly to you.” This sets the tone for the paper, which is the result of an NIAA symposium, “Bridging the Gap between Animal Health and Human Health,” conducted November 12-14, 2013, in Kansas City, MO.

The symposium provided a platform where animal-health and human-health scientists shared the most current science-based information. Adding a further dimension to the symposium were presentations by consumer advocates and grocery retailers, among others.

The second notable statement: “Significant efforts are being led by the public-health community to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in human health and reduce hospital-acquired infections. Agriculture needs to be open to change as well.”

According to the NIAA, change will happen, and if animal agriculture is not willing to work with the other stockholders, “change will be drastic and by statute and will not be a deliberative policy change.”

If this gives some pork producers pause, consider the recent decisions by Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods to encourage producers to change their ways. Whether right or wrong, change will happen. For pork producers, the decision to help craft change will make a huge difference among the consuming public.

Roger Stevens is president of Stevens & Associates, Inc., a communications consulting firm based in Indianapolis, Ind. The comments and opinions expressed herein are those of the author.