Commentary: Consumer Reports ignores science

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Consumers Union, and the company’s flagship magazine, Consumer Reports (CR), continue their assault on animal agriculture, disguising their opinions as an alert intended for consumer “protection.”  It seems clear that CR is using a consumer focus to advance its opinion that antibiotics used in livestock and poultry production are a danger to human health- never mind what science says.

With a misleading and incomplete study, the magazine focuses its disdain on antibiotic use claiming “frequent use of low-dose antibiotics in pork farming may be accelerating the growth of drug-resistant ‘superbugs’ that threaten human health.” After all, who would be better qualified to advise consumers on a complex topic involving veterinary medicine, scientific risk assessments and evolution of bacteria than a company that tests vacuum cleaners, cameras, cars and washing machines?

It is the responsibility of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve and regulate drug products used in poultry and livestock production, including antibiotics, and ensure that these products are safe for animals and for people who rely on the resulting food supply. Obviously, CR is implying that they know better and that FDA is not to be trusted.

Other individuals that CR chooses to ignore are the on-farm veterinarians whose prescriptions (VFD’s) are required for certain antibiotics used in the feed. These individuals, who are thoroughly schooled in animal health as well as public health, play a vital role in the administration of antibiotics to livestock. It seems that CR also does not trust these professionals, or maybe is not aware of their existence at all.

CR also ignores withdrawal times and scientific risk assessments, other key factors that shed considerable light on the issue. Consumers must be aware, however, that for CR to advance their opinion, science and the professional disciplines involved with the issue of antibiotic resistance, must be avoided at all cost.

Here is a challenge for the writers and editors of Consumer Reports. In your next article on antibiotic use in livestock, include the following terms: FDA, risk assessment, food animal veterinarian, Veterinary Feed Directive, and withdrawal time. The terms are very important to any discussion on the subject and do not encompass opinion, which is CR’s forte. Instead, these terms and individuals rely on science.

If CR editors are unfamiliar with these terms or unsure of their meaning, which I suspect is the case, they should look them up.

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kansas  |  November, 30, 2012 at 07:54 PM

Rick - Rather than addressing the CR via the ether and rhetorically, why not call them? You're a reporter familiar with the issue and the science and have presented here some very pointed questions that need answers. I will be interested in hearing how they respond to a specific set of questions challenging the basis for their defamation. To be sure, it will not be the first time they've been challenged or questioned about their research and conclusions. They have incorrectly given bad reviews to other "products" in the past, and when proven wrong have withdrawn, updated or ammended their reports. An additional benefit would be simply making them aware that the 1.5% of the population producing the food they fear are paying attention.

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