The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has raised a concern over an update to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Strategic Plan announced last week by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine. NARMS is the national public health surveillance system that tracks antibiotic resistance in foodborne bacteria.

NPPC’s concern centers around the apparent reduced role of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in the NARMS program. Prior to the announcement made by FDA, susceptibility testing, a key component of the NARMS program, was conducted by ARS in Athens, Ga.

“NPPC has always been very supportive of a rigorous NARMS program and we appreciate FDA working to address sampling concerns for healthy animal surveillance,” says Liz Wagstrom, DVM, chief veterinarian for NPPC. “However, we have serious concerns that the reorganization plans currently underway with NARMS suggest that ARS will no longer be an equal partner in NARMS.”

This is especially concerning since FDA has started making regulatory decisions, such as a ban on extra-label use of cephalosporins, based on NARMS data. “In addition, FDA has publically stated that they will be using NARMS data as a metric to measure the success of their Guidance #209 restrictions on antibiotic use,” Wagstrom added. “Ideally, the NARMS research project should provide data to inform policy makers and having that data generated by those same policy makers could give the perception of a conflict of interest.”

The FDA will use data collected as part of NARMS to identify and track resistance patterns as well as data on the levels of resistance in animals, humans and retail meat. The animal component of NARMS began in 1997 with monitoring of Salmonella, and later expanded to include Campylobacter, E. coli, and Enterococcus, according to FDA.