Legislation introduced this week in Congress would be detrimental to the health and well-being of pigs, would increase pork producers’ production costs and the price consumers pay for pork and could jeopardize public health, according to the Nation Pork Producers Council.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), would ban the use in livestock of animal health products that prevent or control diseases.

“This is irresponsible legislation,” NPPC President Don Butler said. “We are committed to maintaining the well-being of our animals, and we need access to a range of animal health products to keep our pigs healthy and, in turn, produce safe food products. This bill will prevent that, and we’ll see more pigs die and higher production costs, and that means consumers will pay more for pork.”

A study conducted by Scott Hurd, Iowa State University researcher, found that when pigs have been sick during their life, they will have a greater presence of food-safety pathogens on their carcasses. A 1999 ban in Denmark on some antibiotics used in pork production has resulted in an increase in piglet deaths and in the amount of antibiotics used to treat diseases, notes NPPC.

The Slaughter bill would ostensibly prohibit the use of antibiotics that promote growth in livestock but also those that prevent and control disease. It was introduced under the auspices of addressing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A 2000 survey of human health experts found that 96 percent of antibiotic resistance in humans is due to human use of antibiotics. Additionally, according to the Animal Health Institute, less than 5 percent of animal antibiotics are used for nutritional efficiency – which promotes growth – and even the majority of those prevent diseases.

“Pork producers, under the direction of a veterinarian, ha ve a moral obligation to use antibiotics responsibly to protect human health and provide safe food,” said Jennifer Greiner, DVM, NPPC director of science and technology. “Producers also have an ethical obligation to maintain the health of their pigs, and antibiotics are an important tool to help us do that.”

The U.S. pork industry has programs – the Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the Take Care: Use Antibiotics Responsibly programs – that include principles and guidelines on antibiotic use that help protect animal and public health and animal well-being.

Source: National Pork Producers Council