Denmark has provided misleading information to the U.S. Congress to characterize the effects of its 1998 ban on certain antibiotics used in pork production, according to the National Pork Producers Council.
In information provided recently to the House Agriculture Committee, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration refuted criticisms of the country’s ban on antibiotic growth promotants (AGPs) leveled by the U.S. pork industry, which is fighting efforts by some lawmakers to impose a similar ban in the United States.
The Danish government claims its ban has had “no negative impact on animal production,” has resulted in a 50% reduction in total use of antibiotics in food production and has reduced antimicrobial resistance.
But the U.S. pork industry is standing by its criticisms. Danish pork producers have made productivity gains, but data from the Danish government shows increased mortality rates in weaner and finisher pigs for at least five years following the AGPs ban.
Production changes forced by the ban, such as increased weaning age, raised costs to Danish pork producers.
The claim of a 50% reduction in overall antibiotic use can only be verified if figures dating back to 1992 are used. The ban went into effect in 1998. When 1997 is used as the baseline, year, the reduction is about 27%.
But the data also shows there are more antimicrobials being used today to treat pig diseases in Denmark than there were AGPs used in 1997.
Most importantly, Denmark says it instituted the AGPs ban to protect public health and says there has been “a major reduction in antimicrobial resistance as measured among several different bacterial species in food animals and food.”
However, the U.S. pork industry says there has been no decrease in food-borne pathogens, meaning there has been no measurable public health benefit from the ban on AGPs.
In fact, a World Health Organization report on the ban found a major increase in tetracycline resistance in human salmonella isolates and suggested the rise was due to an increased use of tetracyclines in weaned pigs with diarrhea, which became more common following the AGP ban.
An AGP ban in the United States would raise the cost of producing a market hog by as much as $6 in the first year following the prohibition, according to an analysis by Iowa State University.