The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a clarification to a newspaper report regarding recent statements an official made about livestock producers overusing antibiotics leading to antibiotic resistance in humans.

USDA Agricultural Research Service Administrator Edward Knipling testified last week before the House Appropriations Committee’s agriculture subcommittee. In a response to a question, Knipling said his department is conducting research on antibiotic use in livestock and antibiotic resistance. His statements were wrongly interpreted in a March 17 story in the Wall Street Journal. Knipling said while data suggest “in some cases, there are problems and concerns,” they also show “this is not as severe an issue as it might be otherwise portrayed.”

Despite those statements, the Wall Street Journal reported that “hog farmers are overusing antibiotics on their herds and that may be creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose a threat to human health.” The headline on the story said government data support that contention.

USDA clarified the issue by stating: “Dr. Knipling never said that swine producers were overusing antibiotics in the herds.” He also pointed out, the statement said, that “some of that data and trends show that the resistance is not developing to the extent as otherwise might be portrayed.” A transcript of the hearing supports USDA’s clarification.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said claims that pork producers are overusing antibiotics, leading to antibiotic resistance, has no basis in fact and no science behind them.

In fact, data from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), shows resistance has been nearly unchanged for the past 10-15 years. NARMS data for 2009 for hogs shows that antibiotic resistance is “low.”

The U.S. pork industry supports NARMS’s work and urges it to conduct on-farm sampling of animals for antimicrobial resistance. Learn the facts about antibiotic use in pork production at www.factsaboutpork.org.