Fretting over food-safety concerns regarding antibiotic residues in distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) that are being fed to pigs is not based on available facts, according to the National Pork Board.

Antibiotics are used to reduce contamination in the tanks used to produce ethanol; DDGS are a byproduct of ethanol used increasingly as an alternative feed ingredient in livestock rations to offset costly feedgrains.

Steve Larsen, director of Pork Safety, the National Pork Board, says data from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates there is no evidence to suggest that extremely low levels of carryover into feed cause any food-safety concerns.

To investigate further, the Pork Checkoff funded a study in 2011 to determine if the inclusion of DDGS in the diets of grow-finish pigs affects their susceptibility to and infection with Salmonella enterica. The principal investigator is Marcos Rostagno, DVM, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s Livestock Behavior Research Unit at Purdue University. Co-investigator is Brian Richert, swine nutritionist at Purdue University.

The study will seek to understand the impact of DDGS on the intestinal colonization of Salmonella enterica of pigs as it pertains to the effects of feed ingredients on pork safety.

Studies have shown that high levels of DDGS in beef cattle diets increased the concentration of E. coli O157:H7 in ruminant intestines, as well as its survival in feces.

But a University of Minnesota study completed earlier this year indicated that DDGS did not contain significant antibiotic residues to be of concern to livestock producers.  

Concern surfaced recently when the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy suggested that DDGS may contain levels of antibiotics that are medically important drugs whose effectiveness in treating humans could be compromised by overuse in animal feed.

Recently, Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) wrote the FDA asking the agency to investigate the potential link between ethanol byproducts in animal feed and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

But Charles Staff of the Distillers Grain Technical Council responded that antibiotic residues present in DDGS are in parts per billion, and that levels have dropped significantly since FDA did an analysis in 2008.

“We are talking about minuscule levels and you can see that in the later 2010 samples taken by the FDA that ethanol producers have better control and the antibiotics companies have established technical service and people who go out to the ethanol plants and monitor how they are using it,” he says.