Consumer Reports, the policy arm of Consumers Union, released its analysis of pork chop and ground pork samples from around the United States that found high rates of Yersinia enterocolitica, a bacterium that can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Some of the 240 samples found salmonella. Consumer Reports said that some of the bacteria found in the samples were resistant to antibiotics “commonly” used in people. Key findings reported in the study included:

· Enterocolitica was in 69% of the tested pork samples. It causes foodborne illness in about 100,000 Americans a year and is associated with pork.

· Salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, or listeria monocytogenes were found in 3 to 7% of samples. Eleven percent harbored enterococcus, which can indicate fecal contamination and can cause non-foodborne related infections, such as urinary-tract infections.

· Some of the bacteria found were resistant to “multiple drugs or classes of drugs.”

· Ground pork was more likely than pork chops to harbor pathogens.

· Low but detectible levels of ractopamine were found in about one-fifth of the samples tested. Levels were far below U.S. and international limits.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), said, “Today’s findings are simply terrifying. It's getting harder and harder for the food processing industry and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to ignore the fact that the overuse of antibiotics in animals is threatening public health. Their half-measures and voluntary guidelines are no longer enough – we must act swiftly to reverse this public health crisis.” Slaughter is the author of legislation to ban the use of antibiotics in animals except for treatment when animals are sick.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said the Consumer Reports’ analysis uses “junk science” against pork from conventionally raised hogs. NPPC stated, “Consumers Union resorted to sensationalism because the ‘science’ it used wouldn’t stand up to even elementary scrutiny. It’s another attempt by that advocacy group to push a social agenda that is not based on science and one that, if successful, would take choice away from consumers.” More specifically, pork producers challenged the following Consumer Reports’ findings:

· Yersinia enterocolitica found by Consumers Union on some pork has more than 50 serotypes and several biotypes, only a few of which are pathogenic and, thus, could cause illness. Consumers Union either did not conduct, or chose not to report, the results of tests to determine if the bacteria it found were pathogenic.

· Federal surveillance data show a greater than 50% decline in human Yersinia cases since 1996. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a low number of U.S. cases, so low, in fact, that USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service does not test pork for it.

The few antibiotics the article cited as being unable to treat some bacteria – because of resistance – are in classes that are not considered critically important to human health.