Opponents to the use of antibiotics in livestock production have exaggerated its use, according to recent reports from Kansas State University (KSU).

Citing data from a 2006 USDA swine survey and a 2009 survey of swine veterinarians, KSU found about 1.6 million pounds of antibiotics are used in pork production, annually, for growth promotion, nutritional efficiency and disease prevention.

A 2001 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) claimed that pork producers use 10.3 million pounds/year, about 85% more than was indicated in the surveys analyzed by KSU.

“Pork producers do not overuse antibiotics,” declares National Pork producers Council President NPPC President R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, NC. “We work with veterinarians to carefully consider if antibiotics are necessary and which ones to use.”

The KSU study, published in the March issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, says the UCS study misrepresents the use of antibiotics in modern livestock production when they state that 80% of all antibiotics used targets faster growth. This claim is often repeated by the popular press and some members of Congress, they note.

Several groups and lawmakers have pushed a theory that antibiotics use in food animals is leading to treatment failures in people who develop antibiotic-resistant illnesses. Legislation has been proposed to ban the use of antibiotics that prevent or control diseases and improve feed efficiency in livestock.

“Pork producers use antibiotics carefully and judiciously to protect public health, the health of their animals, and to produce safe food,” Hunt says. “To denigrate America’s hog farmers by deliberately peddling misinformation about how they care for their animals is despicable.”

To read an abstract of the KSU study, go to http://www.nppc.org/wp-content/uploads/Swine-in-feed-use-estimates.pdf.