Consumers Union, an advocacy group, this week published an article – in its magazine Consumer Reports – designed to scare consumers into purchasing only organic pork by using junk science against pork from conventionally raised hogs.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and scientists such as Scott Hurd, DVM, former U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy undersecretary for food safety, strongly criticized Consumers Union for attempting to link antibiotics used in food animals with antibiotic resistance in humans, and for ignoring more than 15 years of data from federal public health agencies, showing significant reductions in bacteria on meat. Among their criticisms of the “findings” in the Consumer Reports article:

 

  • The low number of samples tested (198) does not provide a nationally informative estimate of the true prevalence of the cited bacteria on meat.

 

  • 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. Regardless, virtually every bacteria has some antibiotics to which it is resistant. Consumers Union cast aspersions on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process for animal drugs by referring to European concerns over ractopamine, a feed supplement approved by FDA, and the United Nations’ food-safety standards-setting body after in-depth scientific analysis. Additionally, ractopamine is not an antibiotic.