The three-tiered management education program known as the Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) program has been revised to a single classification of PQA certification.

It's actually a blend of the old and the new that focuses on the same goals as when the program was first introduced in 1989, stresses Paul Sundberg, DVM, PQA technical advisor and assistant vice president for veterinary issues for the National Pork Board.

“Providing a safe, wholesome pork product for consumers every time they visit the meat counter ensures demand for pork products both domestically and internationally,” he says. “This basic goal of the PQA program remains the same with the 2001 edition of the manual.”

The PQA program continues to reflect the producer's ultimate responsibility for properly observing drug withdrawal times, he says.

“They must ensure that antimicrobial residues in swine tissues do not exceed acceptable limits. If these limits are not followed, consumer confidence will be sacrificed and demand will be lost. This will have a severe impact on the pork industry,” says Sundberg.

PQA Topics

Topics which have been expanded reflect a more “user friendly” approach to the program. Producers should be able to more easily find answers to specific questions about their operations, he says.

Topics which have been expanded:

  • Antibiotic resistance and judicious use guidelines;

  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point information;

  • Biosecurity and rodent control;

  • Animal welfare information on proper loading and handling;

  • Disease prevention issues that relate to food safety;

  • Foreign animal disease;

  • Standard operating procedures (for needle use), and

  • Medication withdrawal charts.

Other new additions to the PQA manual include a glossary of terms and a section with a Good Production Practice Quality Checklist.

“This checklist can be used by the producer and educator to annually review the producer's fulfillment of good production practices (GPP),” explains Sundberg.

Sundberg emphasizes producers who are current in their PQA education do not have to be certified in the new program until their two-year renewal period has expired.

Government Drug Violation Plans Opposed

Two USDA proposals to publicize a list of repeat swine drug use violators and to condemn carcasses for illegal drug residues in target tissues were strongly opposed by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Aug. 6, without request for public comments, a plan to publicize a list of repeat violators on its Web site. The list would include names and addresses of sellers deemed responsible for repeat sales of livestock with violative levels of chemical residues. Violators would be listed for a year.

Publication of the names of violators raises many concerns, the biggest of which is ensuring that the person listed is actually the source of the illegal product. “The U.S. pork industry consists of producers who may have animals on many different sites for production with different feed sources or animal health products used,” says NPPC President Barb Determan. Government agencies need to work to identify the specific source or site of the repeat violation and correct the actions of the violator.

Currently, government inspectors who find an illegal drug residue restricted to a target tissue (organ), condemn those tissues and then test the meat. If no illegal drug residue is found, then the inspector can pass the remainder of the meat for consumption.

FSIS is proposing to condemn the whole carcass without further testing if a violative drug residue is found in a target tissue.

Determan charges FSIS does not have adequate testing protocols in place for four drugs used in the pork industry. Therefore, the FSIS plan could result in ordering the condemnation of healthy carcasses.

Both of these actions could change the way businesses market hogs, force suspect animals into different market channels and pose major economic implications for the pork industry, she states.
Joe Vansickle