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US pork industry hits back at bacteria claims

By Carina Perkins , 30-Nov-2012
Last updated on 30-Nov-2012 at 12:16 GMT

Antibiotic resistant bacteria in pork not an issue, says NPPC

US pork producers have hit back against a report from advocacy group Consumers Union, which claimed that pork sold in US supermarkets contained frightening levels of harmful bacteria.

The report, published in the Consumer Reports magazine, said that Yersinia enterocolitica - a bacteria which causes fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea - was found in 69% of 198 pork-chop and ground-pork samples from around the US. Additionally, it found salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, or listeria monocytogenes in 3-7% of samples, and enterococcus in 11% of samples.

It claimed that some of the bacteria found in the samples was resistant to antibiotics, while one fifth of samples contained low levels of the drug ractopamine, which is approved in the US but banned in the European Union, China, and Taiwan.

However, in a statement sent to Globalmeatnews.com, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) accused the Consumers Union of using “junk science” to scare consumers into buying organic pork.

It pointed out that the low number of samples tested did not “provide a nationally informative estimate of the true prevalence of the cited bacteria on meat”, adding that only a few of the 50 serotypes of Yersinia enterocolitica caused illness in humans. “Consumers Union either did not conduct, or chose not to report the results of, tests to determine if the bacteria it found were pathogenic,” it said.

On antibiotic resistance, NPPC said that the antibiotics cited in the article were in classes that were not considered critically important to human health. It added that ractopamine was not an antibiotic, and had been approved after “in-depth scientific analysis” by the FDA and the United Nations’ food-safety body.

“Consumers Union resorted to sensationalism because the ‘science’ it used wouldn’t stand up to even elementary scrutiny,” said NPPC president RC Hunt.

“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.”

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