A little word of comfort

ter Beek
Vincent ter Beek Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world

Last Friday, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) sent out a brief statement on antibiotics, from its president Doug Wolf. His tone of voice was comforting – the NPPC knew.

Wolf commented on a recent report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on antibtiotic resistance, which stated that no direct relationship had been found linking antibiotic use in food animals to antibiotic resistance in humans.

He added that “there isn’t even adequate data to conduct a study.” The report seems to confirm the line the NPPC has always taken.

Since the whole matter is inextricably complex, and since it is difficult to prove 100% evidence, what is left are theories and possibilities. In Europe, different conclusions have been drawn from this.

In Europe, the possibility of a link has led to very strong reactions. EU-wide there has been a a ban of antimicrobials as growth promoter since 2006, and Denmark and the Netherlands are even trying to clamp down the usage of antimicrobials for medication as well.

President Wolf’s tone of voice, however, was one of comfort and reassurance: “See, we always told you, if we use antibiotics responsibly, nothing is wrong with them.”

It’s exactly that reassuring tone of voice that makes me feel a bit funny. All right, it may be very difficult to scientifically prove the required link. And nobody will question the fact that antibiotics have to be used sometimes to ensure animal health.

But it is a fact that the use of antibiotics in food animals can lead to antibiotic resistance in food animals. That, I feel, may need more than just words of comfort.