Are you ready to play defense, again?
By Trent Loos
By now you have undoubtedly heard about a Consumer Reports release attempting to cast a shadow of doubt on the health and safety of consuming pork.
Yes, their resident experts went to a number of grocery stores and tested the pork for antibiotic residues. Their report suggests that 69 percent of the pork they tested was positive for a rare bacterium called Yersinia enterocolitica.
In case you are not aware of this, Consumer Reports is generated by the Consumers Union. For 12 years now I have gone toe to toe with individuals in this organization as they have been attempting to eliminate the use of antibiotics in farm animals.
Isn't it a bit ironic that an organization that has been trying eliminate a tool for improving the over health and well-being of animals (antibiotics) is now squealing about the risk of pork without it? Actually they are not at all attempting to improve the pork supply but rather they want to eliminate it.
You might be wondering how I can make such a blanket statement. If the health and well-being of the consumer were their real goal, they would not have stopped with the presence of Yersinia in hogs. They would have also shared the science about that same bacteria in dogs.
This report is part of an abstract from the National Institutes of Health:
"Human infections with pathogenic strains of Yersinia enterocolitica have been linked to contact with dogs excreting these microorganisms. At no time did any of the dogs show clinical signs of infection. These findings suggest that dogs can carry Y. enterocolitica asymptomatically and hence might act as a potential source of infection for people."
Yes, it appears that the risk of you getting sick from living with your dog is perhaps greater than that of eating a pork burger. Don't forget that this, like all other organisms that could be present in your food, is eliminated when your pork is cooked to 145 degrees F.
I also want to address another report that does not seem to be getting much attention. Ractopamine has been approved for use in swine since 1999 and this Purdue research study gives it a nice summary:
"It has been the focus of widespread research over the last 20 years and has been shown to give substantial improvements in average daily gain, feed conversion efficiency, dressing percent and carcass lean content. Its usage may also confer environmental benefits such as reduced manure volume, decreased ammonia and volatile fatty acids emissions from slurry. It was formally approved for use in swine in the US in 1999, and subsequently, a number of other countries."
So why is it that any substance that is used for "growth promoting" purposes is automatically considered bad? If limited antibiotic use or repartitioning agents, beta agonists or even hormones, for that matter, improve the "greenness" of food production, should that not be reason to celebrate?
In closing, I am not all saying that we should just brush this off. If in some way a healthy dialogue can begin about taking the safety of our food to a new level, then let's do it. Once again we have been given a golden opportunity to talk about how the U.S. food system shines above all others in the world, but we are still playing defense!
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.