The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Consumer Reports: Pork samples contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria

More than two-thirds of pork products sampled in six cities contained potentially harmful bacteria resistant to antibiotics, Consumer Reports said in a study released today in a continuation of its campaign to reduce the amount of antibiotics administered to animals.

In testing 198 samples of pork chops and ground-pork, Consumer Reports found yersinia enterocolitica, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning, especially in children, in 69 percent of the samples, the report said.

The majority of the yersinia and as well as a substantial portion of several other bacteria detected were resistant to medically important antibiotics, the consumer research organization added.

Urvashi Rangan

Urvashi Rangan
“Antibiotics are routinely fed to healthy animals at low levels. This practice promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which are a major public health concern,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports. “Infections caused by resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat and can lead to increased suffering and costs.”

A separate test for ractopamine, a drug used to promote growth and leanness in pigs, found very low levels, but Consumer Reports noted that the drug is banned in China, Taiwan and the European Union, and said it should not be routinely fed to animals.

The Agriculture Department did not respond to Consumer Reports’ points about antibiotics and ractopamine, but noted that the residue levels in the article were below the established thresholds for concern.

“The findings reported in the article affirm that companies are meeting the established guidelines for protecting the public’s health,” USDA said in a statement.

“USDA will remain vigilant against emerging and evolving threats to the safety of America’s supply of meat, poultry and processed egg products, and we will continue to work with the industry to ensure companies are following food safety procedures in addition to looking for new ways to strengthen the protection of public health.”