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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Statement from USDA Agricultural Research Service
Spokesperson Sandy Miller Hays on Dow Jones Story Titled
“Hog Farmers Overuse Antibiotics, Government Data Show”

On March 16, 2011, a Dow Jones story titled “Hog Farmers Overuse Antibiotics, Government Data Show” was filed regarding testimony of USDA Agricultural Research Service Administrator Edward B. Knipling before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies. Below is a statement from ARS spokesperson Sandy Miller Hays to provide greater clarity on the Administrator’s remarks before Congress.

“It was reported in the media on March 16 that during testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, Dr. Edward B. Knipling, administrator of USDA's Agricultural Research Service, said that American swine producers are overusing antibiotics in their herds, and that may be creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose a threat to human health.

“However, a review of the transcript of the hearing shows that Dr. Knipling never said that swine producers were overusing antibiotics in the herds. Dr. Knipling did say, in an answer to questions about the use of antibiotics in swine production, that ‘…the issue is the fairly widespread use of this is leading to resistance of these pathogens, which also then have implications for human health.’

“The media report also states that Dr. Knipling told the panel that ‘data collected by USDA and the CDC show there is a problem that could be exposing Americans to bacteria like E. coli and Campylobacter that have become resistant to antibiotics.’

“The transcript shows that Dr. Knipling stated that USDA was collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the private sector on monitoring antibiotic use in livestock production, particularly in swine, but he did not mention E. coli or Campylobacter in any of his comments. In fact, the monitoring on swine conducted by USDA-ARS does not include E. coli or Campylobacter. ARS monitoring of antimicrobial resistance is conducted as part of a longstanding program, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC.

“Dr. Knipling's statement as recorded in the transcript is ‘Some of that data and trends show that the resistance is not developing to the extent as otherwise might be portrayed. In other instances, yes. It depends on the antibiotics themselves, the type, and the animal, and the whole combination of factors.’”

Last Modified: 8/22/2014