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New antibiotic label must not be used as gimmick - NPA

15th Jun 2017 / By Alistair Driver

AB raised

The NPA has given its response to a new label on bacon informing consumers pigs have been ‘Raised Without Antibiotics’, which has been launched in major retailers across the country.

The label has the backing of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics (ASOA) but the National Pig Association (NPA) has urged caution, warning that it ‘must not be used as a gimmick just to sell pork’.

The labels will appear for the first time this month in-store and online on Dry Cured Smoked Back Bacon, Dry Cured Unsmoked Back Bacon and Dry Cured Smoked Streaky Bacon on sale at Morrisons, Tesco, Ocado, Costco, Nisa, Budgens, Spar & Amazon Fresh. It is available from £3.

The pork is marketed by spoiltpig, which has marketed high welfare pork to retailers for a number of years. It comes from RSPCA Assured pigs produced by Brydock Farms, which is owned by Karro.

Under the new system, pigs will be treated for antibiotics when necessary, usually on an individual basis. Any treated pigs will then be sold separately under a Freedom Food label, but will not carry the antibiotic label.

Farming system

spoiltpig said 85-90% of the pigs raised receive no antibiotics. The farming system has been devised to ensure the pigs are not mixed in ages, which it said avoids illness through the benefits of a late weaning period. For more details, see Pig World 

ASOA said the initiative shows how major improvements in animal husbandry and welfare can ‘greatly contribute to reducing farm antibiotic use, while still delivering affordable meat’.

The alliance stressed, however, that it did not endorse ‘antibiotic-free’ meat labels and production systems, which have seen in the US. It said these can put animal health and welfare at risk when treatment is not provided when it is needed and that the term ‘antibiotic-free’ can mislead the consumer into thinking the main problem with antibiotics in livestock is the residues that end up in food.

NPA response 

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We have always believed this sort of labelling is inevitable in the UK but the key point from our point of view is that it must not be used as a gimmick just to sell a product.

“We are pleased that, in this case, animals can still be treated with antibiotics but we are concerned that consumers will be confused. We need to emphasise that all meat is antibiotic free – we must avoid any impression that by eating meat, consumers will could somehow be exposed to harmful antibiotic residues.”

“There is a very positive story around antibiotic usage in the pig sector. Overall usage is falling year-on-year, including significant reductions in critically important antibiotics, while huge strides have been made in recording antibiotic usage data via the eMB-Pigs database, which will become a Red Tractor scheme requirement this autumn.

“There is a major educational campaign underway and encouraging work to find alternatives to antibiotics is underway. All parts of the industry are working together on this and, collectively, we are up for meeting the challenge of new long-term antibiotic reduction targets, due to be announced this autumn.”

See the NPA briefing on antibiotic labelling here

See the NPA's Antibiotic Stewardship Programme here