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Pigs raised without antibiotics more likely to carry bacteria, parasites
Date:6/11/2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio While consumers are increasing demand for pork produced without antibiotics, more of the pigs raised in such conditions carry bacteria and parasites associated with food-borne illnesses, according to a new study.

A comparison of swine raised in antibiotic-free and conventional pork production settings revealed that pigs raised outdoors without antibiotics had higher rates of three food-borne pathogens than did pigs on conventional farms, which remain indoors and receive preventive doses of antimicrobial drugs.

"Animal-friendly, outdoor farms tend to have a higher occurrence of Salmonella, as well as higher rates of parasitic disease," said lead study author Wondwossen Gebreyes, associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State University.

More than half of the pigs on antibiotic-free farms tested positive for Salmonella, compared to 39 percent of conventionally raised pigs infected with the bacterial pathogen. The presence of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite was detected in 6.8 percent of antibiotic-free pigs, compared to 1.1 percent of conventionally raised pigs. And two naturally raised pigs of the total 616 sampled tested positive for Trichinella spiralis, a parasite considered virtually eradicated from conventional U.S. pork operations.

As long as pork is cooked thoroughly according to federal guidelines, the presence of these infectious agents in food animals should pose no risk to human health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that consumers cook fresh pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The pathogens generally do not cause illness in the animals.

Gebreyes won't recommend one type of pork production practice over another.

"We are just doing the science and showing the results," he said. "Does having an antibiotic-free and animal-friendly environment cause the re-emergence of historically significant pathogens? I think that is an ex
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Contact: Wondwossen Gebreyes
Gebreyes.1@osu.edu
614-292-9559
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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