Drug residues in raw milk samples decline again

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The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) annual report of animal drug residue tests of milk found dairy consumers are safer than ever. Of the nearly 3.76 million milk samples tested for animal drug residues last year, only 731 tested positive for drug residues. And, especially important to dairy consumers, FDA found no positive animal drug residue tests in pasteurized dairy products headed for sale, according to FDA's National Milk Drug Residue Database (NMDRD) results.

Milk samples are tested at various steps in the dairy supply chain, including 1) raw milk at the farm; 2) bulk milk pickup tankers carrying raw milk from dairy farms; 3) pasteurized fluid milk and milk products in package form or bulk; and 4) other random tests throughout the supply chain. The report presents summary data on samples and tests conducted during fiscal year (FY) 2013 (Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013). All 50 states and Puerto Rico submitted data for this report. 

Twenty-six testing methods were used to analyze the samples for drug residues. Tests were reported on the samples for 10 different groups of families or individual drugs. Of the 731 positive samples, almost 97% were for Beta lactams.

Looking at different testing locations:

• Only 0.014% (14 thousandths of 1%) of all truckloads of raw milk (445 out of 3.19 million) tested positive for medicinal animal drug residues in fiscal year 2013, down from 0.017% in fiscal year 2012.

The Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), the regulations which govern the state regulatory agencies in the implementation and enforcement of their Grade “A” milk safety program, requires that all bulk milk pickup tankers be sampled and analyzed for animal drug residues before the milk is processed. Any bulk milk pickup tanker found positive is rejected for human consumption. The amount of milk disposed of in fiscal years 2009 through 2013 continues a decline that began in fiscal year 2008, according to the NMDRD. The 2013 total was 19.55 million lbs.

• Of 467,429 samples of producer milk, defined as raw milk obtained from a farm bulk tank/silo from a dairy farm, 281 (0.06%, or 60 thousandths of 1%) tested positive, resulting in the disposal of 339,000 lbs. of milk.

• Of 55,408 samples of milk from plant tanks/silos and milk transporters, five tested positive for a drug residue, resulting in the disposal of 240,000 lbs. of milk.

• Of 40,435 samples of packaged milk products tested after pasteurization, none tested positive.

Dairy farmers and veterinarians use animal medicines under strict controls to treat sick dairy cattle. Treated cattle are removed from regular milk production and are not returned to the milking herd until their milk is free of any medicinal residues. When used according to label directions, medicines should not result in any residues in the milk. In rare instances, however, mix-ups in treatment records and animal identification at the farm may lead to residues in the raw milk supply.

The NMDRD is a voluntary industry reporting program. Mandatory reporting is required by state regulatory agencies under the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS). Data are reported on the extent of the national testing activities, the analytical methods used, the kind and extent of the animal drug residues identified, and the amount of contaminated milk that was removed from the human food supply. The system includes all milk, Grade “A” and non-Grade “A” or manufacturing grade milk.

Grade “A” milk represents approximately 95% of the milk supply in the United States and is regulated through the NCIMS by the state regulatory agencies. Manufacturing grade milk is under the direction of the regulatory agencies

in the sates where it is produced and may be subject to the standards recommended by USDA. Data reported to the NMDRD are for educational and analytical purposes and are not intended or suitable for regulatory action or follow-up.

To see the full NMDRD report, visit www.kandc-sbcc.com/nmdrd/

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Paul Walker    
Haw River, North Carolina  |  March, 01, 2014 at 01:59 PM

This is the kind of information that needs to be published in the Wall Street Journal! In talking with people that are not associated with animal agriculture and I tell them there are no antibiotics in milk, they don't believe me. They have never heard of withdrawal time for animal drugs and pesticides. They just assume that because we use them, they are in the animal products we eat. We need to publish this info in other publications besides agricultural related media. In putting it in agricultural media, we are "preaching to the choir". Paul Walker Paul Walker Livestock