Katie Mrdutt serves as Food Armor Outreach Specialist
Katie Mrdutt serves as Food Armor Outreach Specialist

In 2009, Wisconsin had the nation’s highest level of violative tissue residues in dairy cull cattle. Dairy producers and veterinarians were targeted as the primary source of the problem, and there was a call for increased state regulation to deal with the issue. However, the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) chose to approach the problem differently and created the WVMA Residue Task Force, a group of veterinarians focused on developing a non-regulatory solution to the dairy-beef residue issue. In the years since, the WVMA has trained veterinarians and producers how to implement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans for proper drug use on dairy farms across the nation.

In 2011, the WVMA, in partnership with the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW), developed the “Meat Matters” campaign — a comprehensive, non-regulatory, educational outreach program. In 2012, Meat Matters evolved into the What Matters® campaign.

What Matters: Veterinarians and dairy farmers working together to ensure safe meat and milk

What Matters has two primary components that contribute to its success:

1.       The PDPW focuses on communications and producer education regarding food safety and consumer confidence.

2.       The WVMA trains veterinarians and producers how to implement HACCP plans for proper drug use on farms.

The WVMA Residue Task Force has offered, and continues to offer, countless HACCP for proper drug-use training seminars for veterinarians, producers, federal and state regulators, milk and meat processors, and any other interested parties.

Food Armor® HACCP for Proper Drug Use is the “how-to” for achieving food safety and proper drug use on farms. This non-regulatory approach ensures a collaborative relationship between the farm’s veterinarian(s), the owner/managers and the farm employees that work with cows. These are the individuals that make up the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) team. Each HACCP plan is customized to the individual farm, and the Food Armor program is designed to empower the local veterinarian and farm personnel as they work together.

Food Armor for proper drug use

The Food Armor HACCP for Proper Drug Use program delivers a verifiable drug-use quality-assurance program by defining the roles and responsibilities of those using it. The objective is to identify potential hazards on a farm and to identify critical control points to limit these hazards. Proper implementation of this program should ensure food safety, as well as transparency and accountability for appropriate drug use on a farm.

The six sections of a complete HACCP plan on a farm are:

1.       VCPR — The veterinarian of record and the farm owner proactively assign roles and responsibilities, which establish the lines of communication between all members of the VCPR team.

2.       Drug list — This list defines all of the medications and other treatments that the farm owner and veterinarian of record agree to use on the farm.  This list relates to specific treatment protocols on the farm, and no drug should be included on the list unless there is at least one treatment protocol specifying how and when the drug is to be administered.

3.       Protocols — Protocols are treatment plans developed by the veterinarian of record for commonly occurring, easily recognizable conditions where instructions can be left by the veterinarian of record for the care of these conditions in his/her absence.

4.       SOPs — Standard operating procedures precisely define procedures involved in animal care, including animal identification, residue avoidance, drug administration and euthanasia.

5.       Records — Records are the basis for oversight of drug usage by the farm owner and veterinarian of record. A recording method must be present that includes a treatment log for every treatment administered and a permanent medical history for every animal. An appropriate permanent-record system should provide information that allows farm management to make medical decisions for the entire herd.

6.       Oversight — Veterinary oversight includes continuous monitoring of hazards and identification of potential improvements to the animal-care plan. Oversight is an integral component for validation of the VCPR and provides accountability, ultimately resulting in increased consumer confidence.

Food Armor certification

In 2014, the WVMA Residue Task Force made the strategic decision to develop the original HACCP plan for proper drug use into a farm certification program. The following goals were set for the new program:

1.       Develop a non-regulatory risk-management tool that facilitates implementation of HACCP plans for proper drug use on farms.

2.       Support local veterinarians’ on-farm efforts in the area of proper drug use.

3.       Maintain and grow consumer and regulatory confidence in the VCPR.

The new certification program establishes standards that allow farm owners and veterinarians to demonstrate proper drug use and food safety, and the entire HACCP program is now trademarked under the new name, Food Armor HACCP for Proper Drug Use. The certification program has value because it provides a framework for farm owners and veterinarians to implement a customized HACCP plan for proper drug use. In 2015, the WVMA executive board converted the residue task force into a standing committee, the Food Armor Committee, to continue the important work of educating veterinarians and producers on food safety and proper drug use.

In the Food Armor program, farms voluntarily participate to minimize drug risks and may earn certification status when they can demonstrate full implementation and maintenance of a six-section HACCP plan for proper drug use.

The only individuals that may grant Food Armor certification status to farms are Food Armor Accredited Veterinarians, those that have completed Phase I and Phase II training workshops provided by the WVMA Food Armor Committee. Only veterinarians have the training and expertise to help farms effectively manage on-farm drug use, and the Food Armor Committee chose to limit delegation of farm certification status in order to maintain program integrity. Gaining Food Armor Accredited Veterinarian status will empower veterinarians to work with farms to minimize drug risks, implement treatment protocols and improve recordkeeping.

Through the Food Armor Phase I and Phase II training workshops, veterinarians will learn to work with farms to manage drug risks by implementing HACCP plans for proper drug use on dairy farms.  Next, veterinarians will be trained how to work with farms seeking to earn certification status. At the conclusion of the workshops, veterinarians will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to immediately begin working with dairy farms to minimize drug risks and implement HACCP plans for proper drug use.

The WVMA Food Armor certification program is independently, third-party verified by Validus, an ISO 9001: 2008 certified and ISO 65 accredited company.  As the U.S. dairy industry’s only comprehensive on-farm food-safety and proper drug-use program, Food Armor is positioned to lead farmers and veterinarians in solving the issues of violative drug residues and responsible medication use on farms.

Veterinarians interested in attending Food Armor workshops to earn accreditation status can go to foodarmor.orgfor further information and future training dates.