Drug residues in raw milk samples decline


The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) annual analysis of animal drug residue tests of milk found dairy consumers are safer than ever. Of the nearly 3.8 million milk samples tested for animal drug residues last year, only 828 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.

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) 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012). All 50 states and Puerto Rico submitted data for this report. 

Only 0.017% (17 thousandths of 1%) of all truckloads of raw milk tested positive for medicinal animal drug residues in fiscal year 2012, according to FDA's National Milk Drug Residue Database (NMDRD) results. The figure dropped from 0.021% last year.

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 2012 continues a decline that began in fiscal year 2008, according to the NMDRD.

Twenty-four testing methods were used to analyze the samples for drug residues. Tests were reported on the samples for nine different groups of families or individual drugs. Of the 828 positive samples, about 94% tested positive for Beta lactams.

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. Testing of all bulk milk trucks is designed to catch these rare occurrences.

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

This NMDRD annual report is separate from an Animal Drug Residue Assignment that the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Veterinary Medicine launched in January 2012. The purpose of that study is to determine if farms with previous animal drug residue violations found in dairy cattle at slaughter may be a result of farm management practices that could also lead to drug residues in milk. The results from the FDA/CVM study are anticipated to be released as early as next month.