Drug residues are our responsibility
John Fetrow is on a mission. The University of Minnesota veterinary medicine professor wants the dairy industry to keep drug residues out of meat and milk.
“The issue is important because none of us wants to have antibiotics or other drug residues in our food,” Fetrow says. “Keeping drug residues out of our food supply is a fundamental responsibility of everyone in the dairy industry. It’s key to maintaining the confidence of consumers that the food we eat is safe and wholesome.”
When it comes to drug residues in bulk milk, the dairy industry already does an excellent job of keeping positive findings at an extremely low rate. In 2009, only 0.035% of milk tested positive.
“The slaughter news, however, is not so cheery,” Fetrow says.
Recent national findings in nearly 94,000 dairy cows at slaughter revealed drug residues in 1% of the animals. The most common residues were from penicillin, sulfa-dimethoxine and flunixin. In addition, high levels of gentamycin appeared, underscoring that aminoglycosides permanently reside in cattle and should not be used.
Producers should work closely with their veterinarian to establish appropriate drug-use protocols for common illnesses in the herd and make sure their employees are trained to follow those procedures properly. Producers must also monitor cows’ drug use and adhere to residue withdrawal times.
One problem is that a large number of dairies don’t have written protocols for their herds’ drug use, Fetrow says. It’s important to create written protocols so that drug use isn’t “just word of mouth and memory.”
Fetrow says regulatory restrictions and enforcement will likely require greater veterinary involvement and accountability for dairies’ drug use. He predicts that regulators will require increased documentation, over-the-counter drug sales will eventually be prohibited and drug use will be driven by approved label use.