Drug Residues Rules You (Probably) Didn’t Know

12:05PM Apr 09, 2014
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When is it safe to sell an animal for meat treated with an antibiotic with a withhold period of 72 hours?

In other words, if a cow is treated at 8 a.m. on a Monday, most rational people would assume the it would be safe to ship the animal after 8 a.m. Thursday. But that’s not the way USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) counts, according to Pat Gorden, a veterinarian with Iowa State University.

According to the agencies, the withhold period doesn’t start ticking until the following calendar day. So the withhold period actually ends on Friday, not Thursday. 

To avoid antibiotic residues in meat, FDA regulations also require that animals not the leave the farm until the withholding period ends. Some dairies sell cows prior to the end of withhold period assuming the animal will take a day (or more) to reach a slaughter facility due to transport time or if it moves through a sale barn. Even if the animal changes ownership, the original owner at the time of treatment is liable for the residue.

Also, farmers and their veterinarians need to pay much closer attention to extra-label drug usage. If you have a residue that triggers an FDA investigation on your farm, FDA inspectors will scrutinize your treatment protocols to ensure rules are followed. Key components:
• A valid veterinarian/client/patient relationship with a veterinarian in your area. Scripts written by a drug distributor veterinarian likely are not valid.
• Extra-label drug usage labels are complete and affixed to each bottle.
• Written protocols (in English and Spanish if you have Hispanic milkers) must be complete and updated within the past year.
• Treatment records, including cow identification, date of treatment, condition being treated, product used, dosage, route of administration, earliest date of drug clearance. Treatment records (electronic, written or both) need to be maintained for two years.