The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its long-awaited antibiotic milk residue study this morning, confirming that the U.S. milk supply is safe. “More than 99% of the samples are free of drug residues of concern—underscoring the safety of the U.S. milk supply,” according to the FDA release.
The study sampled milk from nearly 2,000 dairy farms, and found drug residues that exceeded tolerance or safe levels on just 15 farms. One farm, however, tested positive for two drugs. The total rate of violation was 0.7%, meaning 99.3% of milk samples was free of residues.
“This report proves that America’s dairy farmers are delivering on our commitment to providing safe and wholesome milk to consumers, while working closely with state and federal regulators to continually improve the safety of our products,” says Jim Mulhern, National Milk Producer Federation (NMPF) President and CEO. “Dairy farmers have a strong track record of compliance with state and federal milk safety regulations, and we support education and enforcement efforts to further strengthen that record.
“We want to continuously improve the demonstrably-effective processes already in place to keep antibiotics out of milk. These results are great, but we still are aiming for zero positives in the future,” Mulhern says.
It should be noted that of the 16 positive drug residues, 14 of those were for drugs that have no established tolerance or safe level. So any presence of any of those drugs above one part per billion is a violation. One of those drugs, Florfenicol, accounted for 10 of the 16 violative milk residues.
In addition to Florfenicol, violative residues were found for Ciprofloxacin (1), Sulfamethazine (1), Tilmicosin (1), Tulathromycin (2) and Gentamicin (1).
FDA collected milk samples from 1,912 farms in 2012. FDA developed a targeted list of farms that had previous meat tissue residue violations. It sampled another 959 “control” farms that did not have previous tissue violations. The targeted list of farms accounted for 11 of the residue violations; the control farms, four. Statistically, however, the rate of violations were not different between the two groups.
Samples were tested for drug residues that are not currently included in Grade A, Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) requirements. The PMO requires testing for Beta-lactam drugs. Every tanker load of milk is screened for those prior to it entering the food supply.
“Because the samples were collected in a blinded fashion, the FDA could not use positive sample results to initiate enforcement action,” says the FDA release.
NMPF also notes: “The residue testing was conducted on raw milk from the farm, not on milk that had gone through the protocols in place further down the processing chain to keep antibiotics out of the milk supply. This was not an analysis of processed, retail-bound dairy products that reached consumers. The FDA conducts approximately 40,000 separate antibiotic residue tests of retail-ready dairy products annually, and has detected zero positives in the past four years.”
You can read the full FDA report here.