FDA Wants Increased Milk Antibiotic Screening

FDA Wants Increased Milk Antibiotic Screening

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has submitted a proposal to the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) that would expand the number and type of antibiotics that processors would be required to test.

Details of the new testing requirements would have to be worked out. For many of the newly listed drugs, rapid tests (less than 10 minutes) are not available. That becomes problematic for processors who often have tanker loads of milk lined up to unload each day.

NCIMS, which regulates Grade A milk through the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, meets April 24 – 29 in Portland, Ore. The FDA proposal comes as a result of the agency’s recently released national study of nearly 2,000 dairy farms that found drug residues that exceeded tolerance or safe levels on 15 farms. 

The reason for FDA’s concern: All of the residues came from drugs that are not approved for use in lactating dairy cows. And one of them, Ciprofloxacin, is prohibited from use in any food animal.

As an alternative to the FDA proposal, the NCIMS Appendix N Committee, which regulates antibiotic residue testing, has proposed a pilot testing program. That program would look at which drugs and how frequently they should be tested for.

The International Dairy Foods Association has also submitted a proposal to lower the Federal somatic cell count limit from 750,000 cells/ml to 400,000. The lowered limit would be done in two steps. A 600,000 cell/ml limit would be set for January 1, 2016. The 400,000 cell limit would then go into effect January 1, 2017.

Currently, more than 3,800 U.S. dairy farms have obtained derogations from USDA to allow them to market milk in excess of 400,000 cells/ml. The derogations are needed to allow the milk to move into export markets. 

The proposal to lower the national SCC level to 400,000 would eliminate the need for most export derogations, since all Grade A milk would then have to meet the 400,000 standard. This will be the 9th time since 1997 that NCIMS delegates have been asked to reduce the SCC standard to 400,000 cells/m.   

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