'More than 99%' of US raw milk samples free of drug residues: FDA survey

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

'More than 99%' of US raw milk samples free of drug residues: FDA survey

Related tags: Milk

The Food and Drug Administration has reiterated its confidence in the safety of the US milk supply, after veterinary drug residues were found in just 0.78% of tested samples.

The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) yesterday published its long-awaited report, Milk Drug Residue Sampling Survey​, which details the results of tests conducted on nearly 2,000 samples of raw milk.

It tested 1,918 raw milk samples - 953 from “targeted”​ farms with previous tissue residue violations and 959 from a control group of farms - for 31 veterinary antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory drug residues.

Six samples were excluded from the survey "due to protocol deviations and unresolved discrepancies."

Sixteen positive results were recorded in 15 of the remaining 1,912 samples (0.78%) - 11 from “targeted”​ farms and four from control farms.

“More than 99% of the samples are free of drug residues of concern – underscoring the safety of the US milk supply," ​said the FDA in a statement.

"These findings provide evidence that the nation’s milk safety system is effective in helping to prevent drug residues of concern in milk, even in those limited instances when medications are needed to maintain the health of dairy cattle."

"Intends to take steps"

Despite the “small number of drug residues” ​discovered in the 1,912 samples, the FDA “intends to take steps to maintain the strongest possible system to ensure milk safety.”

It will continue to “work collaboratively”​ with dairy industry stakeholders and state regulators to strengthen the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) drug residue testing program.

It will urge state milk regulators to "on a case-by-case basis" ​consider collecting milk samples in conjunction with investigating tissue residues violations in dairy cattle. 

Data obtained from the survey will also be utilized to develop the FDA's risk ranking for drug residues in milk.

"Aiming for zero positive in the future"

The US dairy sector has welcomed the FDA survey findings.

Clay Hough, senior group vice president, International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) said the results "reaffirm that the milk supply is safe."

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), which represents the interests of US dairy producers and cooperatives, said the report "proves that America's dairy farmers are delivering on our commitment to providing safe and wholesome milk to consumers."

There is, however, still room for improvement, said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO, NMPF.

"We want to continuously improve the demonstrably-effective processes already in place to keep antibiotics out of milk,"​ he said. "These results are great, but we still are aiming for zero positive in the future."

Freedom of Information 

CVM announced plans for its Milk Drug Residue Sampling Survey in November 2010. It sought to determine if raw milk from dairy farms with previous tissue violations contain more drug residues. 

Samples were collected between January 2012 and January 2013.

In November 2014, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FDA for data from the survey.

In a statement accompanying the FOIA request, CPSI said the FDA "doesn't get to hide information from the public by simply failing to write up a report on what it thinks the data shows."

At the time, FDA spokesperson, Megan Bensette, told DairyReporter.com it was "actively working to finalize and release"​ to report.

"Collecting, testing and analyzing approximately 1,900 samples was a resource-intensive process,"​ he said. "It has always been the agency's intention to report the findings of this effort in a transparent and comprehensive manner."

Related topics: Dairy, Regulation

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