Amidst growing public concerns over food safety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering expanding testing for veterinary drug residues in milk.
Current testing system has not been updated since its inception
Between now and July 29th, the FDA is seeking feedback from the public on the possibility of a new method of testing for residues in milk and dairy products. The current program has not been updated since it was first started in 1992.
Presently, the FDA only requires testing for four out of a possible six beta-lactam drugs. These beta-lactam medications are the antibiotic group most commonly used by dairy farmers. These medications include ampicillin, amoxicillin, and penicillin.
The problem is more medications have been approved for veterinary use in the last two decades and these are not included in the routine testing for residues. The medications not being tested for include the following:
- Florfenicol, an antimicrobial drug.
- Flunixin, used in the treatment of pain.
- Tulathromycin, a macrolide antibiotic used to treat respiratory disease in cows.
“There’s a need to look at other drugs, besides beta-lactams, that are not being tested for,” said Stephen Beam, leader of the executive board of the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS).
Organic milk sales on the rise as public concern grows
The sales of organic dairy products and milk have been on a constant rise thanks to growing public concerns over the veterinary use of antibiotics and hormones. Last year the U.S. organic dairy sector made 5.5 billion dollars in sales, which equates to an 11-percent increase.
The FDA says that U.S. milk is generally safe because they first determine if the veterinary medicines used on food-producing animals can harm consumers before they approve of their use.
“You really don’t want to be doing drugs when taking your milk,” said David Plunkett, a food safety advocate with the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “I don’t think it’s too big a burden to periodically test and make sure farmers know that someone is looking over their shoulders.”
Residue of non-approved medications were found in testing samples
According to the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, a survey of 2,000 milk samples was performed in 2012 that resulted in the positive findings of residues from 31 drugs.
Although 99 percent of the samples did not have levels of drug residue that were cause for concern, the other one percent had residues of six drugs that are not currently approved for use in dairy cows. Furthermore, those drugs are not part of the FDA’s current testing program and have not yet been evaluated regarding their safety for humans.
After the results of the 2012 survey, the FDA stated it would widen the range of drug testing in milk with assistance from the NCIMS.
Kristy is a freelance writer with more than twenty years of print and digital media writing experience and over seven years of university study in journalism, broadcasting, and mass communications. She specializes in health and wellness, alternative healing methods, news, the environment, and lifestyles. She currently resides in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her family and pets.